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The community kitchen aims to make a meaningful difference in the fight against hunger by preparing thousands of meals weekly for food insecure families.
Second Harvest Food Bank and McNeese State University recently celebrated the grand opening of their new community kitchen at 4370 Ryan Street. A ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the occasion and the Second Harvest Food Bank’s Makin’ Groceries Mobile Market was on site, offering low-priced, healthy food items.
The need for food assistance has always been great in Lake Charles and surrounding communities but the devastation and hardship over the last two years have been unprecedented. Today, the food bank sees more people seeking food relief in large part due to inflation and a 15% increase in food prices. The operation of the community kitchen will allow Second Harvest to triple its meal production to meet the growing demand.
In March 2022, Second Harvest and McNeese State University committed to working together to make a difference to fight hunger across Southwest Louisiana. The two organizations partnered to transform the 1,865 square-foot Gayle Hall Annex Building into a community kitchen that will operate a teaching and learning lab where Second Harvest can prepare hot, nutritious meals for families, children, and seniors—and McNeese’s undergraduate and graduate students can receive hands-on experience in food service operations and the nutritional care process.
McNeese nutrition and dietetic students will work directly with Second Harvest staff to provide nutrient analyses for meals that are provided to a range of people from infants to octogenarians and observe the large-scale food production process, explained Dr. Chip LeMieux, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs and Enrollment Management at McNeese State University, and the Dean of College of Agricultural Sciences.
The community kitchen features a full-scale production kitchen, large gathering room, office, and storage space and will accommodate all the programming and services provided by Second Harvest and McNeese. It will expand several Second Harvest programs:
Groceries on the Geaux is a senior home delivery program.
Meals on Wheels program in partnership with Calcasieu Council on Aging.
Summer Feeding Program which provides meals for children during the summer.
Kids Café after-school feeding program for at-risk kids.
The kitchen will also allow the food bank to ramp up meal production during times of disaster, as well as offer daily Grab-n-Go meals for McNeese students.
Another kitchen highlight is the expansion of the McNeese Nutrition and Dietetics Program. The curriculum will increase students’ educational and future career development in nutrition and food services by allowing more hands-on experience and observation in a community kitchen on campus.
So far this year, Second Harvest staff, volunteers, and community partners have distributed more than three million pounds of food across Southwest Louisiana. The new community kitchen will maximize the food bank’s overall impact and help to strengthen Southwest Louisiana by creating a community space that brings more people together to solve the puzzle that is hunger.
“This kitchen fills a need and will jump-start our efforts to better serve the Southwest community,” said Second Harvest’s President/CEO Natalie Jayroe. “Through this amazing partnership, we’ll be able to serve the community in a way we never could before. This is an important milestone in the food banks’ 40-year history and it would not have been possible without this partnership with McNeese.”
To learn more about how to join the fight against hunger, visit no-hunger.org for information about volunteering, food and monetary donations, and other ways to get involved.
To join Second Harvest in the fight to end hunger, 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.