The Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank is seeing an increase in its supplies since it issued a plea for donations more than a week ago, Food Bank officials said.
“It’s slowly been trickling in,” said Erin Swenson, the Food Bank’s vice president of communications and public relations, last week. “We’ve had many, many phone calls of people offering to assist us.”
The organization received a large shipment of food Friday, including 20 pallets of frozen food from Walmart Distribution, as well as potatoes and watermelons, Swenson said.
“I anticipate an increase through the weekend and through the following weeks to come due to the high number of calls we are receiving and food drive forms we see coming in daily,” Swenson said.
Swenson also said the Food Bank is seeing more donations in barrels outside grocery stores.
“It is very encouraging, and every little bit is making a difference,” Swenson said.
The Food Bank sent out a news release Aug. 18 saying its shelves were bare and it desperately needed supplies.
At that point, half of its warehouse was empty and its freezer housed only several pallets of fruit.
Mayor-President Kip Holden’s office also issued a news release Aug. 22, asking people to donate to the Food Bank.
“We urgently need the community to respond to this crisis. From individuals to organizations to businesses, the message is, ‘We need you,’ ” Holden said in the release.
Mike Manning, the Food Bank’s president and CEO, has said the supply shortage comes from the nation’s weak economy and grocery stores scaling back their inventories, which lessens the amount of food available for donations.
Swenson said local organizations, including Lamar Advertising Co. and the Louisiana Bar Association, have already reached out to give food or monetary donations.
She also said schools will soon collect food during food drives, which will help the supply even more.
The Food Bank’s main concern, though, is having enough supplies during hurricane season, Swenson said.
“We need food,” Swenson said.
Any food that comes in is immediately marked to be sent off, Swenson said.
“Every product we get here goes right back out into the community,” Swenson said.
The Food Bank delivered 11.1 million pounds of food to the community last year, Swenson said.
The organization serves more than 120 organizations in 11 parishes in South Louisiana.
Swenson said those organizations understand what the Food Bank is going through right now.
“They’re being very patient,” she said. “It’s just a product of the situation that we’re in.”
One agency that relies on the Food Bank, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Baton Rouge, said it is feeling the heat from the Food Bank’s shortage.
Michael Acaldo, St. Vincent de Paul’s CEO, said the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank is a “critical provider” for his organization.
“When the Food Bank is hurting — and to put on top, we’re hurting — it just makes our job that much more difficult,” Acaldo said.
Acaldo said St. Vincent de Paul’s dining room served more than 218,000 meals last year, a record for the organization.
The St. Vincent de Paul dining room staff has been strained by the limited food resources, but is trying to be creative and “do the best we can with what we’ve got,” Acaldo said.
“We like to serve the best meal possible, but our ability to do that has really been challenged,” Acaldo said.
The Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank still needs items, such as peanut butter, canned fruit, vegetables, soups, rice and dried beans, Swenson said.
Those who wish to donate to the Food Bank can call (225) 359-9940.