NEW ORLEANS —
Thousands of residents across Southeast Louisiana have sought free food from Second Harvest as unemployment across the area soars due to the coronavirus pandemic, representatives with the largest charitable food network in the region said Wednesday.
According to Luella Provenza, chief impact officer at Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans, 450 people showed up at the Elmwood distribution center just last week.
It was too much for the location to handle and the food bank has since added more drive-thru events, organized by Second Harvest and their many partners in different districts over the last few weeks.
Provenza estimates they’ve helped anywhere between 500 to 1,200 households at each of the food bank’s 12 events.
The parking lot of the Goodwill in Mid-City served as a food pickup location Wednesday morning.
In an interview with WWLTV’s Meghan Kee, District B council member Jay Banks, wearing a purple and gold cloth face mask to match his Zulu golf shirt, said the need of the city’s residents can be seen by the line of cars waiting hours for food.
“We got here to set up at 8 a.m. this morning. There was a line down the block when we got here, and it never stopped,” said Banks. The plan was to do 500, and we got through that in about an hour — two hours, so clearly the need is real.”
While thousands have received food through drive-thru pickup locations, senior citizens and disabled residents, unable to make the events, have a much harder time.
People may remember— WWLTV introduced you to Oliver Tureaud, 78, last month.
The New Orleans East resident requested help through the city’s 211 services. It connects residents who are in need of food with Second Harvest, and many other resources. Tureaud was startled to learn it was going to take a week to get food.
“Now, I am not going to be out of a meal for seven days — not with my family," Tureaud said. "But how many people may have to suffer because of the fact that this is happening.”
Provenza said they get about 60 to 70 people calling a day to ask for home-based deliveries. The food bank and representatives with VIA Link, the company that operates the 211 services, admit there were some obstacles at first, but now, they are working to get people food within 24 to 48 hours.
“Our list is actually cleared,” said Provenza. “This morning, we were actually able to do all of those who were on the waitlist, obviously since then we’ve probably gotten an additional 60 more.”
Banks predicts the need will only get greater as we get deeper into the coronavirus health crisis.
“There is tremendous need,” said Banks. “We have a tourism-based economy and there are a lot of people that aren’t working and there are going to be more people who are in need the longer we get into this.”