Feed the Second Line, a Louisiana-based non-profit organization, recently launched an initiative to assist culture bearers, their families, and communities across New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
As Hurricane Ida made landfall, heavy rains and harsh winds left buildings damaged, trees uprooted, and New Orleans’ streets flooded with runoff. A US$14.5 billion system of fortified floodgates, levees, and pumps implemented in Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath seems to have succeeded in protecting the city from the devastation witnessed in 2005. But 83.6 percent of homes and businesses in Orleans Parish remain without power.
The upgraded flood protection system may have saved New Orleans from extreme flooding, but “if we’re going to have many people die because of hunger and heat, then it’s almost not enough of a system,” Devin de Wulf, founder of Feed the Second Line tells Food Tank. “We need to think really creatively and be critical thinkers.”
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Feed the Second Line focused on buying and delivering groceries for culture bearers and elders, who provided them with a weekly grocery list and household requests. In the wake of the hurricane, the organization is thinking of creative ways to support the 130 people they developed relationships with. Feed the Second Line has mobilized a team to repair damaged roofs. Since the storm hit, they have reached about 15 homes.
“New Orleans has a famous culture and a very special culture largely created by people who don’t get paid and who are very much working-class folks,” de Wulf tells Food Tank. “We’re trying to create more of a safety net for them so that we can fight poverty and food insecurity and help out in moments like this.”
Feed the Second Line is also hoping to support Hurricane Ida relief by creating a food distribution program. To do this, they plan to hire mobile barbecue grills and partner with local residents who typically grill food during New Orleans’ parades. This will allow elders who live in neighborhoods far from the government food centers to access fresh meals. According to data from the Center for Planning Excellence, 22 percent of households in New Orleans are food insecure, while 15 percent of households are food insufficient.
De Wulf says this project to work with the city’s local grillmasters will also tackle food waste, especially in areas without electricity. Restaurants impacted by the Hurricane are emptying their refrigerators and discarding perishable items. But by partnering with cooks, the items restaurants have had to dispose of “could’ve been used up a lot more efficiently,” says de Wulf.
Feed the Second Line’s long-term vision also includes the creation of pop-up restaurants, which can further address food waste. De Wulf describes the idea of repurposing the Louisiana National Guard’s high-water vehicles after the storm has cleared. Feed the Second Line would then be able to use a stockpile of grills and charcoal to cook and serve meals from these vehicles. “It would just be a little bit better if [restaurants] could cook delicious food and serve delicious food instead of just desperately trying to get rid of meat that’s thawing out,” de Wulf affirms.
“The best thing that we can do is advocate for solar panels and solar batteries that are hopefully subsidized by the government and installed in every neighborhood in the city, especially on the rooftops of restaurants,” de Wulf explains.
As Feed the Second Line hopes to create a resilient future for New Orleans residents, de Wulf tells Food Tank that it’s important for Americans to “really support local organizations.”
“New Orleans has always been plagued by inequality,” says de Wulf. “We see it at every disaster, the folks who can’t afford to leave. It’s time for us to use that in our hurricane planning and make them as resilient as we can. They need the solar power batteries. Their neighborhoods need to be strongest part of our city.”
Photo courtesy of Feed the Second Line