Imagine trying to feed yourself on $87 a month. How about $23? Older adults who qualify for the minimum SNAP benefit will see their amount fall from $281 per month to just $23 in March.
Here’s the NPR Article: What SNAP recipients can expect as benefits shrink in March.
Now, more than ever, the Community Fridge programs can help to keep people from starving. Listen to Sheri Leigh Myers interview three of her fellow cooks and a retired gentleman who credits the New Orleans Community Fridge program with keeping him going while he was homeless, and now gives back. Listen to the inspiring and informational interviews with Mike Boyle, Caroline Forbes, Allison Stock, and Steve. If you can help feed the hungry, please take action. Every little bit makes a difference.
To get involved with the New Orleans Community Food Project, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Why We Cook for the Community Fridge
00:00:05 – 00:05:00
Welcome to angel lady movie talk where we discuss the issues in our film angel lady and meet the filmmakers. One of the issues in our film is building community and building community with the use of the community fridge. Today, we’re going to be talking about how to start a fridge with Mike Boyle. The person who got me into this in the first place and then we will be meeting the other cooks from New Orleans that I cook with. Mike Boyle, then tell us about yourself. What is your background? My background, I mean, 30 years is nonprofit fundraiser. So I guess I’m used to the charitable aspect of life. And I always, you know, the hard part is always convincing people that they can make a difference. Because we tend to get overwhelmed by the size and scope and magnitude of the problems, whether it’s hunger or education, you name it. There’s 9000 good causes out there. So, you know, at the onset of the pandemic, it was clear that, especially in norms, with an economy that is based so much on the hospitality industry. Yes. And where hospitality, that industry was just destroyed, basically, for lack of a better frame for quite some time. By the pandemic. A lot of people lost their jobs. Livelihoods disappeared overnight, really. The people that had no idea what hunger was found themselves facing the choice whether to pay rent or buy food. And for a lot of us, that wasn’t that wasn’t acceptable. But the other side of that is, what do I do? What can I do out? There were a lot of things that were happening then. But, you know, on macro scales. And my wife and I did some donations, and that sort of thing. But we also wanted to do something a little more hands on. And that’s, you know, we had seen the community fridges and that’s how we got involved in that because we both like to cook and it allowed it and gave us a tangible hands on experience with helping up. And I think that was the important part for us. Well, let’s explain, what is the purpose of a community fridge? I guess for me, it’s twofold. It’s obviously to supply meals for those who need it. There’s a lot of food insecurity. I mean, for a lot of reasons. One, you know, the sheer cost of food, economics, but also especially in inner city areas. It’s a food desert. You know, it’s hard to get quality food in a lot of those areas. And people don’t have cars. So that’s tough. But I think it’s also a great way to get people involved in their community. I agree. Without a whole lot of heartache and pain, I mean, it could be something as simple as making a dozen peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It doesn’t have to be traumatic. It doesn’t have to be a dozen chafing dishes. You’re not feeding an army. One person isn’t going to change the world. But you’re going to change one person’s world for a night, giving them a meal. I mean, we’ve done things like that. We’ve done, we’ve frozen our leftovers and accumulated them. And taking them to the freezer. It might be 15 different sorts of meals, but they’re all meals that we were eating. It’s all good food. But, you know, it’s something, like I said, it gives somebody who doesn’t have that need, a tangible hands on respect, I guess, for the process and what people are going through. And it gives them a chance to help. Where they can actually see the impact. And I think that’s the thing that’s most important. Well, Mike, a number of people over these months who have seen my posts. Friends around the country and family want to start their own community fridge. They really are compelled to try to set something up. What advice would you have to give them? Where do you stand? I guess you need a few things. One, it might help to get a nonprofit involved, simply because it’s easier to get donations. If you want to get food vendors to provide food. That makes things easier for them. But make sure it’s a legal worry. My wife’s a lawyer.
