When Fighting Hunger Comes Full Circle
Life is a cycle of beginnings and endings, and sometimes, things come full circle when you least expect it. Once the dust settles and the path becomes clear, it seems as if there’s always been a plan for you. For KiEtha Gage, her circle has been completed through service to others – and it’s unknowingly been part of her life all along.
Growing up in Hawthorne, Nevada, KiEtha Gage understood the importance of feeding the hungry in the community. In a small, rural town where the need for food was great, KiEtha’s parents took it upon themselves to make a difference to those in need. After receiving a grant, her mother and father purchased a food truck and would drive through nearby counties distributing food to those who needed it most. Not long after, they opened a food pantry.
KiEtha eventually moved to Baton Rouge, where she began working for the East Baton Rouge Parish School System. Unfortunately, she lost her job and was out of work for almost a month. She found herself needing help and did not know where to turn so, she called a friend, who happened to work at the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank.
“All of the years I had been living in Baton Rouge, I never really needed food assistance or had even heard of the Food Bank until that time,” she recalls.
After meeting with the Agency Relations Manager at the Food Bank, KiEtha was hired as the SNAP Outreach Coordinator where she would help those applying for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program with their applications. She has been working at the Food Bank for nearly five years and in that time, a lot has changed.
“Since I first started here, so much has changed. We moved buildings, we flooded in 2016 and I am now the Programs Coordinator,” she said. Although her duties at the Food Bank have shifted, the gratification from her work is unaltered.
“I’m still able to meet with clients and actually see the work we do,” she said. “Getting to see the clients and the look on their faces when they get help, that’s what matters.”
As the new Programs Coordinator, KiEtha is responsible for all six Outreach Programs that the Food Bank offers. The newest program, called Farm Fresh Healthy Food Initiative, is one that she helped develop. This program is designed to provide fresh produce to agencies that may not have the capacity to store refrigerated produce consistently.
“People are getting fresh produce that they have never even seen before. Then, someone in the group learns how to cook it and shares recipes with other clients and it gets them talking to one another. It’s fun to see,” she said referring to the Farm Fresh Program.
To KiEtha, working at the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank is more than just a job to pay the bills. It’s fulfilling her life purpose. “The peace that I have from doing what I know I’m supposed to be doing, you can’t buy that kind of peace,” she said.
KiEtha’s benevolence and passion of service motivates her to help those in need throughout our community, but it also keeps her humble. “We have to believe in what we’re doing here because no matter how bad you think you have it, someone always has it worse.”