Everyone knows there are people and families out there in need of some extra help.

A new ministry called Feed Dat has begun to provide just that.

Maritza Perez works at First United Methodist Church in Slidell, where she has helped start the Feed Dat Ministry. They are excited because the ministry connects food and other items that would normally go to waste with people in the community who are in need.

The ministry has no stipulations or qualifications for those who wish to receive from it. There is a need, and they want to share what has been made available through the ministry — no questions asked, she said.

People need only to provide an ID and they will receive two to three bags of items each week. Food and nonperishable items are distributed from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. each Thursday at 433 Erlanger Ave.

More than 1,000 families have been helped since they began in October, she said.

As word has spread, from 130 to 190 people have begun to line up early each week.

“It’s going well and has been well-received,” she said.

Items donated each week

“It’s the many volunteers that make this ministry the success that it is.”

Each week, volunteers rent a truck to pick up slightly damaged items from Associated Wholesale Grocers.

“They have been our main source of commodities,” she said.

They come back to the church and unload the items, then inspect them to discard what is too damaged and clean all the packaging so it is ready to bag up.

Sometimes they get bottled water, charcoal, canned goods, dried beans, pasta and other boxed nonperishables to give out.

If they get a busted case of toilet paper, they divide the rolls equally among the bags.

Perez calls the items “supplemental.” They are not intended to provide the basic foods a family or individual would need.

“It’s not meant to feed them on a weekly basis,” she said. “It extra things they are able to get.”

In addition to providing food, Perez has shared a weekly devotional with those who come early and stand in line.

For the past 40 days, she has shared a favorite Lenten reflection that she reads aloud.

She said Lent is a time “to give up something, or give away something.” The ministry has helped more than 40 volunteers a week do both.

The ministry team prays together before they open the doors for the distribution, then prays with those waiting.

“Anyone who has volunteered comes back touched. It reaches you.”

She said the ministry has been a blessing to their church.

Some of the items go to the Junior Auxiliary of Slidell’s backpack for kids program to go home with students in need, she said.

“There are so many different levels how this ministry is moving through the community,” she said.

Get in dat number at concert

The community can get involved with the ministry next month when the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra plays its annual Some Enchanted Evening concert at 6 p.m. Sunday, May 3, at Heritage Park in Slidell. The LPO partners with local food banks at its park programs, and this will be the first time it has done so in Slidell.

Feed Dat volunteers will have a table to collect donations of nonperishable goods to replenish the church’s food pantry and to give away in the weekly Feed Dat ministry.

Anyone who wants to know more can ask volunteers that day how to become involved.

“Seeing people from different walks of life. There are the homeless,” she said, and people with nine children to feed.

She said some of those they have helped have since volunteered.

“It’s brought our church and the community together,” she said.

“Both the volunteers and those served “are nurtured physically and spiritually,” she said.

For information, email Perez at mperez@firstumcslidell.org.

Sharon Edwards is community news editor of The New Orleans Advocate.