00:05:00 – 00:10:01
So always be sure of the good Samaritan laws in your state. Okay. Yeah. That’s important. We all, we’ve always stressed the food safety aspect of it. And I think everybody, and that’s common sense. But it’s something you do need to be sure of. The most important thing obviously is to find a host for the refrigerator where there’s the need. Exactly. So they’ll put up federal cost them ten to $15 a month in electricity. And somebody to build a shelter for the refrigerator, it can be something as simple as a simple wooden plywood shelter. That’s a little bit protected from the elements. And if you’re having enough wood to make a little pantry space for dry goods, or diapers, I mean think like that are brutally expensive for a young mother or young clam. And then you just build a network of contributors. Right. And how do you do that? How do you do that? Well, I did. What did you do? I would post on the day Facebook pages and friends on Facebook that I had just dropped off 30 helpings of red beans and rice or whatever it turned out to be. And I would say where the fridge was and I’d say if you have 8 or if you have friends that have let them know that it’s there. And people in the neighborhood started seeing that and I would always get these positive responses and that’s when you got involved and some others. We decided to do is put a call out and actually in the summer when people are living New Orleans because it’s brutally hot. We were running low on people. That would actually be able to cook. And I think you put out the call for help. And it was an insane reaction. So many people jumped on board. I have a person that gets food donated from all over the place. We were getting food from food banks. I mean, as you may recall, we got 80 chickens at once. Have you described to me? How did that happen? Did you make the connection with the food bank? Did they hear about you, call you? One of the people that had volunteered to help cook for the fridge actually volunteered at that food bank. Right. And we got a she got me to get in touch with them. And that’s how it started. I mean, when they would have extra, you know, a lot of that extra dried up as inflation kicked in and as there were tornado in New Orleans east. And a lot of people lost jobs and that sort of thing happened. But as they had extra food, they would contact me. And I would get it contributed to the other people that were cooking and there were tremendous amounts of food and really high quality food. Proteins are the most expensive with it. But we would get 50 pounds of fish flights and things like that. And it was, you know, it was fun. It was challenging to come up with clever tasteful, healthy food, but we were, I think we were all pretty successful doing it. Talk about the conversations you had with people who came to get the food from the fridge. People who I had people come up and say, you know, this fridge is what’s keeping me going right now, you know? I lost a job with the pandemic and I don’t know why we do food. Everybody was always incredibly grateful and they would explain what was going on and the interesting thing was. People, you know, I would say take a few meals. So you have one from almost 100% of the time they would just want something for themselves. You know, I would have been, I’d be dropping off 80 oranges or something like that so take a few. Because they knew there are people that would need those. And I was touched by that. Unexpected, I guess. And you know, New Orleans is a funny place because you can have incredible wealth live within two blocks of incredible poverty. It’s not like a lot of cities. Where there’s large islands, variants. Everybody is really close to New Orleans. Everything is literally physically mentally. It’s a very different city in that regard. So I think in New Orleans, it’s people you’ll see on the paragraph. You know, it’s that sort of thing. It’s sort of a group.
00:10:02 – 00:15:03
So but I think it’s an enriching experience for the people that participate on the cooking side. You’ll realize that you’re making in people’s lives. I mean, especially in summer when schools not going on in kids aren’t getting the breakfast or lunch, it’s a school lunch programs. I mean, that’s the only food that kids are going to get sometimes. You know, so one of the things I would do and it was always easy. You know, I would get a couple of big boxes, the cases of single serving breakfast cereal. And the shelf stable milk. Doesn’t need to be refrigerated. And you know, you could do 30 breakfast, and it would not cost a lot of money and again, that’s something that’s really making it a kid’s life. It’s easy. Mike, back to what you were saying in terms of how much, how much a difference it makes just with, you know, that you can start very small. You can start with leftovers. You can start with freezing your leftovers. You can start with sandwiches and just get a love of bread and make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and toss them in and but I want, you know, I want to emphasize the community that we built to and how the cooks interacted because we did, you know, with your help with your leadership, we did build a network. I’m going to bring in Caroline Forbes now who is another one of our cooks Caroline, how are you doing? Thank you so much for coming on and letting me interview you. And to talk about your work with the community for each, can we just take a couple minutes and tell us a little bit about your background and then what drew you to the community fridge? Sure. I grew up close to here and recently moved back into the area. I was a teacher for 25 years and through teaching you learn very quickly that the needs of the community, including most of our kids, often includes food. And most people don’t see that on a daily basis as a teacher you do. The kids tell you what they go home, and they tell you that they didn’t have breakfast and, you know, all of those things. So you know that food insecurity is out there. And very prevalent. And the fact that I love to cook and I love to take care of people. Just kind of fits in with that perfectly. Now you recently made the move to full-time to New Orleans. Right well left, unfortunately, but you are also around the corner now for me. What drew you to live in New Orleans and how did you get involved now with community fridge? So what drew me to New Orleans is the culture. People here are friendly. For the most part, non judgmental. You can live in a neighborhood that is extremely diverse. Which where I lived before just wasn’t. So I enjoyed that part, the culture, the food, you know, all of the above. What drew me to the fridge is, again, because of my background and seeing food insecurity and loving to cook, I’m like, wow, those two things go together quite well with the fridge. Not only can I enjoy cooking, I can also feed people who need it. Yeah. Yeah. So there’s no downside to that for me. Well, the nuts tell us, what is your week like as a cook? How does this happen? You know, I plan out what my husband and I are going to eat for the week. And I usually in doing that think, okay, well, we really like this. So if I cook 5 times the amount that we eat, then I’ll put the rest in the fridge. Nice. And that way I combine my cooking for my family with feeding other people. It doesn’t take that much more effort to make 25 servings as it does 5. Yeah. Yeah. At least for me, that’s, I mean, I’ve never been one to cook a small amount of anything.
