The City of New Orleans announced recently that the COVID-19 Meal Assistance Program will continue to run through January. The meal program delivers twice-daily, restaurant-made meals to New Orleanians in need. More than 11,100 residents are enrolled in the program receiving free daily meals, and officials say there is plenty of room for new participants.
Funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been approved through at least Jan. 30, bringing the program into its seventh month.
“We know that January is shaping up to be a tough month for many of our residents, with COVID-19 cases on the rise and many New Orleanians also struggling with food insecurity,” says Collin Arnold, director of New Orleans Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness office. “This unique program has supported 16,500 of our most vulnerable residents throughout the pandemic and has provided over 2 million meals to date. I’m grateful that our partnership with FEMA will allow this program to continue and to keep our residents healthy and fed through this winter surge.”
The program serves New Orleans residents impacted by COVID-19, including seniors, high-risk health individuals, residents who are COVID positive or are quarantining due to potential exposure, homeless residents, and children under 18.
To be eligible for the meals, individuals must fit at leats one of the following criteria and not be receiving any other federal food support (including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)):
- Seniors age 65 and above
- Adults with high-risk health conditions and special medical needs (Examples include pregnancy, smoking, asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart or lung disease, obesity, cancer, compromised immune system, kidney disease, liver disease, HIV, AIDS, Sickle cell disease, and more.)
- Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 or have been exposed and require isolation or quarantine
- Homeless residents
- Children under 18
To apply, go to ready.nola.gov/meals or call 3-1-1.
The program has also been an “emergency financial lifeline” for the local restaurant industry hit hard by the economic impact of the pandemic, says Chef’s Brigade founder and Executive Director Troy Gilbert.
More than 80 local restaurants, through the Chef’s Brigade coalition, have been producing meals, which are organized and stored by the New Orleans Culinary and Hospitality Institute (NOCHI), packaged by Revolution Foods, and delivered by d’livery NOLA. Low-sodium and diabetic-friendly meals are also available and are being produced by Revolution Foods.
“Permanent closure has been a constant threat since April,” says Clare Leavy, owner and chef at Live Oak Cafe. “Partnering with the Meal Assistance Program has saved us many times, most recently with the program’s extension through January. This program has given us more than a means to survive, it has given us a mission and we are proud and grateful to have work worth doing.”
According to a survey of the participating restaurants conducted by The Chefs Brigade, the meal program has re-employed at least 500 New Orleanians who may have otherwise been out of work due to the pandemic. Other jobs have been created in the delivery and administration components of the program.