Moses, Milling honored for Second Harvest mission
As community volunteers and leaders, Leann Moses and Anne Milling have no trouble rallying support for local causes. But they were caught off guard on Aug. 24 when Archbishop Gregory Aymond and executives of Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana honored them as “emeritus board members” for their longtime service to the archdiocesan food ministry.
Tricia Weeks, board chair of Second Harvest, and Natalie Jayroe, president and CEO, joined Archbishop Aymond in making the emeritus honor.
“Anne and I were really surprised, and it was nice to be able to help,” Moses said about the honor, presented in the archbishop’s office.
“It was such a surprise,” Milling added. “They didn’t tell me.”
The honor was bestowed not only for their long-time association with the nonprofit – Moses since 1998 and Milling since the 1980s – but also for their valiant efforts during and after hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
“As we commemorate the 10th anniversaries of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, it is important for us to honor the leaders who positioned Second Harvest to become the largest food bank in history and respond to the hundreds of thousands of people who needed food and water in the aftermath of these disasters,” Jayroe said. “Anne and Leann are two such leaders, and become only the second and third people to be named emeritus members of the board, after founder Bishop (Roger) Morin.”
Moses was the first lay chairperson of Second Harvest’s board, serving from 2004-06 during the tumultuous time of Katrina. She remained on the board until 2010 and currently is on the finance and nominating committees.
“What Second Harvest does is provide food – which is the most basic of human necessities – to the most needy in our community,” Moses said. “And, it’s not just the poor. It’s really the working poor and elderly and children. We also provide access to SNAP (food stamps).”
Moses said when people fall on hard times, food is what they cut back on most easily before they stop paying rent or filling prescriptions.
“You can cut what you eat,” she said. “And, unfortunately, we see kids suffering.”
Milling remembers when there were two food banks in town – the Emergency Food Box Program through the United Way and Second Harvest. A yearlong discussion about duplication of services led to a merger around 1989.
“It was such a smart move,” Milling said. “We could serve the community so much more efficiently.”
Response to Katrina
After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Second Harvest Food Bank became the largest food bank in history with the help of America’s Second Harvest (now Feeding America) and more than 70 skilled food bank volunteers nationwide.
Moses said Second Harvest’s “standard procedure” in hurricane situations before Katrina had been to put water in the Superdome, take trucks out of town and evacuate the staff. She and then-Second Harvest president and CEO Brian Greene (who went to Second Harvest in Houston after Katrina) were able to quickly set up camp in Baton Rouge.
“Within 48 hours after Katrina struck, we started distributing food,” Moses said. By Friday, Sept. 3, Second Harvest was operating from a shuttered Walmart in Baker, Louisiana, procured by then-Gov. Kathleen Blanco.
“Second Harvest is part of the Feeding America network, and we were able to coordinate with Feeding America and organizations all over the country,” she said. “Food companies starting contacting Feeding America asking how they could help. That’s what we needed – a facility in Baker to receive food and start handing it out. We were able to get food to the convention center.”
She said the Baker facility helped fill the void left by the food distribution network wiped out by Katrina. (Second Harvest had distributed food through a network of 353 agencies in 23 parishes, including 250 agencies in New Orleans, before Katrina; only 50 remained immediately after.)
“So, we had no network in our area for distribution,” Moses said. “We had to find where people were. It was a huge coordination effort – finding out where people were and getting food to them.”
One million pounds of food were distributed within 14 days, equating to two million meals, mostly at shelters, relief agencies and nonprofits helping evacuees. By the end of November 2005, Second Harvest had distributed 32 million pounds. By the end of May 2006, Second Harvest had distributed more than 44 million pounds of food and grocery products.
Changes to Second Harvest
In response to the needs that were exposed by Katrina, several changes were made at Second Harvest. A working kitchen was built to prepare nutritious meals year-round for school children in afterschool programs, and it concentrated on a weekend backpack program for kids and providing food at summer camps and meals for the elderly.
“The whole food bank world has changed because there is a greater focus on fresh fruit and meals,” Moses said. “Before Katrina, we distributed prepared box items, so it is better now with our kitchen. When we get fresh food, we can cook and freeze food to store and distribute at a later date.”
Second Harvest also opened a facility in Lafayette to handle future disasters. Second Harvest moved to a larger location on Edwards Avenue in Harahan about five years ago and is currently renovating its warehouse. It has introduced nutrition classes, connects clients with other government benefits and supports anti-hunger measures in government.
During the past decade, Second Harvest Food Bank has become a “critical part of disaster response plans in the 23 parishes it serves in southeast Louisiana,” responding to the needs after hurricanes Gustav, Ike and Isaac and the 2010 BP oil spill.
Milling said no one could have imagined in the 1980s that Second Harvest would expand to food distribution in 23 civil parishes.
“I’ve seen it evolve from such a small operation on Hill Street to expanding in 1991 to a state-of-the-art warehouse where we did refrigerated food to today where our warehouse does prepared food, meals and refrigerated food,” Milling said. “The tragedy is that the need is so horrific in this region. The food bank has been there through all crises – Katrina, the mini depression in 2008, the oil problems. The food bank is there for the people in this region.”
Second Harvest Food Bank is an affiliated ministry of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, a Feeding America member and a United Way Partner Agency. Visit www.no-hunger.org.