Second Harvest Food Bank History


Second Harvest of Greater New Orleans was founded on December 9, 1982, under the leadership of Archbishop Philip M. Hannan. Bishop Roger P. Morin, Vicar of Community Affairs for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, and Gregory Ben Johnson, Director of the Social Apostolate of the Archdiocese, with the advice of community leaders, added emergency food distribution to the range of services the Archdiocese offered. By July 1983 the food bank had 23 faith-based and nonprofit member agencies receiving product. In 1984, the numbers grew to more than 50,000 pounds of food per month to 79 agencies.


By 1985, 100,000 pounds per month were being distributed. On September 13, 1985, Second Harvest Food Bank became a fully accredited member of America’s Second Harvest – The Nation’s Food Bank Network, allowing it to receive large donations from all over the country. A merger in 1989 with The Food Bank for Emergencies of Greater New Orleans, Inc. led to the addition of the emergency food box program to the food bank’s efforts to reclaim food that was going to waste. As it grew, the organization went through several name changes, finally becoming Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana in 2004.


Gifts Make Expansion Possible
For the first two years, Second Harvest operated out of a 48,000 square foot warehouse loaned by Mr. Joseph Uddo. On January 10, 1985, it purchased a 15,500 square foot warehouse. However, distribution continued to grow, and within five years Second Harvest needed to move again to a larger facility. Through the efforts of Anne Milling, Hormel made a generous donation of half the price of a warehouse it was selling in Harahan. Many generous gifts were given by community foundations and individuals, and Second Harvest was able to move into the 29,000 square foot warehouse on three acres on March 13, 1991.


By 1994, this additional capacity allowed the food bank to distribute five million pounds of food each year. Growth continued over the next decade. By 2004, Second Harvest was distributing almost 15 million pounds of food annually to 23 parishes in southern Louisiana from the Mississippi state line to the Texas border. The number of partner agencies had grown to more than 350 by July 2005.


World’s Largest Food Bank
On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck Second Harvest’s service area, followed by Hurricane Rita on September 24, 2005. More than a million people were displaced from their homes and hundreds of thousands of people found themselves in need of emergency assistance, often for the first time. Forced out of its facility in New Orleans, the staff of Second Harvest regrouped in Baton Rouge within 48 hours of Katrina’s landfall, despite the fact that many of the staff had lost their own homes and others were unaware of the fate of their friends and family members.


By September 2005, Second Harvest became the largest food bank in the world’s history, with the help of America’s Second Harvest, now Feeding America, and skilled food bank volunteers from all over the country. Operating initially from a closed Wal-Mart in Baker, LA, then returning to its facility in New Orleans and opening a second facility in Lafayette in 2006, Second Harvest distributed more than 75 million pounds of food over the next two years.


Working with other nonprofits and government agencies to meet the extraordinary needs of a region in recovery, Second Harvest began evaluating its programs and strengthening those that would have a lasting impact on hunger for all the residents of the parishes it serves. In 2007, Second Harvest co-chaired the Food Policy Advisory Committee of the Greater New Orleans City Council, bringing together government, social service and for-profit sectors to recommend policy ensuring that all citizens would have access to nutritious food. It brought the other four food banks of Louisiana together to form the Louisiana Food Bank Association.
Preparing for the Future
Today, Second Harvest Food Bank distributes more than 22 million meals through a network of 240 non-profit member agencies and provides emergency food assistance to more than 263,000 people, including nearly 82,000 children and 40,000 seniors. 


In December 2007, the Second Harvest Food Bank Board of Directors adopted a long-term strategic plan with ambitious goals -- among them, to increase annual food distribution to 38 million meals across the 23 parish service area by 2013.  The plan called for Second Harvest to secure the infrastructure required to enhance the food bank’s capacity to accept and distribute better quality and larger quantities of food, improve and expand services, deliver community programs, expand volunteer opportunities and strengthen Second Harvest Food Bank’s vital role in times of disaster.


In order to accommodate this growth Second Harvest acquired and moved into a 200,000 square foot warehouse located at 700 Edwards Avenue in Jefferson Parish in April 2010.  With individual, corporate and community support, the new location is scheduled for renovations that will produce a state-of-the art Regional Food Center.



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