More than 23 percent of children and 22 percent of adults in New Orleans are "food insecure" — in other words, more than 20 percent of New Orleans families don't have enough money to feed themselves. According to a 2013 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 15.7 percent of Louisiana families are food insecure — compared to a national rate of 14.7 percent. That figure grew in Louisiana, from 5.7 percent during 2007-2012, while the national rate grew only 1.2 percent. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps) supports one in five Louisiana households.
While shelters and food banks help feed New Orleans' hungry, a new organization, Community Plates, helps connect food providers (grocery stores, restaurants, bakeries, farms) with local homeless shelters and other organizations. Community Plates launched in 2011 and has sites in Connecticut, Ohio and New Mexico. Its New Orleans branch opened last month.
"There's so much food here. It's not a problem of lack of supply, it's a lack of logistics," says New Orleans site director Lauren Rudzis. "We're the transportation to get from point A to point B."
Volunteers can visit www.communityplates.org either to help run food (for example, deliver groceries from the store to a shelter) or become a food donor. The New Orleans program is now building its volunteer and food donor base. Food is delivered and served on the same day, and there is no warehousing or storage.
"We at least make small connections to lead to a bigger difference, by being active and not hesitating," Rudzis says.