Aaron Taylor and Rosie Nolan co-founded Crescent City CrockPot in New Orleans to slow-cook meals for those who are homeless. Here’s why it matters to them.
About Crescent City CrockPot
We all have moments where the courses of our lives change unexpectedly. For Aaron Taylor, his course changed because of a canceled party.
For years, Aaron aspired to be involved in community development. He came from a family with a history in agriculture, so he maintains an affinity for food-related projects and for feeding people. After completing a Master’s degree in Sociology and moving to New Orleans, he lost touch with these aspirations and began to feel unfulfilled—that is, until he was invited to a Mardi Gras gathering in New Orleans.
“I love to crock-pot,” Aaron said in Episode 35 of The Plural of You, so he made a pot full of food to bring along. “You know what happened? The party got canceled! I had all of this food and I was, like, ‘Think about how many meals I could be serving to people.'”
Aaron likes how efficient, cost-effective, and tasty slow cooking can be, so the idea of cooking meals to give to others stuck with him. He told his friends about the idea, including Rosie Nolan and Reid Cooper, who later co-founded Crescent City CrockPot with him. They spent time researching the risks, legal requirements, costs, and recipes of a potential food distribution effort for the homeless in New Orleans. After several months and a few supply runs, they recruited friends and warmed up their slow cookers.
Why their work matters
I asked Aaron and Rosie why they chose to serve food to those experiencing homelessness instead of other groups. “In New Orleans and a lot of urban areas, homelessness is really in your face,” Rosie said. “It’s a constant reminder of the need,” she added, referring to their experiences with traveling around the city and glimpsing what those without homes had to endure.
“I try to imagine what it’s like to crawl underneath a bridge, an interstate, or anything where I sleep,” Rosie said. “At the same time, thousands of people are seeing you every single day, driving past you, judging you.”
Aaron, Rosie, and the other volunteers with Crescent City CrockPot are doing what they can to help those in such dire circumstances. The group quickly noticed that many who are homeless cannot travel to shelters or soup kitchens every day, meaning a need in the city for mobile nutrition was going unmet. Thus, they’ve been on the streets of New Orleans delivering high-quality food to those who need it most.
“For that moment when I can bring them a hot meal, a bottle of water, and a peppermint, which I think makes them feel like a human, […] that is when what we are doing matters.”
Although some states and cities in the U.S. prohibit the distribution of food without formal handling permits, Aaron said New Orleans and the state of Louisiana have no such laws, which works to their benefit.
How you can make a difference using what you have
After only a few short months, Crescent City CrockPot has gained attention from a number of local partners and funders. Aaron expects that the project will soon receive grants to expand capacity. For a concept that originated from a pot of leftovers, the group has learned the value of starting small.
“My best advice,” Aaron said, “is to find not necessarily something that you love but something you like to do that you think other people can benefit from.”
Aaron and Rosie gave examples of people using what’s available to them to help others, like English majors who volunteer at libraries to help job seekers prepare their résumés. Aaron attributed their success to knowing their strengths as a group, and starting with what they had instead of waiting for the perfect timing (after proper research, of course).
If you’re ever driving in New Orleans and see a group holding up traffic to hand out food, roll down your window and say hello. You might get a free meal out of it.
Homework for you
Think of a cause or a social problem you’d like to see change. What’s the one issue you think society should take action on? I’d like to know what you come up with, not necessarily to publish it anywhere but because I’d like to know what’s important to you. For more, see the Contact section below.
- Read more about Crescent City CrockPot at crescentcitycrockpot.org.
- You can follow Crescent City CrockPot on Facebook and Instagram.
- For more on the topic of homelessness from The Plural of You, check out Ending Homelessness Among Veterans – Elizabeth Buehler (POY 04) and Using Social Media to Reunite Families – Kevin F. Adler (POY 18).