NEW ORLEANS -- On Thursday night the Mercedes-Benz Superdome was lit up in orange. The bright hue is calling attention to ending hunger.
September is Feeding America's Hunger Action Month. Second Harvest says one in six Louisianans are at risk, and more middle class families are seeking help in our region.
"To me what I hear is: 'Mr. D, when I go home it's a bowl of noodles or sometimes when I got home, it's a peanut butter jelly sandwich,' and sometimes when they go home, there's no food at all," said Darren Alridge with Youth Empowerment Project.
Alridge sees hungry kids first hand as an after-school instructor at Youth Empowerment Project in Central City. Part of the job besides helping with homework and mentoring is making sure these kids are fed.
"We feel it's our job to make sure these kids eat as long as they're around here," Alridge said.
"There were 26,000 disconnected young people between the ages of 16 to 24 across the city of New Orleans. These are young people not engaged in work or school. We serve 1,000 here, helping them to gain access to those opportunities," said Darrin McCall with Youth Empowerment Project.
Second Harvest says in south Louisiana about 15 percent of the population struggles with hunger. More than 135,000 of those people are kids. The non-profit also says one in six households in Louisiana struggles with hunger, and these days it's not just low income families seeking help.
"Now what we're seeing is more the fact that the middle class just can't get a break. It's not totally on its feet. We continue to get hundreds of calls every single month from people who've never used the emergency food assistance program before," said Natalie Jayroe with Second Harvest Food Bank.
She said changes in people's income, health care bills and an economic hit to the oil industry are just some of the reasons why her organization is seeing more calls.
"Here in south Louisiana is about 65 million meals every year. So there are 65 million times that a family isn't sure if they'll have good nutrition on the table. Second Harvest can provide for about 22.5 million meals right now. That shows you how much need there is," said Jayroe.
While the fight to end hunger continues here at home, it's foot soldiers on the front lines trying to do their best to keep stomachs full and smiles on these faces.
"No matter if they're coming to play basketball, if they're coming to do their homework, if they're coming to work on the computer, we make sure they eat, because some of them don't eat at all," said Alridge.
Several events are scheduled throughout this month to help stamp out hunger in our communities. To see how you can help, click here.