00:15:04 – 00:20:05
Yeah. I look large amounts. And my husband’s like, okay, I’ve eaten this for two days, I’m done. So it works out perfectly because I can put it in the fridge and he doesn’t have to eat it for three to 5 days. And I get to cook. Well, then tell me about your experience putting food in the fridge. It’s been like. Almost every time we go, there’s someone there who says thank you. If not multiple people. They’ve offered to help me get things out of my car. They’ve offered to help me throw away any trash I had. They’ve told me their stories. So some of them have told me, you know, my wife’s at home and she’s ill and there’s nothing to eat. I need to get food for her. Or, you know, this is my only meal for today. So it’s and that’s almost every time I go, yeah. Wow. So the need is definitely there. And we are now aware that this snap benefits the extra benefits. Yes, are going to be peeled away. The poor benefits that were given during the pandemic are going to be peeled away. Yeah, and I think it’s not an insubstantial amount of money. I want to think is like $95 for the supplementary pandemic benefit, I guess, for lack of a better phrase and like you said, when you’re already living on a shoestring. That’s a tremendous people. So they need to augment people’s nutritional intake is going to be even greater. You know, that money is disappeared from families now. And it’s going to be even tougher. Prices aren’t coming down. They are not. Caroline, how do you cook, how do you cook? What recipes are your favorite recipes to bring to the fridge? It’s definitely recipes from my family. So growing up in southern Louisiana, cooking jambalaya for me has always been a family event and it’s always a large pot. You know, the same with, I have my dad’s recipe for saucepan and, you know, cooking all these, you know, my mom’s smothered chicken and rice and gravy and red beans and rice, and all of those things have been family recipes for me. So that makes it even better. Yeah, yeah. I think two what people don’t realize is not everyone has the ability to cook. And, you know, going to the food bank and picking up food is one thing, but if you don’t have a stove or an oven or a microwave, or even the vegetable oil or the spices are all the extra stuff you need to cook. Then it doesn’t really help to have food. Then a can, right? I mean, if you can’t do much with it. But yeah, yeah, that’s right. Yeah. So, and you know, fortunately for us, we have the resources to Google it and go buy whatever spices we need and pick up an extra pound of sausage or whatever if we need it, not everyone has that ability. So to be able to put cooked fruit food in front of someone, I think is a tremendous benefit. I agree. I agree. And it is such a, I mean, there’s nothing better than stirring a huge pot of something. I mean, that’s so healing. It’s so fun. We are. So now we were explaining before Mike would be getting, my God, food from creative things from the food bank. And he would take photos of it and, you know, and just, I mean, God bless you, Mike. And I just like asking people, would you, how much do you want? And then he would drive around. You are doing the same thing now. Caroline, you’re doing pick up from Julie. Julia across the river does the pickup from culture aid. Hopefully she’s going to be part of our interview today. And then you put it in the back of your car and you take photos, and then we all kind of like, oh, I’d like to, oh, I can use this.
