HOPE Ministries Providing More Than Just Food for Families
With summer break now coming to an end, many children will be returning to school. And for families struggling with food insecurity, it couldn’t come soon enough. Summer means higher food costs for families because kids can’t access meals while not in school.
Despite the challenges the summer brings, one local pantry is taking steps to meet families where they are – providing both food for today and hope for a better tomorrow.
For two decades, HOPE Ministries has served the families of Baton Rouge. Cristy Davidson, Vice President of Volunteers and Food Programs at HOPE Ministries, leads its client-choice food pantry. The pantry, like a miniature grocery store, lets clients make choices based on their food preferences or dietary restrictions.
The food pantry typically serves around 200 families a month, many of which include children. However, the pantry is seeing more and more parents and grandparents struggling to keep their little ones fed this summer.
“We’re seeing the same families that we’ve always seen, but we’re also having a lot of new people come in. I think the economy has a huge impact on it,” said Davidson. “Clients are paying more at the grocery store, so they’re coming to us to supplement their grocery bill. Not to mention during the summer children aren’t receiving the meals they would from school.”
HOPE Ministries is working to keep children fed during this difficult summer. However, it’s also giving parents the tools to provide for the many summers down the road. Through HOPE’s The Way to Work program, job-insecure people are provided with the mentorship and resources needed to become more self-sustainable in their professional lives.
“Many times, when our intake coordinator is working with new clients and interviewing them, they’ll mention that they are between jobs or maybe a family member needs a job. We refer them to The Way to Work program and help get them a job or maybe even a higher paying one.”
Despite the challenges facing our community, the spirit of HOPE is far from lost on those visiting the pantry.
“It’s a great atmosphere. People are always surprised when they come that it’s not a sad or depressing place,” said Davidson. “A lot of the clients know each other. They’ve been coming and so they know us and the staff and the volunteers. The volunteers will say hello to them and know them by name. I love being here, I love running the pantry.”