Food Bank Network Commemorates Hurricane Katrina Disaster and Prepares for Others

August 25, 2010

As the nation approaches the 5-year commemoration of the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina, Feeding America and its member food banks remember the event and the way it changed emergency food-assistance during disasters.

On August 27, community leaders, volunteers and others will gather at the Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana to reflect on the achievements of Second Harvest Food Bank and the greater community in the five years following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and share the outlook for the fight against hunger in south Louisiana. Chef Curtis Stone will help more than 150 volunteers pack emergency food boxes to be used for disaster response efforts by Feeding America food banks.

In the wake of the 2005 hurricane season, the Feeding America nationwide network of food banks engaged in an unprecedented, collaborative effort to feed millions of Americans who were affected by Katrina and subsequent Hurricanes Rita and Wilma. Food bank staff and volunteers living in the devastated areas worked around the clock to maintain service to feeding sites and temporary shelters–sleeping on warehouse floors, not knowing if their own homes survived the storm.

"Although emergency food service distribution is an activity our food banks coordinate every day, the effort committed to ramping up additional support to our affected food banks was awe-inspiring, almost beyond words," said Vicki Escarra, President and CEO of Feeding America, who arrived to lead the nation's hunger-relief organization in February 2006."I wanted to get a true understanding of just what people were going through, and spent many days visiting communities from Beaumont, Texas, to Pensacola, Florida, meeting with staff and volunteers delivering food aid, and talking with families who were still caught in the grip of the crisis."

Over the following weeks, the Feeding America network would be called upon to provide emergency food assistance to more than 6 million Gulf Coast residents. Beyond the southeastern states, that sheltered the greatest number of evacuees, food banks as far away as Portland and Boston experienced a rise in the number of requests for emergency food assistance from people who had arrived there with nothing.

"While few could comprehend the scale of destruction that the Gulf Coast would endure, many people sprang into action to aid in the nation's recovery," said Escarra."The outpouring of donations and helping hands from communities across the country to the Gulf Coast was tremendous."

Food insecurity remains high in the areas impacted by the 2005 hurricane season, but the food banks in those areas continue to make considerable gains in the fight against hunger.

"We've been aggressively partnering with other nonprofits and government agencies to meet the extraordinary needs of a region in recovery," said Natalie Jayroe, President and CEO Second Harvest Food Bank."Staff at the food bank are continually evaluating programs and strengthening those that will achieve a lasting impact on hunger." In 2007, the food bank co-chaired the Food Policy Advisory Committee of the Greater New Orleans City Council, bringing together government, social service and for-profit sectors to recommend policy ensuring that all citizens would -have access to nutritious food. These conversations resulted in the formation of the Louisiana Food Bank Association, which successfully advocated for a $5 million state food-purchase program.

"Lessons were learned during these disasters and Bay Area Food Bank is ready for the next disaster. Designed for sustained 24 hour operations with storage capacity equivalent to 60 semi-trailer loads of food, Bay Area Food Bank is prepared for its role as the Central Gulf Coast's primary food source in disaster-relief operations," said Dave Reaney, Executive Director of the Bay Area Food Bank in Mobile, whose organization distributed more than 1 million pounds of hurricane-relief supplies per week in the first two months following the disaster.

The Feeding America network strategically pre-positions emergency food and personal care items most frequently requested by individuals and families affected by disaster. Feeding America also provides specialized training to help member food banks to develop seamless, coordinated approaches to delivering disaster assistance, and regularly mobilizes our corporate partners and donor community to help provide disaster relief, above and beyond ongoing collaborations to address the chronic food insecurity that many Americans face daily.

To commemorate the occasion, Feeding America has used their blog to publish first-hand written, recorded, and videotaped accounts of people who were and continue to be affected by the hurricanes.

Additional video can be found on Feeding America's YouTube channel .


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About Feeding America

Feeding America is the nationwide network of 200 food banks that leads the fight against hunger in the United States. Together, we provide food to more than 46 million people through 60,000 food pantries and meal programs in communities across America. Feeding America also supports programs that improve food security among the people we serve; educates the public about the problem of hunger; and advocates for legislation that protects people from going hungry. Individuals, charities, businesses and government all have a role in ending hunger. Donate. Volunteer. Advocate. Educate. Together we can solve hunger. Visit, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana

Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana is leading the fight against hunger in south Louisiana through food distribution, education, advocacy and disaster response. Annually, Second Harvest serves approximately 262,800 people through 235 nonprofit and faith-based agencies across 23 south Louisiana parishes – from the Mississippi border to the Texas state line. In any given week, nearly 41,800 people access emergency food services through Second Harvest Food Bank member agencies. Second Harvest Food Bank is a member of Feeding America (formerly known as America's Second Harvest National Food Bank Network). To learn more or donate food, money or time, please visit

About the Bay Area Food Bank

Bay Area Food Bank serves a 24-county area spanning 20,000 square miles in south Mississippi, south Alabama and the panhandle of Florida. In 2009, Bay Area Food Bank distributed nearly 12 million pounds of food to more than 550 member agencies throughout its service area. The Bay Area Food Bank, working through member organizations and special programs, provides nutritious food to meet the challenge of feeding people who are hungry as a result of personal crisis or disaster. The Bay Area Food Bank educates the public regarding domestic hunger, proper nutrition and related issues. For more information, visit


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