Message from Natalie: How the COVID-19 emergency response is unique

On behalf of our staff, Board, volunteers and those we serve, let me personally extend our deepest gratitude. Our team has helped thousands of our neighbors in need thanks to everyone who has donated time, money, food, and resources over the past weeks and months.

Second Harvest has responded to dozens of disasters and emergencies in our four-decade history. We work year-round to have disaster supplies on hand, and revise our strategy after each disaster to better respond to the next one. Most of these have been weather-related events – hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, and freezes. Some have been man-made disasters, such as the BP oil spill.

But for us, this crisis is extremely different. Not only for us, but for the entire nation.

For weather events, we have been able to deploy disaster supplies to serve a limited geographic area. Even with the massive 2016 floods flooding more than 4,000 square miles in Acadiana and Baton Rouge, we were able to mobilize donations and resources from across the country.

With COVID-19, that disaster response model went out of the window. This is an emergency impacting every square mile of Louisiana, and every zip code of the U.S. Our normal supply chains of food from industry and other partners were, for a time, cut off. Vital donations from our local retail partners fell to near-zero, as grocery stores struggled with issues of supply themselves.

Our staff’s training and experience gave them the flexibility to start immediately working around these problems. And key lobbying by local, state, and federal government partners allowed us to distribute millions of pounds of USDA food, paid for by the American taxpayer, to help our fellow citizens in their time of need.

The Second Harvest Community Kitchen, which normally produces about 800 meals a day, has ramped up over the past weeks to now produce 10,000 meals a day for children and seniors.  We have innovated our distribution model to deliver thousands of emergency food boxes directly to individuals isolated in their homes.  And our staff of 90 continues this fight, even as many of them face challenges in their own homes due to the shutdown and economic downturn.

I could not be prouder of the Second Harvest team of staff, volunteers, and supporters. There is always more to do, and I promise we will continue to make the best use of every donated dollar, pound of food, and prayer that comes our way.

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