At the start of the pandemic, many of our member agencies closed down, challenging us to find new and safe ways to distribute food to those in need. The Food Bank’s “drive-thru” distribution allowed minimal contact between staff, volunteers and clients to further reduce the potential risk of infection. Working with local churches and community centers, we found locations with large enough parking lots to host distributions at the magnitude that we were facing.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farmers to Families program, previously known as the COVID Food Assistance program (CFAP), has allowed us to supplement during an increase in food insecure individuals from the pandemic. The Food Bank has always provided a box of shelf stable items. However, with these additional food boxes, we are able to provide cold items like frozen meat, milk and fresh produce.
Under normal operations, the USDA provides food to Food Banks to utilize for any client that has pre-registered. As the pandemic progressed, this program was developed and restrictions were loosened. Items that originally were only able to be given to preregistered clients became available for use in aiding the need.
In total the Food Bank distributed over 4 million meals at our pandemic specific distributions. With the effects of the pandemic still being felt in our service area, the Food Bank is continuing to find ways to get food to those that need it in our community. Many families have to choose between food and bills as they get back on their feet. With limited staff and resources, we have downsized our weekly mobile distributions but continue to hold special Saturday distributions with the help of the Louisiana National Guard.
“We are here to help people through the hardest times,” stated KiEtha Gage, Programs Manager for the Food Bank. “We always show up when there’s a problem and we have clients who truly depend on that.”
While the Baton Rouge area’s unemployment rate slowly decreases, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, many families do not have the ability to visit a member agency during the week or attend one of our weekly mobile pantries. Our special Saturday distributions were created to overcome this challenge at no cost to our clients.
To find available dates and locations for our Saturday distributions click here or call 225.359.9940.