75k NELA residents struggling for food, up 19% since pandemic began
MONROE, La. (KNOE) - Our region is home to thousands of people struggling with food insecurity. Being food insecure means you don’t know where your next meal is coming from. Before the pandemic, the Food Bank of Northeast Louisiana estimated that we had over 63,540 people in Northeast Louisiana who were food insecure.
The pandemic, hurricanes, and now a winter storm have all increased that figure to an estimated 75,000, according to Sarah Hoffman, Director of Development with the food bank. She says that’s about a 19% increase since the beginning of the pandemic.
“I’ve been here for a little over five years now, and I have never seen anything like the need we’ve experienced over this past year,” says Hoffman. “There’s enough to stress about right now in our country and in our community that getting enough food to eat shouldn’t be one of those things.” Since the pandemic began, Hoffman says they’ve provided 6.2 million meals for those in need throughout their 12 parishes. “And we know every time we hold a distribution the lines are long, people get out there hours early sometimes because they’re just desperate to get a little bit of help.”
Hoffman said the numbers were bad even before the pandemic. In fact, the area is home to one of the worst places in the country for food-insecure children.
“East Carroll Parish has some of the highest food insecurity rates in the country, especially amongst children, it’s over 33%,” explains Hoffman. “Some of our rural parishes have higher food insecurity rates than anywhere else because there is a little bit of a lack of job opportunities there, so it’s really important and critical that we serve those communities.”
The recent winter storm had more kids home from school, which made it hard for families who rely on the extra assistance from school meals.
“Our pantries were getting bare, and for a lot of people who had kids home from school they really just ate up all the food. And then our grocery stores were also having trouble getting supply in, so a lot of people were in need of some food we tried to do some extra food distributions.”
The Food Bank says they’ve tried to do as many extra distributions as possible to address the need here. Their partnership with Feeding America is one of the reasons they’ve been so successful.
“We’re able to work with them to receive both monetary support as well as food supplies, so national donors can donate truckloads of food through Feeding America, then we can get it here for just the cost of freight.”
Hoffman says a donation of just $10 helps them provide 55 meals for people, and a donation of $100 will give a senior food every month for a year. It’s a feat she says wouldn’t be possible without their Feeding America partnership.
“Oh, the cost of food would be so much higher if we weren’t a Feeding America partner, they’re also wonderful in case of any natural disaster they’ll usually send us truckloads of water and food to help when we need it the most.”
In 2020, a study by Feeding America estimated that nationwide over 50 million people are food insecure.
Some of the upcoming distributions include:
- West Carroll Parish: Tuesday, March 2nd at 10:00 am. Oak Grove Maintenance Barn – 400 Lamont St., Oak Grove
- Lincoln Parish – Wednesday, March 3rd at 10:00 am. Ruston Sports Complex – 1501 S. Farmerville St., Ruston
- Caldwell Parish – Thursday, March 4th at 9:00 am. Caldwell Dixie Ball Park – 125 Ballpark Rd, Columbia.
- Jackson Parish – Friday, March 5th at 10:00 am. First Baptist Chatham – 1211 Hwy 4, Chatham.
- Franklin Parish – Tuesday, March 9th at 10:00 am. Liberty Christian Center 403 8th St., Winnsboro.
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