Livingston flooding

Jambalaya, corn, green beans and cornbread were prepared for lunch at the Bethel Baptist Church shelter in Livingston on Wednesday, August 14, 2016.

People in Louisiana are renowned for their food, from top restaurants to the tailgate cooking pot. But no culinary magic is required for the most important meals we ever put on a plate, and the recipe is no secret.

They are the meals served to others in need, and once again many people in a huge swath of south Louisiana have been thrust into that position by devastating floods.

Chefs and restaurant people tend to be trailblazers after widespread disasters like these. They have the know-how and often they have the equipment to make an immediate impact, especially when the task is to turn large amounts of donated food into hot meals in a hurry. This week, contingents from the New Orleans hospitality sector followed fast on the heels of first responders and have been serving meals by the thousands.  

But not everyone who wants to support can do so in person, and on the beachhead of a disaster area there isn’t the capacity for everyone to be the boots on the ground anyway.  

That’s why Second Harvest Food Bank is directing the impulse to give a little farther back in the supply chain, where help is needed now and is likely to rise as communities dry out and the full scope of the disaster is revealed.

Second Harvest is now marshaling volunteers and collecting donations to help those affected by the floods, from the north shore through Acadiana. The Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank was flooded, and the New Orleans-based Second Harvest is collecting supplies for its neighbor organization too.

Give or sign up for the volunteer registry online through

“When people give, they know we can turn $1 into at least three meals,” said Natalie Jayroe, CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank. “If they want to drop off food, nonperishable food, we welcome that too, and we need cleaning supplies, because that is something people will face when they get home.”

The group also is partnering with a number of local organizations to broaden its network of collection points for the flood relief effort. Rouses supermarkets have become satellite collection spots for Second Harvest’s efforts. You can donate food, water and cleaning supplies at any of the company’s locations, or make a financial contribution there in person too.

In addition, supplies are being accepted all week at Second Harvest’s own facility in Elmwood, at 700 Edwards Ave., at the New Orleans Tourism Marketing offices at 2020 St. Charles Ave., and at the Louisiana Restaurant Association headquarters, at 2700 N. Arnoult St. in Metairie.

Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter, @IanMcNultyNOLA.