Florida native Pamela Coleman recently moved to Baton Rouge for a change of scenery and quickly found herself grappling with spoiled food caused by Hurricane Isaac’s power outages.
Coleman headed to Healing Place Church on Highland Road on Monday to apply for disaster food stamps.
She said she replaced some of her groceries out of her own pocket before seeking the federal government’s help.
“You’ve got to eat,” Coleman, 36, said before heading inside the church to start on her paperwork.
Crowds were sparse midmorning and early afternoon at several disaster food stamp sites across the city, on Baton Rouge residents’ first day to process applications.
The state Department of Children and Family Services sorted people by surname, asking those with last names beginning with A, B or C to show up Monday. Next up, on Tuesday, will be last names D through G.
DCFS reported unofficial numbers showing at least 3,326 households qualified for disaster food stamps in Baton Rouge on the first day of the program.
Eighteen parishes already completed the disaster food stamp process, which allows people who do not normally receive food stamps to get the federal government’s help in restocking their pantries following the Category 1 storm.
Trey Williams, spokesman for DCFS, said 18,517 people in East Baton Rouge Parish had pre-qualified for the disaster food stamps as of Sunday.
Hurricane Isaac cut the electricity to 101,632 of East Baton Rouge Parish’s 199,172 utility customers.
Across the state, Williams said, 227,436 households received $90.5 million in disaster food stamps in the 18 completed parishes and East and West Feliciana parishes.
Long lines greeted applicants in Orleans Parish.
Sheila Williams waited 20 minutes for her friend Patsy Banks to complete the application process at the former Sam’s Club on Airline Highway in Baton Rouge.
“I didn’t think it was going to take us 20 minutes. I was thinking at least an hour,” said Williams, 54.
Banks, 57, joked that she was there to get food stamps for herself, her husband and their cat.
Isaac left them without power for two days.
“It’s just so aggravating, but you get through it,” she said.
Banks said state workers approved her application and treated her warmly.
Leaning on a cane, 83-year-old Howard Bradford followed his daughter into the former Sam’s Club to seek help with replacing the contents of his refrigerator and freezer after losing power for five days.
“I haven’t anything to replace it with. By the time I pay my bills, there’s nothing left,” Bradford said.
At Southern University’s F.G. Clark Activity Center, applicants trickled in Monday afternoon.
Southern senior Jemiela Castleberry, 20, said she only lost power for a day at her campus apartment. However, she said the storm stranded her at home, forcing her to pool groceries with neighbors as supplies dwindled.
Castleberry said she hoped to get help with the food she gave to other people during the storm.
Another Southern student, 20-year-old sophomore Kayla Chenevert, said she went home to Opelousas for the storm and came back with a care package of snacks assembled by her mother.
Still, Chenevert said, food spoiled in her dorm room.
“I need some food,” she said before opening the door to begin the application process.