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How a Chance Encounter with a Food Pantry Changed Life’s Path

Friday May 17, 2024

In everyone’s life, there are crossroads. Moments in time where we decide to choose the road less traveled, not knowing where that journey may take us. In that moment, the decision may seem rather insignificant, but over time we come to realize that it may have perhaps changed our lives forever.

Meet Christian Jacobs, a 23-year-old Agriculture Business major at Southern University, who may not be where he is today if not for a decision he made while picking up a box of food for his mother at a local food pantry.

“My mom would go to the Second Baptist Church Food Pantry in the summers to make ends meet because schools were out, and those meals for our family were no longer available during the summer,” said Jacobs. “One day my mom couldn’t go to the pantry, and so she asked if I could go in her place to pick up the food. I got there early and was amazed at the line. While I was sitting in my car, one of the older volunteers noticed that I was young and asked if I could help them prepare and distribute the boxes. I said ‘yes’.” 

That simple “yes” set Jacobs on a new path, but he didn’t know it at the time. When the distribution was over, the volunteers prepared a box for Jacobs to take home and gave him some extra proteins on top for helping at the pantry which he was able to share with some of his neighbors upon returning home.

“I remember sitting in my car just staring into the windshield after and thinking ‘man, this feels so good. Why do I feel so good?’”, Jacobs recalls. “It was then that I decided I wanted to continue to volunteer at the food pantry on a regular basis and help others.”

That one decision would open a new world of opportunities. Jacobs graduated from Woodlawn High School and decided to go to Baton Rouge Community College, which in his family was not something thought to be attainable. As a first-generation college student, he enjoyed the academic competition and socialization with peers but was still searching for what he may want to do long term. He remembers being close to calling it quits.

“I was struggling to figure out what I really wanted to do and whether college was something I would finish. I went to dinner with my mom, and we were talking about it. A lady at a nearby table, who I would later come to know as Dr. Stewart, heard our conversation and said I should investigate the USDA 1890 land grant scholarship, which awards an academic scholarship to a four-year land-grant college in exchange for a commitment to work for the USDA upon graduation. I didn’t think I had a shot at all, but I took a leap of faith, applied, and won the scholarship.”

Since being awarded the scholarship, Jacobs has not only pursued his degree but has also started a student organization at Southern called Ag Business Students United which aims to secure internships for agricultural business students. As part of the organization’s charter, members must perform a certain number of volunteer hours. And as it turns out, members have chosen to join Jacobs at the Second Baptist Food Pantry for their volunteer hours which has expanded his efforts from an army of one to an army of many.

“I’m so proud of how far the organization has come, and now I’m thinking about how I secure its legacy after I graduate,” said Jacobs. “Looking back, I’m thankful for that day I decided to say yes. I want to inspire other people to think about what they can do to help others. You never know how things will work out.”

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