For the first two years of Second Harvest’s existence it operated out of a 48,000 square foot warehouse on St. George Avenue, Jefferson Parish, loaned by Mr. Joseph Uddo. On January 10, 1985, it purchased a 15,500 square foot warehouse at 728 Hill Street for $340,000. However, distribution continued to grow and within five years Second Harvest needed to move again to a larger facility. Through the efforts of Anne Milling, Hormel made a generous donation of half the price of an warehouse it was selling at 1201 Sams Avenue in Harahan. Many generous gifts were given by community foundations and individuals, and Second Harvest was able to move into its current 29,000 square foot warehouse on 3 acres on March 13, 1991.
By 1994, this additional capacity allowed the food bank to distribute 5 million pounds of food a year. Growth continued over the next decade. By 2004, Second Harvest was distributing almost 15 million pounds of food annually to 23 parishes in southern Louisiana from the Mississippi state line to the Texas border. The number of faith-based and nonprofit member agencies that Second Harvest worked had grown in July of 1983 to more than 350 by July of 2005.
On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck Second Harvest’s service area, followed by Hurricane Rita on September 24, 2005. More than a million people were displaced from their homes and hundreds of thousands of people found themselves in need of emergency assistance, often for the first time. Forced out of its facility in New Orleans, the staff of Second Harvest regrouped in Baton Rouge within 48 hours of Katrina’s landfall, despite the fact that many of the staff had lost their own homes and others were unaware of the fate of their friends and family members.
By September 2005, Second Harvest became the largest food bank in the world’s history, with the help of America’s Second Harvest and skilled food bank volunteers from all over the country. Operating initially from a closed Wal-Mart in Baker, Louisiana, then returning to its facility in New Orleans and opening a second facility in Lafayette in 2006, Second Harvest distributed more than 75 million pounds of food over the next two years.
Currently, Second Harvest of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana is leading the fight against hunger in south Louisiana by working with other nonprofits and government agencies to meet the extraordinary needs of a region in recovery. It is evaluating its programs and strengthening those that will achieve a lasting impact on hunger for all the residents of the parishes it serves. In 2007, it co-chaired the Food Policy Advisory Committee of the Greater New Orleans City Council, bringing together government, social service and for profit sectors to recommend policy ensuring that all citizens would have access to nutritious food. It brought the other four food banks of Louisiana together to form the Louisiana Food Bank Association, which successfully advocated for a $5 million state food purchase program.