00:20:05 – 00:25:00
And what we have is porches. Yes. Yes. The way to different from in new Orleans, right? We all have porches, not many people in this country do. So yes, we’re able to leave some things on our porches and I’ve found that it’s completely safe there. You know, when you have a sack of potatoes or a box of canned goods, that isn’t something someone’s going to notice and take. So I’ve been able to leave stuff on my porch and just leave the gate open and whoever needs it comes by and gets it. And if they can’t get by that date, then I put it in my car and run it over to them. The other nice thing about this neighborhood is that we all live within two miles of each other. So it makes it very easy to run over to your house and drop something or run over to another cook’s house and drop something or pick something up. Yeah. I think if we were advising people, if you can build your organization so that nobody feels overwhelmed with responsibility. But they know that there’s something that they can do if they don’t cook, they can gather, right? That’s amazing that almost every person I tell the story to, if I cook for the community fridge, there were first responses, wow, I didn’t know that existed. And their second response is, how can I help? Wow. So that was fun. Yes. I feel that we’re so fortunate. Yes. And the more that we’re able to do it, the more I feel, I can, I don’t know, experience our own fortune. Does that make sense? Yes, because whatever you put out there, you’re going to get back. Yeah. And we’re putting good stuff out there. Yeah. Yeah. That’s right. So it’s got to come back to us. Hey Steve, thank you so much for being willing to talk to us about your experience on and off the streets in New Orleans and your experience with the community for each project. Can we start by familiarizing people a little bit with who you are? Where did you come from? What was your career and how you ended up in New Orleans? Well, I actually was born just south of here and raised on the West Bank, but I’ve been all over the country. And when I moved back last time, I was on St. Charles avenue by the Burger King. And I’ve gotten off the bus and I got well. Wow. So every little bit of seed money I had was taking except for $60. I had that hidden in my shoe. I ended up homeless. Steve, how long ago did that happen? Well, that was in 2015. So one week before the anniversary of hurricanes. Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that. What were you intending to do with that? I had been doing construction around the country. And in the past, I had worked in French quarter in restaurants, and I wanted to come back and work in the restaurants again. Because it’s good money. Because all of a sudden you were homeless. Yeah, and what people don’t understand. When they look at them, it was the person who’s this. It’s easy to get down there. It is a hundred times harder to get back up. So go ahead and explain. Yeah. Well, you know, you can have a life altering event to put you there. But even with all the programs and all of the well wishers out there, jumping through hoops, you usually don’t have time because you’re on foot number one. Yeah. Number two I’ve seen so much corruption in these programs. It’s unbelievable. So you’re kind of stuck out there. A lot of people just give up. They try so hard for so long and then they just say, you know, and I’m tired of this. The way to them. What happens to them? They say I’m free. I’ve given up. Yeah, I’m still in contact with some people. I met when I was on the street. And I was trying to give them information to help them get up and get out. I got fortunate. I was on short street. I don’t know if you know where that is. Say it again.
00:25:01 – 00:30:01
Sure. You were on your okay. And it was, you know, the street running half a block behind was at camp, I believe it was. And then I was trying to sleep on my suitcase and the police pulled up. And not the officer was extremely nice. He says, I know you’re not bothering anybody but arresting called and Nicole, my commander, so I have to write you a ticket. Yeah. Well, I understand you have to do your job, sir. I was cooperative. And he wrote me a ticket. And I had to transfer to what is called homeless court. Well, in homeless court, they have resources and a lot of people don’t know about. The DA will actually put you in touch with people at unity and unity will help you find a place to live. But it takes about 6 to 8 months. So you’re still sleeping on the street. And you’re trying to duck and hide so you don’t get another ticket. And what about the actual physical safety on the street? On the street, usually I had 7 Friends of mine and we all congregated together because there is strength in numbers. And I would not recommend being old. Because while I was on the street, I got stabbed, I got sliced. And I’m ex military and it was rough for me. So I can only imagine how it is for somebody. Yeah. Let’s talk about how did you how did you basically, how did you survive? Because you couldn’t work. Right. Well, I have a job temporarily, but my back went out. So no, I couldn’t work after that. So what I did is I had rely on organizations, religious and others around the city. And they helped feed me while my application for disability was being processed. I see. The only problem with these organizations in New Orleans, everybody cooks red beans. So for everybody out there listening, please don’t cook anymore red bean. Yeah. I ate them 6 days a week. Oh wow. Oh wow, okay. You know, amazing, yeah. It gets old real quick. It’s only supposed to be on Monday, right? Well, that’s what they say. That’s a tradition, yes. But a lot of these organizations are Catholic based and the only of the week that they don’t have red beans is Friday. Friday? Yeah, you might get a piece of fish. So, you know, it gets a little difficult, not to mention the problem with gas eating that meat. It’s not, you know, it’s filling, but it’s not nutritious. Yeah. So you have three meals. I mean, ordinarily, people have three meals a day. Surviving on one a day? Usually one meal a day, if I’ve got to the Osman in early enough, I could have breakfast, which consisted of stale donuts, grits, and maybe a little bit of egg if you were lucky. Yeah. But the Osman, I will say this. When they were on camp street, they would allow you to go take a shower. Yeah. In the morning, you leave your ID with the man and you go take a shower and you collect your ID on the way out. So that was a major bonus. Yeah. Yeah. Because believe it or not, a lot of people on the street really don’t want to be there and they don’t want to smell and look like it. No kidding. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Steve, you mentioned to me that you started to, you know, you was a community fridge as a way of getting a break from seminars. Can you tell us more about yes, ma’am? When I finally was put into a program called permanent supportive housing through homeless court and the DA’s office and community. I was still waiting for my disability be approved. So I didn’t have money. So I would fly a sign on the road, just get a maybe ten, $12 a day. And sometimes you don’t even get that. So for about two weeks, I had no food. And I found out about community fridge and it was on Palmyra. And I went down there and you all fed me for about two weeks. Let me go. Kept you going for two weeks.
