With the evolving COVID-19 situation, the need for our services has increased as well as our need for volunteers. However, we are seeing a decrease in the number of volunteers at the Food Bank due to an abundance of safety from our community. Our President and CEO, Mike Manning, made a request to the Louisiana governor’s office for the Louisiana National Guard (LANG) to help fill the absence of these volunteers. Due to our history of response in disasters, we knew we could access this resource when needed.
Governor Edwards deployed 10 Guardsmen to our location on March 21, 2020. After seeing the need increase and the number of community volunteers decrease, another 20 Guardsmen were deployed on March 24, 2020. We do have a few volunteers still serving your Food Bank, which allows our community members to work alongside these National Guardsmen to fight hunger in our 11-parish service area. Additionally, some National Guardsmen are also volunteering with us as community members being deployed to our location as a member of the LANG.
“It’s been an incredible opportunity to serve as a civilian volunteer one week and return the next week as a member of the Louisiana National Guard,” said Second Lieutenant Emily Anthony. “We are here to serve and get the job done. It’s an honor to be part of this team and have a direct impact on the local community.”
LANG is packing close to 1,500 boxes a day of non-perishable food items to be distributed to those in need. This includes items like canned pineapples, canned corn, instant mashed potatoes, boxed macaroni and cheese and more.
National Guardsmen are treated as normal volunteers when following safety protocols such as wearing gloves and washing hands every hour. Soldiers are stationed in areas to allow social distancing as well while maintaining an assembly line set up to ensure boxes are done in a timely manner.
The LANG is also helping to distribute food at our special COVID-19 distributions. These distributions are done in response to those that may not have needed our services before but have been furloughed due to the virus. Also, out of an abundance of caution for their volunteers, we do have some of our member agencies closing down. These member agencies have clients that need to receive food despite the agency closure resulting in special distributions to take place to fill the void. National Guardsmen take the place of volunteers that would normally help with these distributions to support health and safety concerns.
“Sometimes disasters happen and people are left stranded with no hope. In a disaster like this, many people don’t have jobs and have no way of feeding themselves,” said Second Lieutenant Jesse Frazier. “Our mission to support the Food Bank in a time like this is critical for our community. I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else during this pandemic.”
To learn more on how COVID-19 is affecting the Food Bank or to sign up to volunteer click here. If you would like to follow along with the Louisiana National Guard’s journey during the COVID-19 situation, visit geauxguard.la.gov.