Opening of Community Kitchen celebrated

Published 7:44 am Saturday, October 1, 2022

Local community leaders gathered to celebrate the grand opening of the Community Kitchen on Friday.

In March, Second Harvest Food Bank and McNeese State University partnered together to turn the unused Gayle Hall Annex Building into the Community Kitchen.

Paul Scelfo, regional director of Second Harvest Food Bank, explained that they are grateful to partner with McNeese to “strive to enhance the communities right here in Southwest Louisiana.”

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“The community kitchen will serve prepared meals to children and seniors throughout Southwest Louisiana,” he said. “We will serve as a resource of fresh, hot meals during emergency disaster response.”

Alfred William, community liaison for the City of Lake Charles, stated that community projects like The Community Kitchen are important for recovery efforts. “The last couple of years we’ve honestly been living on leftovers and what we have left over after damages and storms,” he said. “But today’s the day we celebrate that we can start fresh.”

This kitchen will enhance the services that Second Harvest currently provides, such as Groceries on the Geaux, Meals on Wheels, the Summer Feeding Program and Kids Cafe, said Natalie Jayroe, President and CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank. McNeese was able to provide something they previously never had – a kitchen.

“So now it’s not only food that we have, but we’re able to prepare that into nourishing meals,” she said.

Geneva Breaux, director of undergraduate nutrition and dietetics at McNeese State University, explained that it is imperative to combat food insecurity with proper nutrition. “When I think of food insecurity, I definitely think of malnutrition,” she said. “Good nutrition is vital to understand and to know so that people can live and perform optimally.”

“Just having that basic knowledge can help people make healthier decisions for themselves… you’re going to be leaps and bounds higher than where you were and healthier than where you were.”

This knowledge will be helpful for vulnerable populations, especially the elderly. “A lot of our elderly deal with chronic diseases like hypertension, heart disease and kidney disease,” she said. “They need to know what they’re putting into their bodies.”

Dr. Chip LeMieux, McNeese State University provost and vice president for academic affairs, stated that the Nutrition and Dietetics team that is composed of both undergraduate and graduate students has been directly involved with the development of the Community Kitchen, helping the Second Harvest team by looking at meal plans, performing  nutritional analysis on diets and distributing meals.

Through this partnership, the McNeese Nutrition and Dietetics Program will be expanded. Students will be given the opportunity to gain real-world experience and impact their community through the Community Kitchen.

Breaux explained that students will get to “educate people on healthy lifestyle diets and preventing chronic disease… and have more of a hands-on experience where we can see a live acting kitchen producing large amounts of food.”

Jayroe stated that one in six Louisiana citizens are at risk for hunger. In an effort to combat this, hot meals will be distributed throughout McNeese’s campus and Southwest Louisiana.

Scelfo estimates that they will be able to produce approximately 2,000 meals per week.

The food will be provided by the Second Harvest Food Bank. He explained that Second Harvest is taking strides to improve food sustainability and keep food production local. “We continually work with farmers through our farmer initiative programs to create sustainable, cash crop farmers right here in Calcasieu Parish and the surrounding area,” he said. “Somebody doesn’t have to have 200 acres. Instead, what they can do is provide and plant in their backyard.”

For more information on the Community Kitchen or to donate, visit