Club brings ‘food and love’ to underserved

Volunteers+at+Food+for+Thought+and+Action+carry+boxes+out+of+a+truck%2C+delivering+food+to+one+of+their+drop+sites.+Originally+called+Top+Box+Foods+Club%2C+it+works+to+provide+fresh+and+healthy+foods+to+disadvantaged+parts+of+New+Orleans.%C2%A0

Volunteers at Food for Thought and Action carry boxes out of a truck, delivering food to one of their drop sites. Originally called Top Box Foods Club, it works to provide fresh and healthy foods to disadvantaged parts of New Orleans. 

Alexis Topel, Staff Reporter

Some families in the Lower Ninth Ward have to take three buses and a decent walk just to get to a grocery store to buy fresh food. Once there, they can still only buy what they can carry. 

The student club Food for Thought and Action works with Top Box Foods to offer delicious and healthy foods at affordable prices specifically to people who have limited access to nutritious eating options like in the Lower Ninth Ward. 

“Growing up, food and love were always intertwined and that was a big part of my home life,” junior Jakob Cohen, executive board member of Food for Thought and Action and staff at Top Box Foods, said. “We want to work on bringing that same kind of precedent to the New Orleans families in need.”

Approximately 12.5 percent of the New Orleans population live in a food desert area, which means residents have very little access to fresh food. 20.9 percent of New Orleans children are at risk of hunger, according to city government. Some live miles from any grocery store. Food for Thought and Action aims to help bring down these statistics and bring awareness to the issue. 

Founded in 2013 under the name Top Box Foods Club, Food for Thought and Action was the auxiliary club to the Top Box Foods in New Orleans. Top Box Foods started in Chicago and branched out to New Orleans after Katrina.

Top Box Foods delivers their food boxes monthly to 70 partner sites for residents who ordered the food. In his position, Cohen is in charge of managing these sites. 

“I decided to take on Food for Thought and Action this year and focus on changing the scope of the club,” Cohen said. “Instead of just providing volunteers to Top Box, I wanted to make it more about food justice and advocacy. We are still providing volunteers to Top Box through the club, but we work with other similar organizations as well.”

The goal of the club this year is to help nonprofits or any organization in New Orleans that is helping to increase food accessibility and provide healthy food. Some of the partners of the club are Urban Farms, Our School at Blair Grocery and the Backyard Gardener’s Network. Each of one of these organizations focuses on a different aspect of creating a sustainable community.

“As a community member in New Orleans I’m really passionate about other people being able to have access to the nutrition and food that I have been able to have access to,” junior Ellie Zolatarev, member of the Food for Thought and Action executive board, said. “As Tulane students and community members it’s awesome we have the opportunity to be a part of an organization like this.”

The club has a threefold design; community outreach, advocacy and fundraising. The outreach committee helps connect with partners in the area by asking them what the club can do to help them. The advocacy committee focuses on educating club members about food deserts and brings in speakers on the topic. This semester they want to bring in big-name speakers that many Tulane students would be interested in. Finally, the fundraising committee works with partners to help raise money for their projects. 

“Food for Thought and Action is a great way to get out of the Tulane bubble and really see the city of New Orleans,” junior Bobby Martin, a member of the executive board, said. “There’s nothing better than seeing the smile on familes’ faces while you’re volunteering throughout the city.”