By Christine Bordelon
As the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, the need for food increases as people lose their jobs, government subsidies vanish and children remain at home and are not being fed at school.
Catholic Charities Archdiocese New Orleans (CCANO) recognized the rising number of those with food insecurity and partnered in late May with the archdiocese’s Hispanic Apostolate to open a food pantry at the apostolate, 2505 Maine Ave., Metairie. Hours of operation are Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
In the early days of the coronavirus, the Hispanic Apostolate was distributing food donated by a local food distributor and Second Harvest Food Bank with the help of CCANO volunteers.
“We knew there would be an ongoing need for this,” said Deacon Martin Gutierrez, CCANO’s chief operating officer, after witnessing the thousands who showed up for the mass distributions.
Catholic Charities already had planned to operate a food pantry at the Hispanic Apostolate to supplement what the apostolate had been doing for years on a smaller basis, but Deacon Gutierrez said “the pandemic expedited its opening.”
The permanent food bank allows a faster distribution than was possible with previous efforts to give away food by drive-thru. Now those needing food – wearing masks and remaining a safe distance from each other – walk up to a window, fill out a short form and receive a bounty of staples.
The food pantry’s opening was made possible by a generous donation from Hancock Whitney Bank, Deacon Gutierrez said.
Demand is overwhelming
Each food bag contains non-perishables such as rice, pasta, canned vegetables and fruit, beans and sometimes fresh produce, vegetable oil and milk, said Emily Stieber, Catholic Charities’ food pantry manager and assistant volunteer coordinator. “Anybody can get food,” but each family is limited to every other week right now because of the short food supply.
“We can’t keep up with the demand,” Deacon Gutierrez said.
Since opening, the food bank has dispersed an average of 200 bags of food each week. Of those requesting food, about 100 are new clients, Stieber said.
It is stocked totally by CCANO through food and monetary donations. Non-perishable donations can be dropped off during open hours of the food site.
Other food, rent help
In addition to food giveaways, CCANO is helping sign up individuals for government assistance programs such as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). It is planning to establish the Hispanic Apostolate as an additional site for its Food for Seniors program, which currently serves approximately 50,000 seniors 60 and older statewide, Deacon Gutierrez said. Rental assistance also is available through CCANO when money is available.
“It’s hard to keep up with demand, so donations are always appreciated,” Deacon Gutierrez said. “Demand for services goes up, but resources quickly go down. The need has been consistent throughout the pandemic.”
To volunteer time or to make a monetary or non-perishable donation, call (504) 592-5694 or visit https://www.ccano.org.
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