More than one hundred community partners from across Beauregard, Cameron, Calcasieu, and Jefferson Davis Parishes gathered on April 29 for the first-ever Southwest Louisiana Hunger Action Summit.
Second Harvest Food Bank, in partnership with McNeese State University and the Community Foundation Southwest Louisiana, gathered committed community partners to work together to make a meaningful difference in the fight against hunger in Southwest Louisiana.
“This was an exciting event and the first of its kind in our 40-year history,” said Second Harvest President and CEO Natalie Jayroe. “Everything we’re able to do in Southwest Louisiana, day-in, day-out, is only possible because of our partners at every level. Our goal is to collaboratively figure out how to better serve the community.”
Second Harvest Food Bank has served the four-parish region for 40 years. The need for food assistance has always been great in Lake Charles and surrounding communities but the devastation and hardship this community has experienced over the last two years is unprecedented.
“It’s hard to put a value on how much these community partnerships help amplify the fight against hunger,” said Second Harvest Regional Director Paul Scelfo. “Although we’re able to help thousands of families, children, seniors, and disaster survivors every month, we know we can do so much more.
This Summit is just the beginning of bringing together the best people to solve the puzzle that is hunger.” One highlight of the Summit was the announcement of a new partnership by Second Harvest and McNeese State University to open and operate a large kitchen on the McNeese campus. “The kitchen facility in the College of Agricultural Sciences will be transformed into a teaching and learning lab where Second Harvest staff will prepare hot, nutritious meals for and provide hands-on experience in the nutritional care process,” said Geneva Breaux, assistant professor and director of the McNeese undergraduate program in nutrition and dietetics. “We are thrilled to partner with Second Harvest to help develop and provide thousands of meals each week. This is an amazing opportunity for our undergraduate and graduate students to observe and participate in a large scale, live, functioning food service operation.”
Sara Judson, President and CEO, Community Foundation Southwest Louisiana, said the Hunger Action Summit is a great example of the Foundation’s mission of ‘connecting people who care with causes that matter.’ “The collaboration that took place at the event was incredibly positive. These types of partnerships are so inspiring. We had people of all ages sharing ideas today – from McNeese students to corporate leaders to retiree volunteers. We know there is no limit to what we can accomplish when we work together and that’s what today was about.”
Among the partners participating in the Summit were:
The Summit focused on six key areas of need surrounding hunger in Southwest Louisiana, including:
The continuing impacts of COVID-19, Hurricanes Laura and Delta, and the major spike in inflation has led to a dramatic increase in need for food across Southwest Louisiana, according to Second Harvest Chief Impact Officer Lindsay Hendrix. “In the year prior to the start of the pandemic, Second Harvest distributed more than three million pounds of food and supplies across the four-parish area. After the start of the pandemic, and through two major hurricanes, our staff and volunteers made possible more than twice that amount, eight million pounds of food and disaster supplies.”
To join them in the fight to end hunger, please visit www.no-hunger.org. Follow them on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/2ndHarvestGNOA; fan us on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/2ndHarvestGNOA or Instagram at @2ndHarvestGNOA.