00:30:01 – 00:35:00
So you could go to the fridge every day and get something different. Is that right? Is that how you correct? Because. By that point, I was so so tired of red beans. Sure. And it was like breath of fresh air when I opened that refrigerator. So nice. And they had, they had some canned goods and other things like that that I could take with me. And I really needed that and I really appreciated that. Can you sort of you’re helping us understand more of what people are also looking to eat? If you could just, do you have any advice or direction you mentioned canned goods that people could take home and cook on their own? What other things was it really great to see in the fridge that you couldn’t afford? Well, that’s hard to say because back then, I really didn’t think too much about it. I was just really happy that I had something. Yeah. If you’re going to do him good, you have to remember a lot of people do not have an opener. So I would recommend getting the pop top ones. Thank you. Good idea. That way they can open it if they’re on the street. And, you know, anything with this any kind of vegetables is a major plus. Or even SpaghettiOs for God’s sakes. You know, something with a different flavor, really, really helps. Right. Okay. And drinks, what about that? Well, I’m drinks. I would recommend you lay off sugar recurrence. Okay. Do something antioxidant like iced tea or something like that. And water, I imagine. Oh yeah, definitely water because, well, a lot of people give you water. You can drink so much water at the float. Once in a while, you want something to do. Yeah. Do you have, was there a group of people that you saw on a regular basis who also availed themselves of the fridge? Did you sort of get to know people during that time? Yes. Actually, the way I found out about the fridge was through some of the other people that were in the same boat as I was. And I was kind of hesitant to go at first. Why? Well, it was a pride issue. I see. You know, I was kind of ashamed. Okay. Yeah. But once I went and I saw, you know, I got over that a little bit. And that’s part of the reason now that I’m doing better and I have my own place. That I give back and I try to help others. I know you two, can you tell us what you do? Well, what I do in particular is I met somebody that was, that’s a great person, Caroline. And she wanted to help me because she saw me flying the song. And I told her I said, no, I’m not broken. I’m not homeless. I just want to some fresh air and I’m not as well make a dollar while I’m doing it. And she laughed and she told me about community refrigerators. And how about them? I said, what can I do to help? What do you mean? I’ve got some extra money. What do you all need? Because I’d like to help us. So that’s how I got started. Well, I’m going to, if it’s okay with you, I would like to people to know that you took yourself over to Walmart and brought Caroline incredible, I mean, several $100 worth of protein that she shared out in our cook’s turning to meal. That piece of it, I mean, we were all so incredibly moved and touched by your generosity and softness. Well, let me put, let me put it this way. I did it because I knew people needed help. And I had extra because God gave me extra. I don’t I don’t get to glory for that. He does. And as he gives me more, I continue to think for you. Steve, that’s a beautiful thing. It’s a really beautiful and inspirational thing. I really, and I’m really excited for people to hear this piece of the podcast because for you to for you to see the need and take action and I mean, you’re doing a lot. Just on foot and yeah, no, I don’t currently have a car. Well, you just such a such an example of a really good citizenship and an incredible heart. Can I ask, what does hunger feel like? Well, you don’t want to be hungry. And I learned this when I was hungry.
