This is my favorite time of year! Not only is it the kick off to festival season, its also time for the yearly tradition my dad and I started six years ago. From the first time I visited and every time since, a piece of my heart is left in New Orleans. The mix of the community’s southern charm with the music scene makes this city home.
When visiting in January we had the pleasure of volunteering with Fresh Food Factor served by the Volunteers of America. We warned them that the gypsies would be back and sure enough we reunited with our head chef James and his hard working team.
It was very special having my Dad here today to be an honorary gypsy and help with the day’s chores. He is a true inspiration for our trip and has spent the better part of his life traveling and helping others.
Since January, the kitchen has expanded. It was great to witness and an honor to be a part of its growth. The cooler they were prepping for is now an essential part of their every day prep work. This summer they are getting even more machinery to expand their additional schools and summer camps.
After a quick tour we were put to work, comprising 539 bagged lunches for students. Linds was in charge of corn, adding creole seasoning to it prior to packaging, of course.
Then, she passed the tray down to Duke.
He was in charge of adding calzonettes, a term they created for small calzones filled with marinara and cheese, before handing them to me for the final step through the sealing machine.
It was a family operation. We tried making it a game to see if we could time everything perfectly. We also tried to make up songs. You would think that after almost a week in New Orleans for Jazz Fest with excellent music we could come up with something good! It was harder than you think.
We hopped on the next assembly line of packing turkey sandwiches on wheat bread.
Here we met Jo, a Rotary exchange student from Brazil. She doesn’t like to sit still and wanted to give back too. It was her first day, and with that in common and Duke as a Rotary member the two of them had a lot to talk about. She also loves to travel and we discussed maybe, one day, we can take the Gypsy Givers international to her country.
The time flew while on the assembly line but there was still more to be done. It was rice and beans time! The rice and beans dish is one of their signature items they would like to market as Fresh Food Factor Rice and Beans since other schools are now requesting it. We added some creole green beans as sides and we were done for the day. It is no wonder we love this place. There is a common ingredient that we all love, creole!
There’s no shortage of work at the FFF. They had two parties coming up that week. One of them was for staff, promoting fitness by having an obstacle course at their BBQ. We were very honored to be invited but unfortunately we were leaving that night. Before leaving, we met Lawrence, Director of FFF. He is a fellow gypsy at heart. He had been traveling the world for 8 months prior to settling in NOLA, where his wife is from. Our bond and draw to this place makes more sense by the minute. The similar personalities, love for the same things, and common drive to help others are so special. We can’t wait to come back again and see their expansions.
We finished the day by meeting friends at the Give NOLA Day event. This nationwide event gathers nonprofits and communities together to support one another with the same common interest. They range from protecting the city and eating local foods to fighting cancer and educating children. The giving events unify the nonprofits around a common cause. After our day of hard work even the purchase of delicious margaritas for Cinco de Mayo went to a local charity. They raised over four million dollars in 24 hours. This was the perfect way to leave the city that has given us so much inspiration.