A light drizzle was falling in New Orleans East at 9 a.m. on Sept. 5 as people of all ages stood in line to receive fresh vegetables, eggs, meat and canned goods being distributed by Total Community Action and Second Harvest Food Bank at the James Singleton Head Start Center on Curran Road in Little Woods. The fresh produce was coming directly from Second Harvest’s Mobile Pantry, a program that began a year ago to distribute perishables received by retailers such as Rouse’s, Walmart and Winn-Dixie through its retail pick-up program.
“It’s like a food pantry on a truck,” said Terri Kaupp, communications and public relations specialist with Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana. “A lot of our (food bank) agencies don’t have refrigeration to keep fresh foods we are given. This helps us distribute those products.”
Second Harvest on a roll
Kaupp said Second Harvest’s refrigerated trucks travel every Tuesday through Saturday throughout New Orleans, the Lafayette area, Houma, Ponchatoula, Killona, Gray, Chauvin, Gibson, Grand Isle, Lafitte, Montegut and Bogalusa. The truck tries to make two stops a day when it is out, Kaupp said, especially when it’s Second Harvest’s refrigerated truck with roll-down sides.
“A refrigerated truck goes out to these spots pretty much five days a week,” Kaupp said. “It’s a mobile agency.” The Little Woods location distributes food the first Thursday of every month starting at 9 a.m., said Total Community Action’s chief operating officer Fay Wooten.
As the retail pick-up program grew in the number of stores participating, Second Harvest had “more perishable goods coming in and no way to distribute it,” and the mobile pantry was born.
Kaupp said the mobile pantry is designed to hit areas with no food pantries, such as Killona or those towns with food pantries but without the necessary refrigeration to keep or freeze perishables.
The first mobile pantry rolled out in May 2012 with a truckload of perishables from Walmart, Kaupp said, in the B.W. Cooper Housing Development in New Orleans. Second Harvest then received a second grant several months later to receive a truck from Kraft.
“The mobile pantry program allows us to quickly distribute nutritious produce and food items donated through the retail store pick-up program,” Lisa Abel, chief philanthropy and marketing officer for Second Harvest Food Bank. “The program also helps us expand our reach throughout the Louisiana Gulf Coast with a concentrated focus on rural parishes that often have limited access to food assistance or provide additional resources as most food pantries do not have the capacity for large quantities of perishable foods.”
Balanced mix of fresh food
The kind of food available varies with every pick up, but usually it’s a mix of different types of food from different food groups including meat, produce (salad mix, vegetables, onions, potatoes), frozen foods (could be anything from chicken nuggets to pizza), yogurt, etc.
“We can pick up day-old bread, pastries,” Kaupp said. “We get milk, we get cheese, meat, whatever our retail donors have. As long as it is still good, we take it. We just want to make sure the food is safe. We freeze things as well and then distribute it to people.”
Second Harvest is pleased to be able to hand out meat the majority of the time.
“Sometimes meat is first thing cut off a person’s grocery list,” when budgets are tight, Kaupp said.
Among those in line at the Little Woods distribution site Aug. 5 was Clara Jones, a first-time recipient from the program.
“It’s going to help me a whole lot with the vegetables and eggs I’m getting,” Jones said.
Just recently Walmart presented Second Harvest Food Bank of Acadiana and Greater New Orleans with a $75,000 grant from its Walmart State Giving Program to help with the operation of the mobile food pantry throughout southeast Louisiana.
“This will help us keep the mobile pantry program going and growing,” Kaupp said. “We are working hard to expand the program in the Lafayette area because food insecurity is higher in rural areas since citizens have further to go to purchase food. For some families, the distance and lack of public transportation in these areas only further complicate the issue.”
Christine Bordelon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
‘HARVEST THE MUSIC’ FESTIVAL COMES ROARING BACK
Benefit concerts for Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater
New Orleans and Acadiana:
When: Sept. 18-Oct. 30, 5-7:30 p.m.
Where: Lafayette Square, with parking available at 650 Poydras St., for $5 after 5 p.m. Enter on Camp Street.
Bands: The Soul Rebels and Mia Borders, Sept. 18; Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue and New Breed Brass Band, Sept. 25; Irma Thomas and the Professionals and Khris Royal and Dark Matter on Oct. 2; Dragon Smoke and Pigeon Town on Oct. 9; The Revivalist and Papa Mail on Oct. 16; Voice of the Wetlands All-Stars with special guest Anders Osborne and Rich Collins, Oct. 23; and Raw Oyster Cult and Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes on
DETAILS: Admission is free; no outside food. Food vendors will include: Bittersweet Confections, Cafe Adelaide, Crepes a la Cart, Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar and Restaurant, Martin Wine Cellar – Metairie Deli and Bistro, Ms. Linda – the Ya-Ka-Mein Lady, Oceana Grill, Ye Olde Kettle Cooker, Squeal Bar-B-Q, Second Harvest Community Kitchen. There also will be art vendors. Visit www.harvestthemusic.org.