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Behind the Scenes of the Pandemic Impact to Member Agencies

Monday August 10, 2020

Eelin Golan, the Executive Director of the Zachary Food Pantry, strongly believes her agency has to stay open as long as it can while the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to be felt by our community. When looking back to the beginning Eelin remembers stating, “we are going to stay open because these people will have nowhere else to go.”

Eelin was very quickly tasked with pulling resources together to properly follow all available safety guidelines. For example, she was able to utilize her local resources like the United Cajun Navy who donated hand sanitizers and masks to her volunteers.

At the beginning of the evolving COVID-19 situation, your Food Bank was reduced to operating with less than half of our agencies. These agencies closed down because they are run by mainly senior volunteers that fall in the high-risk category. Consequently, those agencies that were open were now experiencing a greater need but were unable to utilize their normal volunteer numbers due to social distancing guidelines.

Roma Prejean has volunteered at the Zachary Food Pantry for 16 years, and continues to do so through this pandemic. She works with Eelin to handle the challenges these volunteers now face.

“We don’t know how many people are going to show up on Tuesday mornings – it depends,” Roma said. “But the pantry is always looking for volunteers. We train anybody and everybody that wants to come to volunteer.”

Additionally, the volunteers that attend these distributions have experienced a change to their operation as well as an increased need. In the beginning, Eelin Golan worked with her community as well as Kietha Gage, Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank Programs Coordinator, to create a system very similar to the Food Bank’s distribution operation. This was critical as the increased need was something the Zachary Food Pantry had never seen before.

“It sounds easy,” Eelin Golan stated. “But, we were already pushed beyond our capacity.”

With the Zachary Food Pantry only open to clients one day a week, they still see a consistent increase in households. Not only are the pantry’s normal clients in attendance for distributions, clients who recently lost their job or had their local agency close down are now also waiting in line.

“The unemployment hit a spectrum of people,” Eelin expressed. “We all have our pride and you can see the shock on their faces that they are here.”

As the Food Bank pushes as much product as we can to the Zachary Food Pantry, the parking lot still fills before volunteers are arriving to the facility. If you would like to donate to help us be able to provide food to agencies like the Zachary Food Pantry, please click here or call 225-359-9940 to make your gift over the phone.

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