Lafayette food bank nears depletion; officials concerned

Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- Andrew Hebert checks the experation dates on food goods Monday at FoodNet, the Greater Acadiana Food Bank in Lafayette.
Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- Andrew Hebert checks the experation dates on food goods Monday at FoodNet, the Greater Acadiana Food Bank in Lafayette.

Lafayette food bank nears depletion; officials concerned

The people in Lafayette who gather donated food to feed the hungry say they’ve never seen their cupboards get as empty as they are now.

At the Foodnet Greater Acadiana Food Bank on Surrey Street, a warehouse usually crowded with pallets of boxed and canned food is almost empty. What they do have are boxes of tea, salt and pepper and Tony Chachere’s, which accompanies food but doesn’t fill a hungry belly.

“This is kind of where we are,” said Lemel Jones, executive director of the food bank. “We’ve got a lot of empty containers.”

Jones said if donations do not increase, many of the elderly, young and military veterans who make up the bulk of the food bank’s clients will start going hungry by the end of this week.

The food bank bags groceries and sends them to three locations where the qualified pick them up: the food bank’s FoodNet Distribution Center on Buchanan Street, United Christian Outreach on Carmel Drive and Progressive Baptist Church on Pinhook Road.

“I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen it get really, really low like this,” said Kitty Joseph, who is in charge of distributing food at Progressive Baptist Church, which secures food for about 1,000 people a month.

Joseph said the food the church gives out technically comes from two sources, the food bank and another nonprofit that collects it by the pallet.

Jones and Joseph said, however, that it ultimately comes from charitable people.

The food comes to the food bank in a few ways. Some people donate canned goods at a variety of places, including “community baskets” located in supermarkets such as Adrien’s Supermarket, Super 1, Albertson’s and Walmart on Ambassador Caffery, Jones and Joseph said.

Others donate food straight to FoodNet’s warehouse and to churches. And many give money. But all methods are welcomed, Jones said.

On Monday, food bank employee Leonard Toussaint returned to the warehouse on Surrey Street.

He had been sent by Jones to see what people had left at the community baskets at Adrien’s, Albertson’s and the Super 1 in Carencro.

“The haul wasn’t good at all,” Toussaint said. “It wasn’t even 100 pounds, which will feed about four families.”

So Toussaint, using food bank money, purchased almost 800 pounds of canned goods and other nonperishable food.

The purchase cost $360, money Jones said the food bank doesn’t have a lot of.

Jones said there usually is a lull in giving this time of year.

“FoodNet experiences fewer donations from June to October due to the school summer break, and because people are genuinely trying to make ends meet within their own families,” she said.

Jones said the warehouse supply is too low, and food and money donations are not coming in fast enough to allow officials to wait for the next food drive on Nov. 5.

“Inventory is now near depletion and FoodNet has had to pack less food per bag” that is given to its clients, who are pre-screened for eligibility, Jones said.

To donate, drop nonperishable food in the community baskets at the participating supermarkets or at FoodNet, 217 Surrey St.

For information, go to www.foodnetacadiana.org