00:35:01 – 00:40:02
Hunger only lasts for a few hours, and then it goes away. Literally, the feeling goes. And you don’t even realize the next thing you know, it’s been three days. And then restarting your bodily systems can be difficult. So as far as what would I like to say about hunger? I would like everybody to contact their congressman senators here in the state. And let’s get the food stamps boost it up. So people can actually go get food. Because right now, because I have disability, my food stamps are now only $23 a month. Oh my God. So, you know, what am I supposed to do $2030? It’s kind of, we need to fix that. We definitely need to address this. It’s scary. Someone is trying to feed themselves and their children and others. Well, you know, that’s my major concern is the kids. You know, I put myself at the position from poor planning and things like that. And I got blindsided, but I’m a grown man. I can take care of myself. The children we can. And the parents struggling to see them. We need to do more. I agree. Steve, I so appreciate your time and your heart and your honesty and that is a great takeaway to for us to start writing our congressmen and demanding that the food stamps be harsh up again. Everything went away, all of the pandemic extras went away. Right. And the February, and now people are faced with a third. There’s a lot of people faced with food insecurity right now. I have never faced it before. Yeah. And we need to get through this. Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So write your congressman, find a fridge or start a fridge and think about those who have left. Well, my goal is as soon as I can, I’m going to purchase a fridge for y’all. So you can place another one. Thank you. And you know where it should go because you know, you know where the need is. So cool. Thank you, buddy. Thank you, Steve. Thank you. See you out there. All right. Bye bye. Alison stock, welcome, welcome, welcome. I am so, I am so grateful that you are taking the time to sit with us and tell us about your perspective of the community fridge project. You were instrumental in helping us to move that fridge from outside of a home on Thursday to outside of Bethlehem Lutheran Church. So that’s where, I mean, I’m just so grateful for that because it’s worked out so well. So please, let’s tell people about your background. Where are you from? What do you do? So by training and actually a toxicologist and epidemiologist and I grew up my family is from Mexico, but I’ve lived in Texas for all my life and I was my family has been between Louisiana and. Texas for most of I don’t know, couple generations back. And I grew up there. I kind of moved around for a bit. And my background is in public health. I spent some time at the federal government and public health and I was the senior epidemiologist for a large oil and gas company. And we ended up coming to New Orleans because my husband, I’m married to an academic. So my husband took a faculty job here and I work in consulting, so it was pretty easy for me to land here and we’re not leaving anytime soon. My husband and I both lived in San Antonio right after we first got married. We fell in love with the culture of the vibe. And the same here. It’s just such a unique opportunity to be involved in the community. It’s got so much history and that can be good or bad, but it’s got such culture and flavor to this today. So it’s fun to be here. And you have really dove in the deep end on becoming, you know, doing working in the community and really helping to make the city a better place. Can you tell us, how did you start? What drew you in first? Yeah. And my husband and I are members that that’s a Henley throne. I was raised Lutheran. My husband was nothing until we got married. And Bethlehem is the oldest block established Lutheran Church in the southeast of the United States. Wow. I didn’t know that. Yes. So as always been in the location that it is right now, when we just celebrated, I think it was a 143 years in existence.
00:40:02 – 00:45:01
It was a mission church, started by the Germans north in the Minnesota area down to bring lutheranism to the south. That is typically not what you see in the south you either see Baptists, methodists, and a lot of Catholics here in Louisiana. So Bethlehem is an old church. They have had since their founding a very active presence in the community. That was really hard for the church because they lost two thirds of their population during Katrina. Where people moved away to come back. We had dust. We had all kinds of things hit that church. And so it was really hard to reestablish that term and neighborhood. The congregation was not heavily involved in the neighborhood after Katrina. Yeah. The church has been going when we meet here in 2016. In church with starting in redevelopment process. And so one of the things that we’ve thought about is, what do we need to do to be part of this community? Because we don’t see the church as being a closed wall, we see it as being really part of the community. So we had talked about a community meal, we and we thought it would be a great way to meet our neighbors. Do once a month, those kinds of things. Could you describe the neighborhood? Sure. Central city is an old working class neighborhood in New Orleans. It has as far back as the establishment of the neighborhood, even prior to the church being built in the 18, I think it was 1880s, late 1870s, early 1880s, even prior to that, it was a very mixed race, neighborhood, however, very much a working class neighborhood. It is I would say a majority black neighborhood, and many of the people that were at our church were lived in the neighborhood grew up in the neighborhood. I live in Mylan and so it’s very funny because which is just across a major street from the church area. And there’s people who grew up on my side, there’s people who grew up on the other side of their church that are now into their 70s and 80s and they talk about how the neighborhood was when they were younger. But it’s always been a very much working class neighborhood where people who maybe working SMA may be doing housekeeping now for the hotels, we have a lot of people who had hourly rate jobs in the neighborhood and COVID was a huge blow to know. Okay. So that’s when the community meals really were instituted. Is that right? That’s correct. We were supposed to start our first monthly community meal. The Sunday after right after the governor closed everything down. Oh my gosh. So pasta Ben came to us and said, can you pivot? And turn this into something else. And can we do this as a typical meal? And we started doing to go meals. And eventually, and it was great because there’s a local grocery store chain called Robert’s fresh market. Robert’s gave us a great rate on fried chicken, so we would do fried chicken and chips and a drink and kind of thing that or something easy that we could get into a bag and get out. And we would do it on Sundays. Nice. Yeah, it was great. And people knew that it was going to be done for them. And that idea has kind of grown on its own. We hired a chef who unfortunately just has decided to leave us, but I think it was the right thing for her. She has other endeavors going on. We are now serving three serving four meals a week, two of those with partners. And two of those with the church kicking that cooking them and it has the first two years that we were doing the meals, it was a lot easier because there was a lot of relief grants that were out there. There was a ways to fund it, usually. And last year, the last quarter of last year in the beginning of this year has really put a dent in the budget, I think we’re about 50,000 and the whole. On the program because it is so intensive for the church.
