The No Kid Hungry team sat down with New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell for a conversation about equity, nutrition, and food security. Mayor Cantrell serves as an inaugural member of the Mayors Alliance to End Childhood Hunger and No Kid Hungry is grateful for her commitment to end childhood hunger in the City of New Orleans.
The Honorable Mayor Cantrell shares her story below:
- What initiatives are you excited about in your city?
New Orleans is working to address poverty and economic stability through multiple programs.
The Office of Youth and Families recently launched the Guaranteed Income Program which will provide $350 a month for 10 months to 125 opportunity youth in the City. These cash payments will allow young people to address their basic needs, including food insecurity.
In addition, my administration through the Office of Youth and Families, has been leading efforts to expand access to childcare in New Orleans since 2018, through the City Seats program, the Office of Youth and Families has funded over 500 high-quality childcare seats. The early childhood education millage, voted on by residents last month, will fund 1,000 childcare seats and address financial stability for thousands of families.
- How did you get involved in the nutrition / anti-hunger space?
We recognize that food insecurity, particularly in children, can lead to not only adverse health effects but also poor performance in school. Since my time as a community organizer after Hurricane Katrina, I have sought to increase economic security and financial stability for New Orleans families.
- What are the biggest nutrition issues the City of New Orleans is facing? What are some of your achievements in this space?
During the height of COVID-19, the City of New Orleans rapidly mobilized to address food insecurity. I created a Food Security Task Force that brought together non-profits and government agencies to gather data and increase coordination between partners.
The City, through the Office of Youth and Families and Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, launched the COVID-19 Meal Assistance program. This FEMA-funded program leveraged $30 million in funding to deliver twice daily restaurant-made meals to COVID-vulnerable residents for nearly a year. The program provided nearly 4 million meals to over 24,000 New Orleanians.
The program had the added benefit of supporting the 88 local restaurants that produced the meals that made up the delivery boxes. According to a survey done by Chef’s Brigade, the meal program helped to re-employ at least 500 New Orleanians, who may have otherwise been out of work during the height of the pandemic, in food production alone. Additional jobs were also created in the delivery and administration components of the program. Visit chefsbrigadenola.org to retrieve a report produced by Chef’s Brigade on the financial impacts of the program on the restaurant industry.
- How has the Mayor’s Office and City of New Orleans partnered with No Kid Hungry around the summer meals programs and how important is access to summer meals for kids in New Orleans?
The City has partnered with No Kid Hungry Louisiana since 2011 to ensure that all youth 0-18 have access to healthy meals throughout the summer. Data shows that there is a large percentage of youth that depend on meals at schools as their only source of food and nutrition. To address this issue, No Kid Hungry Louisiana seeks to ensure that meals are available in all camps, and communities for all youth. The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) serves nutritious meals to youth aged 18 and under at no charge during the summer months when school is not in session. The program is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and administered at the state level by relevant agencies.
No Kid Hungry Louisiana connects programs with local SFSP providers. Additionally, they provide financial resources and grants to ensure that partners have the equipment and resources necessary to be in compliance with the State Health Department regulations, where camps are inspected annually.
New Orleans Recreation Development Commission (NORDC), along with most NORDC summer camp providers, are the recipients of these grants which can be utilized to purchase tables, chairs, supplies, hire additional staff, or any other programmatic needs to ensure meals are provided.
NORDC camps serve both breakfast and lunch to all campers daily, free of charge. Additionally, NORD Recreation centers also provide hot meals throughout the school year and during the summer to youth address 0-18.
- With Mother’s Day just passing, as a mother, what are your thoughts on the intersection of women and hunger?
As a mother, and indeed as a person, my heart breaks that anyone goes hungry at all. For parents, especially mothers with infant children, hunger can lead to development issues. Childhood hunger is something we should all work to solve. There are so many things that kids must worry about these days, and hunger should never be one of those things.
To find out more about Mayor Cantrell’s accomplishments and work, visit the City of New Orleans’ website.