My husband’s birthday was March 16th, the last day before “normal” life in New Orleans basically ceased due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After our large family dinner was canceled, I scrambled and found a restaurant where just the two of us could celebrate. That afternoon the announcement was made for all restaurants to close the following day, turning our dinner from just a birthday celebration into also a wistful temporary farewell to one of New Orleans’ most beloved institutions – our restaurants and the people who make them happen.

With the ensuing disruption of our local hospitality industry, we’ve painfully watched the unemployment figures rise and restaurants struggle. But, New Orleanians are resilient and not surprisingly finding meaningful collaborations to offer support to this cherished constituency.

While I normally highlight only one organization, it seemed more fitting this month to provide a resource of opportunities where you can make a difference. Although only food-centric causes are listed here, there are many other organizations working to support musicians, artists and small business owners who we must also rally behind in order keep our unique culture alive.

We all have a role to play in the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, what’s yours?

Chef’s Brigade (ChefsBrigadeNola.org) is a start-up organization founded by New Orleans food writers, chefs, restaurateurs and business people partnering with large corporations involved in the local food industry. Using existing fine dining and neighborhood restaurants as distribution kitchens, Chef’s Brigade bundles 10 local independent restaurants into a brigade and pairs them with a healthcare facility or NOPD District HQ.

Crescent City (CrescentCity.com) is a weekly meal assistance program for the LGBTQ community, service industry and gig economy workers impacted by food security issues resulting from COVID-19. Additional resources are being added to their website daily, including lists of resources, open businesses and a virtual tipping portal called Tip Random.

Feed the Front Line NOLA (FeedTheFrontLineNola.org) is working to feed hospital workers across New Orleans, employ out-of-work musicians/artists for deliveries and support locally owned restaurants. Donations help sustain New Orleans restaurants and show “food love” to hospital heroes.

Greater New Orleans Foundation (GNOF) Service and Hospitality Family Assistance Fund (gnof.org/benson) is an initiative to support low-income restaurant, hotel and bar employees who have been adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The program, launched with resources from Mrs. Gayle Benson’s Community Assistance Fund at GNOF and the McIlhenny Company, maker of Tabasco® brand pepper sauce, accepts all size donations.

HandsOn NOLA Serve Our Seniors (Volunteer.HandsOnNewOrleans.org) is recruiting volunteers to support the growing number of seniors who have signed up for their meal delivery program. Their need is for volunteers to package meals, drivers to make deliveries and others to make intake or follow up phone calls.

Loaves of Love (899-3374, MahonyPoBoys.com) is a partnership of Mahony’s Po-Boys & Seafood, Leidenheimer Baking Co., Blue Plate Mayonnaise, Chisesi Brothers and local hospitality industry partners to help feed front-line nurses, doctors, first responders and hospital workers. To participate, order a 24-count tray of Mahony’s po-boys and it will be matched with po-boys delivered to healthcare workers or first responders. Or, make a donation and sponsor a group in your honor.

ResQue (ResQue.org) feeds first responders, medical personnel, military and volunteers after catastrophic events. Currently, they’re serving hospital and nursing home staffs across the Greater New Orleans area as well as providing free lunches every week to unemployed hospitality and service workers as well as musicians.

United Way Hospitality Cares Pandemic Response Fund (UnitedWaySela.org) is actively recruiting donations, along with Louisiana Hospitality Foundation, from business and industry, foundations and the public. The fund will provide crisis grants to hospitality workers who are unable to afford basic financial needs during the COVID-19 outbreak.  

*Information correct as of April 1.