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Where Y’Eat: A Bright Idea to Make Restaurants Stronger Through Disaster

mcnulty island paradise.png
Ian McNulty
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After Hurricane Ida, neighborhood restaurants like Island Paradise in Gretna became spontaneous hubs of community support.

After Hurricane Ida, some of the first grassroots disaster response in New Orleans came through small local restaurants.

With the power out and people sweltering, these neighborhood spots became spontaneous hubs of support, cooking for neighbors, giving away perishable inventory, simply offering a plug to charge a phone by generator.

What if next time around they were better prepared to help out like this?

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A new initiative called Get Lit Stay Lit is out to show the potential for better-equipped neighborhood businesses in neighborhood support roles after a disaster.

It’s a vision powered by solar panels, batteries and the Ida aftermath.

It’s a collaboration between grassroots recycling program Glass Half Full and Feed the Second Line, a multi-faceted innovator of community support projects in the pandemic.

They’re now raising money for the first solar power installations for local restaurants.

The project came about after founder Devin De Wulf saw the impact his own battery-stored solar power system for his house made for his Bywater neighborhood. Soon he was charging phones and even keeping an oxygen machine running for one neighbor. The wheels started turning too.

A similar array could keep a small restaurant’s fridges cold, keep ice machines cranking and offer other simple, vital services in the next blackout.

A network of such restaurants with their own power off the grid could make their neighborhoods that much more resilient.

In other words, they’d be better prepared to do what many restaurants did on the fly after Ida.

Solar systems and the batteries needed to store their energy are not cheap. But neither are the emergency response efforts after disasters. What if more of that money went to helping the people already in their neighborhoods provide for their neighborhoods in a crisis. Ida showed they can. Better preparation could make that impulse go farther.

You can learn more about Get Lit Stay Sit online at feedthesecondline.org.

Ian covers food culture and dining in New Orleans through his weekly commentary series Where Y’Eat.