“A boon”: after weeks of uncertainty, the city’s meal assistance program has been renewed for an additional month
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has renewed New Orleans’ COVID-19 meal assistance program for this month, a spokesperson for town hall in Lens said. The last meals will be delivered on June 29. It does not appear that the program will be extended again after June.
The announcement gives a measure of safety to local pantries and other meal providers, who were preparing to welcome a wave of new customers if the program had not been renewed.
“I think we can all breathe a big sigh of relief knowing that this program can continue,” said Erica Chomsky-Adelson, director of Culture Aid NOLA, which currently provides direct low-barrier food assistance to hundreds of people. “It has made the difference between life and death for many residents and for many restaurants. … Having a few extra weeks to plan is a godsend. I am very proud of the city’s leadership for standing up for the people of New Orleans.
The Meal Assistance Program started in July 2020 and offers 14 meals per week prepared by local restaurants to its customers. FEMA covers 75 percent of the costs through reimbursement. It aimed to both provide business to local restaurants and deliver meals to people facing food insecurity due to the pandemic: people over 65 or with high-risk health problems, people without housing. , children and people in quarantine.
Although the program was originally scheduled for a single month, FEMA has repeatedly renewed its support month by month. In the previous months, FEMA issued its renewals a few days after the technical expiration of the program. FEMA support recently expired in late May and since then the city has temporarily extended the program pending a decision from FEMA.
The program provided more than 3 million meals. At its peak during the winter, it served over 11,000 people. In the spring, however, the number of people enrolled steadily declined to around 4,000, which officials from the New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness – the municipal agency administering the program – attribute in part to improved economic conditions.
Emails obtained by Lens as part of a public registration request suggest that some NOHSEP officials were wondering whether to even request an extension in June, but they ultimately decided to request an additional month. In mid-May, the city asked FEMA for an extension of the program in June. Soon after, he wrote on a program website that he would not be looking for any future extensions.
For months, the city’s nonprofit partners have warned that many people participating in the program may need continued help after it concludes. Analysis by consulting firm UrbanFootprint found that in March 2021, 33,000 New Orleans households were food insecure, up 29% since the start of the pandemic.
“The seniors we are serving are concerned about these meals being cut off,” Elisa Muñoz, director of the nonprofit New Orleans Food Policy Advisory Committee, told Lens earlier this week. “It’s hard to go days without knowing if the 2 meals per day you are counting on will be delivered tomorrow. “
Another federal food aid program, called the Farmers to Families Food Box, ended in May, putting additional pressure on local food banks.
The city included a leaflet on alternative food aid programs in its deliveries two weeks ago. He has also established a partnership with the Louisiana 2-1-1 helpline, which can help people begin the process of registering for benefits from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance program, informally known as coupons. food. However, NOHSEP officials told nonprofit partners interested in direct outreach that they could not provide a list of meal recipients.
The Food Policy Advisory Committee is also registering for SNAP for those over 60, and from July the Broadmoor Improvement Association will begin hosting ‘SNAP office hours’ at the Rosa Keller Library to provide a in-person assistance.