00:45:02 – 00:50:06
And this is a very small church, our operating budget, since I’ve been there, has spent about a $150,000. And that pays for impastor. Oh my God. Yeah, so this is a very tiny, but we want to be involved with our neighbors. So we’re looking at ways to sort of change the program and that’s where the community fridge comes in. What does the community fridge do that, how do we help you? So the community bridge helps us in a couple of ways. When was up until the fridge being moved, we were running food all over the city to multiple community fridges. We had leftovers at the end of our meal service. I was driving other folks were driving during the week. I was driving on Saturdays. I was driving all the way up to tennis city. I was driving to saint Claude to put stuff into community fridges. And my family, my husband’s a social worker by training. And my husband also wanted to be heavily involved. So the fridge has been the community fridges in general, have been something that we can get involved in as a family and a way differently than we can for the Bethlehem meals. But the other thing is we are rewriting and changing how community table works that Bethlehem. So we’re hoping to have more restaurant partners, which means that that fridge is we see as a very viable, very important part of the community. And part of our outreach because we’re not going to be able to continue at the same pace we are because we’ve lost some of the grant funding that was there for emergency relief under COVID. Let’s talk about food insecurity. The pandemic error time supplements that were given at the state levels cause dried up. And that really, in many ways, really supposed to be a stopgap because people weren’t working. Right. However, what we pay and benefits to people, no one’s going to get rich on in Louisiana. Louisiana has one of the lowest rates of unemployment insurance. Louisiana has one at the lowest rates of benefits all around. So if you’re a single person, your benefits have gone back down to $87 a month. To eat. To eat. So $87 a month to eat. Is what if you are on some type of financial aid or financial assistance and you get $87 a month if you’re single. So if you think about some of the elderly people that I have that go to the church who live next door, there’s miss Linda, who lives right next door to the church who’s on disability her assistant. She still gets her disability check, but she’s only getting 7 $87 to cover food. So the need for that refrigerator and the need for the community refrigerators as a whole is huge among the city. It’s important also to know that many cities have these bridges in places that are barriers to getting food out of them. So New Orleans is somewhat unique. A lot of the other cities, especially Houston, I can talk mostly about the Houston system. There’s time to agency. So you have to walk in the door with that agency and to the left will be the refrigerator and the pantry and you can help yourself. But you can only go when that place is open. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Our fridges and New Orleans are really set up to be open 24/7. It’s take what you can use. Leave some for others. And I’m part of another organization that’s a 5 O one, just got our 501c3, which is also really great for the fridge picks for this branch because if we do get donations, we can funnel it through them. Great. Specifically for this community fridge. And we maintain that organization maintain 7 community fridges. And between the lower 9th and creme. So those bridges are a huge piece to our city, not starving. Right. Right. The other thing to know is that we are not fully as a city staff the way we were pre-pandemic. So I have talked to quite a few friends who work sort of an hourly jobs at places like the casino hotel or another nice hotel downtown. And their housekeeping jobs are about half to two thirds of what they were pre-pandemic.
