Philanthropic Faces: Natalie Jayroe

Education: Bachelor of Arts, Honors, University of Reading, England and Masters of Business Administration, Loyola University New Orleans  

- Advertisement -

Age: 61

New Orleans and Louisiana are known for their cuisine, but the irony is that their citizens are often left hungry.

According to a recent report from the Center for Planning Excellence in partnership with UrbanFootprint, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic “the number of food-insecure households in Louisiana has increased 44% … of these households 69% have not had nutritionally adequate food in the past week.” 

How does Louisiana compare to the rest of the U.S.? “Nationally, 16% of households are food insecure, and 10% are food insufficient. In Louisiana, those numbers are significantly higher — 21% of households are food insecure, and 15% are food insufficient.”

Among the organizations addressing this need in the state is Second Harvest Food Bank. Founded in 1982 as Second Harvest of Greater New Orleans by Archbishop Philip M. Hannan, Bishop Robert P. Morin and Gregory Ben Johnson, then director of the Social Apostolate of the Archdiocese, the organization has grown through the years, now offering food distribution programs, a community kitchen meal service, nutrition education and public benefits assistance. There are hundreds of community partners Second Harvest collaborates with, including Archdiocese of New Orleans (as an affiliated ministry), Giving Hope Nola, New Orleans Mission, Ochsner Health and United Way.

Natalie Jayroe became the president and CEO of the Second Harvest Food Bank in January 2006, having worked with food banks in founder, board and executive capacities for 28 years. Among her honors include: City Business’ Women of the Year (2007), Mazon’s Irving Cramer Award (2008), Young Leadership Council Role Model (2011) and City Business Money Maker (2011). Jayroe participated in the Leadership Louisiana (Class of 2012) and was a graduate of the New Orleans Regional Leadership Institute. She currently serves on the policy engagement and advocacy committee for Feeding America and on the board of directors of the New Orleans Regional Leadership Institute.

To contact Second Harvest for more information, go to or for help, call toll-free at 855-392-9338.

How many years have you been with this organization?   16 years at Second Harvest, 28 years as a food bank CEO. 

Tell us what your organization does.  Second Harvest Food Bank leads the fight against hunger in South Louisiana by providing food access, advocacy, education and disaster response. Second Harvest provides food and support to 700-plus community partners and programs across 23 parishes.  

What has been the biggest – or most important – accomplishment that has happened while you have been at the organization?  Since joining the mission, I’ve watched the total amount of food distributed increase by 500%. Beyond providing vital day-to-day food, the food bank has implemented programs to increase equity for people served across South Louisiana. 

What is something about your organization that people most likely do not know about?  True to the “Harvesters” in our name, we have begun working with local farmers to strengthen the local food system, provide much-needed fresh produce to those we serve and help our Louisiana farmers growing this produce to build assets. 

Is there a person (or mentor) that inspired you? If so, how?  My best friend who recently passed away, Gloria Taylor. She helped me have the confidence to be my best self and have more to give to others.

Is there a book, movie and/or moment that changed your life?  There are so many. My father’s A4 jet went missing in Vietnam on my sixth birthday. In his last reel-to-reel tape message to me he wished me happy birthday and asked me to take care of my mother.

What are you reading now?  “We The People,” which is about the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, because I am taking part in the Nancy M. Marsiglia Institute of Justice. It is among many other histories and biographies on my Kindle, audible or in hard copy.

What is your idea of New Orleans bliss?  How do you choose? Dressing up for the St. Anne parade on Mardi Gras [day], listening to music and eating amazing food with friends at the festivals, riding a bike around City Park, watching the Saints win a Super Bowl.

Secret ambition?  To finish my flying lessons and get my pilot’s license.