As the city expanded, the low-lying, swampy area promised space and opportunity. Black families moved there en masse, and services like grocery stores, malls and jobs followed. But the growth stalled and the far-flung, sprawling region started suffering from disinvestment and white flight. Crime and blight followed. After Hurricane Katrina hit, many businesses never reopened. Hotels, schools and stores shuttered. Now, residents complain about feeling forgotten. That feeling hasn't subsided as a pandemic sweeps the world.
The New Orleanians responding to the COVID-19 disaster by starting food relief programs don't think of it as charity. They think of it as solidarity. Mutual aid. Some groups that have stepped up, like Familias Unidas, were already doing this work. Others, like the NOLA Tree Project, were doing entirely different work. And others didn't even exist before the coronavirus hit. They came together in the crisis.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, Louisiana had one of the highest rates of food insecurity in the country, with one in five people at risk of going hungry.Second Harvest projects that will increase to one in three people. In the month following business shutdowns in Louisiana, there was a 400 percent increase in applications for SNAP benefits over the previous month. And emergency calls for food aid to the United Way more than doubled compared to this time last year.