00:50:07 – 00:55:07
Wow. So they’re not going to qualify for assistance and benefits. Wow. Because they’re making enough to put them over the poverty line here in Louisiana. So they won’t get those benefits. But they’re going to not make their, they’re going to pay rent over paying for food. Right. Right. So what would be, what could we ask from the world out large? What would you ask from the community? What would help the fridge, what would help what you’re doing? I think there’s a couple of things that would help. The first is write your lawmakers. Let your lawmakers know that food is the human right. Everyone needs to be able to eat something. And I think that’s important that people understand what actually happens versus the myth of what happens. I work with some individuals that I’m as overhearing some of them the other day. And one of them I love him, but he’s a little wacky. And spouting some conspiracy theories on how you’re going to get rich on welfare. And that’s not Louisiana because here’s the numbers. He’s walking through the numbers of what you’re going to get here. And that’s not going to happen. So having some of that change at the federal and state level to those benefits would be really helpful. Yes. Because my idea is that one day we don’t need a bridge. One day, there’s enough food in enough resources that everyone can go home and have food in their belly and it may not be the exactly what you wanted to eat that night, but you’ve got food and it’s nutritious and you’re doing okay. The second one is get involved in your community. If you don’t have time, don’t eat resources. So we’re always looking for donations towards the fridge. Sherry, you’ve done an amazing job in getting resources and sponsorship for things like containers. Oh yeah. And they’re expensive, which is really, you know, that’s a drawback, but the beauty of having these containers is that I can toss it to somebody a couple down the street who are having a big party and say, hey, if you have leftovers, there’s the containers. I’ll take it to the fridge. You know. That’s right. And the other kind of cool thing about that and I don’t have to know if people realize this. But when we used to do our meals, Bethlehem, and we still do it this way. I’m just thinking about the future. When we set up our meals at Bethlehem, we try to put a meal out between three 25 and $3 and 50 cents. Wow. Ah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And packaging is of that is at least a third to a half of that food that meal costs because the packaging is incredibly expensive. That’s exactly right. But what about the food? What about actually going through your pantry? Are there just small things that somebody could do? Absolutely. And bringing steps to any of the community and pantries. Many in the community fridges have pantries. The only ask I have is when you’re going to clean out your pantry. One, make sure it’s not expired. I got a bag donation and half the can goes expired in 2019. And yikes. And I do food safety for a good combined business for my real living experience. Yeah, that’s a little three months on a canned good. I’m okay with that a couple of years now. We’re tossing it. So check to make sure it’s not expired. The other thing is just remember the neighborhood you’re taking this item to. So maybe there’s really weird sauces, they may sit there for a while because somebody sent you this amazing gift basket that had all these great sauces in it, but you’re not going to eat them and they may not be eaten either in the neighborhood. But what I have always done since I was a little girl because my mother started this practice. I grew up with parents who were very active in the community. My mother was part of the league of women voters, if you know what that organization. Oh, my mother always well, of course. Yeah, yeah. And my mother marched for ERA. I had her ERA bracelet that one of the things that she established when I was young is that every time we went to the grocery store, and my parents had very little money. This was actually a little bit of a hardship for them that my mother would buy a couple dollars worth of Staples. And those went to a community food pantry. Wow. Or an outreach organization that she found in our little bitty town. And I think if people think about 5, $10 out of their weekly grocery budget and just picking up a couple items, and leaving them here, that’s great.
00:55:08 – 00:58:35
And it doesn’t always have to be food. Cleaning products are extremely expensive. And so one of the things I’ve learned from talking to people in the neighborhood is cleaning products are great. Feminine products are great. Deodorants are great. Toothpaste is always good because those are things that get set to the side because one food stamps doesn’t always cover them. And two, they’re also high value high ticket items at the grocery store. Sure. Sure. So it’s cheaper to buy a bag of flour than it is to buy a tube of toothpaste. And if you’re trying to survive on less than a $100 a month, where does that come from? That’s very, very helpful to know that. It’s going to be many people have pets and it’s very expensive right now. $87 that it’s going down to does not cover any type of pet food. Okay. So it sounds like there’s a lot that people could do just on a weekly basis of just picking up a few items and then dropping them off at the shelves. And it would make a huge difference. Especially now. Especially now that we are so that people are so stretched. But before we sign off, is there some wish that you have? Something that you just want to express about this, the work that you’re doing in the food and food insecurity, the mission. I think what I’d really wanted, and I worked in Africa and I’ve worked in really country that their GDP is well below anything we would have in a month or two here in the United States. Food insecurity I can see in those locations where one of the wealthiest countries in the world. And to me, food is a human right, along with shelter and sorry about that. I have a dog who’s barking for a reason. But shelters the big part of that. And so is food. And I think my takeaway is can people get involved in a way to help their community where they are if they’re in New York City or if you’re an Oregon or you’re even in Minnesota, there are things you can do and organize the community fridge. Think about things you can do personally or as a family or with your partner or yourself to help solve some of those food insecurity issues that we have. Because hunger is a terrible thing. It’s a terrible, terrible thing. And what’s really sad in the United States is that we still have people who die from malnutrition. And they’re dying from malnutrition, not because they aren’t necessarily getting to eat, but they’re not getting to eat things that are great for them. Alice in the stock, thank you so much. I’m so glad you work with you. I’m so glad we’re so excited to work with you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you for your time. Thank you for listening. Please visit our website angel lady movie dot com to find out more about our guest and our film. And please do subscribe to this podcast. There’s a lot more great age a lady movie talk to come.