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One year later: Food Bank of Central Louisiana reflects on busy 2020

Published: Mar. 29, 2021 at 1:46 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 29, 2021 at 4:26 PM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - 2020 is certainly one for the record books.

From a global pandemic to hurricanes and everything in between, the Food Bank of Central Louisiana has had to distribute more food than ever before.

Staff at the food bank have wasted no time in the past several months, kicking it into high gear to make sure everyone in need of help got food.

“They did things we’ve never done before, many, many things we’ve never done before, and we distributed more than we ever did before, over 11-million pounds in 2020.”

Jayne Wright-Velez, Food Bank of Central Louisiana Executive Director

In 2020, over 40 percent of people served had never been to the food bank before, and during Hurricane Laura, distribution ramped up to an all-time high.

“During 2020, you know the hurricanes, we were doing a million pounds in a week, that was amazing,” said Wright-Velez.

Because of the increase in demand, the food bank increased mobile distributions from five days a month to 20 to service more people than ever before.

“There is a definite trend towards seeing new families that probably had always needed help but had not been able to get to our food pantries, and so because we’re in their communities, we’re there, we’re now able to serve them.”

Jayne Wright-Velez, Food Bank of Central Louisiana Executive Director

Although the non-profit is no longer operating at crisis level, Wright-Velez says the need in our rural communities remains at an all time high.

“There may not be grocery stores close, you know transportation is often an issue, so we’re continually signing up new families that need our help because they’ve just learned about, learned that we’re available there.”

Jayne Wright-Velez, Food Bank of Central Louisiana Executive Director

That’s why they’re trying to establish new mobile distribution sites in Winn and Catahoula parishes this spring.

“We have chronic poverty and so that need’s going to continue. So we anticipate that we’ll be operating at this increased level for some time,” said Wright-Velez.

Another big challenge for the food bank was the ice storm that caused them to completely suspend day-to-day operations.

“The ice storm shut us down for a week and that’s the first time in our 30 year history we’d been shut down for a week. Even with hurricanes and everything else that’s happened to us throughout the years, we’ve never been down for a week,” said Wright-Velez.

Even with everything the food bank has had to face, they’ve distributed just under two-million pounds of food so far in 2021.

“After last year we’re rolling with it and doing what we do and trying to get much food as we can to those in need,” said Wright-Velez.

The non-profit is distributing food based on federal guidelines. To see if you qualify for food assistance, or to volunteer at the food bank, you can call 318-445-2773, or check here on the food bank’s website.

The Army-National Guard has been helping distribute boxes at the food bank since the start of the pandemic. Wright-Velez just got word they’ll continue helping out at the non-profit until September.

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