Hurricane Katrina may have devastated New Orleans’s food network, but now, little over a year later, that network has grown even stronger, thanks to the work of Anne Baker (above) and the New Orleans Food & Farm Network (NOFFN).
The day before Katrina struck, Baker and other volunteers had been planting 1,000 square feet of community gardens. Within 24 hours, their work was obliterated and the volunteers had dispersed outside of the city. Communicating by cell calls and text messages, the crew focused on a short-term goal: to help those left in the city, or returning to it, find food.
Max Elliott and Marnie Genre, the first NOFFN members to return to the city, “hit the ground running,” says Baker, the group’s program director. They began locating soup kitchens, food pantries, restaurants and stores. Working with other nonprofits and using a donated computer-mapping system, they plotted these food sources. Their map (www.nolafoodmap.com) was born online to show residents where they could find operating grocery stores, farmer’s markets, restaurants and emergency kitchens near them. The maps were also photocopied for residents who did not (or still do not) have Internet access.
In the last year, the online map has evolved, as new food sources are located and added to the resource. NOFFN also has begun to focus efforts on new initiatives: the group is now seeking to understand how the food supply in the city has changed and identify what various communities may still need. Funding from government and private foundations helps to support assessments. An offshoot, called Grow New Orleans, is pulling in restaurateurs, social workers, clergy, market farmers and anyone interested in helping. NOFFN now has a national advisory board.
“We’ve only done a tiny, tiny bit of what needs to be done,” says Baker, who is one of three paid staffers. “The exciting part,” she continues, “is that this is a holistic effort,
a grass-roots effort.”
HOW YOU CAN HELP: For more information, to sign up for an e-newsletter or to donate, log on to www.noffn.org or call 504-864-2009. Or write New Orleans Food and Farm Network, P.O. Box 13185, New Orleans, LA 70185-3185.
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