COVID-19 Meal Program Enters its Ninth Month

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The City of New Orleans recentlu announced that the COVID-19 Meal Assistance Program will continue to run until at least Mar. 31, bringing the program into its ninth month. The program is opearted in parttnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

This emergency food program serves New Orleans residents by reducing the likelihood of COVID-19 exposure for at-risk residents, including seniors, high-risk health individuals, residents who are COVID positive or are quarantining, homeless residents, and children under 18. The meal program delivers free, twice-daily, restaurant-made meals to New Orleanians in need. Currently, there are over 11,000 residents enrolled and there is plenty of capacity for new participants.

Residents are eligible if they meet any of the following criteria and are NOT receiving any other federal food support (including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)): 

  • Seniors age 65 and older 
  • 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. 

To date, 85 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. Partnering with the Meal Assistance Program has saved us many times, mostly recently with the program’s extension through February,” says Clare Leavy, owner and chef at Live Oak Cafe. “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 done by The Chef’s Brigade of the participating restaurants, the meal program has re-employed at least 500 New Orleanians who may have otherwise been out of work due to the pandemic in food production alone. Additional jobs have been created in the delivery and administration components of the program. 

“The meal program has been an emergency financial lifeline to many in our beloved and culturally important restaurant industry, whether that’s restaurants and their kitchen staff, purveyors or independent chefs,” says Chef’s Brigade founder and Executive Director Troy Gilbert.