Disaster relief boxes
September 20, 2016
by Colleen Callahan

A Network of Support

The damage done to the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank (GBRFB) was unprecedented, and it occurred at a time when its community needed it most. The food bank serves 11 parishes impacted by the flood. When I visited the area, however, I was amazed at how little the destruction had slowed it down. Although staff were working from makeshift offices, GBRFB was still serving thousands by sending out trucks to the hardest hit areas and connecting its food pantries and meal programs with food to pick up directly from retailers through Meal Connect, a program facilitated by Feeding America.

Its recovery was made possible, in part, because GBRFB had incredible support from the power of the Feeding America network to help it recover quickly enough to take immediate action.

In the week following the storm, the Feeding America network stepped up to the plate to mobilize relief efforts. Second Harvest of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana – based about an hour away from Baton Rouge in New Orleans – helped provide food to GBRFB’s service area the week it was forced to shut down, despite having to meet a significantly increased need of its own. Nineteen parishes in Second Harvest’s service area were severely affected by the storm.

Chuck Burrell of Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee helps with recovery efforts.
Chuck Burrell, an employee of Second Harvest
of Northeast Tennessee distributing disaster relief boxes. 

Other network food banks sent support as well. During my time there, I met employees from Second Harvest of Northeast Tennessee, based in Kingsport, TN and America’s Second Harvest of the Big Bend based in Tallahassee, FL. The Greater Chicago Food Depository sent support to greater New Orleans (watch video here), and I also saw an array of trucks from throughout the network. GBRFB lost all but one of its trucks in the storm, so member food banks quickly sent 11 trucks down to help the cause. The Feeding America National Office sent a significant amount of staff as well. In total, the Feeding America network has deployed 21 network and national staff – many sacrificing weeks with their family to be on the ground in Southern Louisiana. And more than half of the entire network stepped up to provide extra food and grocery relief – sending a total of 2.6 million pounds to support recovery efforts.

Employees from Second Harvest of the Big Bend.
Mike Manning, CEO of GBRFB (r) thanks employees of America's Second Harvest of the Big Bend who came down to help.

Thanks to the work of Second Harvest of Greater New Orleans, GBRF and the network, Second Harvest has been able to distribute more than 700k pounds of disaster-relief food and groceries and GBRFB more than 600k pounds.

The Road Ahead ...

Despite these successes and collaborative efforts, the road to recovery is still very long and further resources are desperately needed. While GBRFB is able to deliver food and groceries, it hasn’t been able to deliver the nutritious variety that it has in the past. Without its warehouse facilities, it cannot store and sort fresh produce or other highly perishable items. It also doesn’t have the capacity to implement critical child hunger programs – like the BackPack Program that is currently on hold in its service area. And both food banks – despite the high number of pounds their distributing – cannot keep up with the increased need the storm has produced.

After spending some time in the disaster area, I was so impressed with the amount of work everyone is doing to help Southern Louisiana rebuild from this storm. But we need your help to do more. Learn more about how you can help both The Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank and Second Harvest Food Bank of New Orleans, and take action. With your help, Southern Louisiana can rebuild to become stronger and more resilient than ever before.

Tags: Fighting Hunger in Action , Disaster Response , Louisiana , Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank, Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana

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