By Martha Marak, Executive Director of Food Bank of NWLA
40 million. That’s a huge number. It’s almost equivalent to the population of Texas, Louisiana and Florida combined. It actually represents the amount of people in the United States who don’t know where their next meal is coming from. In a nation where we’re constantly reminded about how obese and out of shape we’re becoming, the problem of chronic hunger and food insecurity can float under the radar.
Surprisingly, 35 percent of those 40 million individuals are from working households and 12 million are children. In Louisiana alone, 20.1 percent of the population is food insecure. Food insecurity refers to U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) measure of lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. Food insecurity causes major health problems, especially for children. Research indicates that even mild malnourishment experienced by young children during critical periods of growth may lead to reductions in physical growth and affect brain development. There are numerous USDA and educational institution studies that verify the connection between food insecurity and high school graduation rates, as well as the ability of the adult to become a contributing member of society.
Food insecure households are not necessarily food insecure all the time. Food insecurity may in fact reflect a household’s need to make trade-offs between important basic needs, such as housing or medical bills, and purchasing nutritionally adequate foods. For many, wages have simply not increased enough in the last years to cover the increased cost of living and food has now become an unaffordable luxury. The SNAP program, or food stamps, provides funds to individuals who qualify each month to purchase food items. Due to extreme government cuts to the program however, individuals participating in SNAP are receiving less and less each month. Three in ten people eligible for SNAP actually go unserved due to lack of program access and the recent overwhelming caseload growth.
With this comes the urgent need for increased supplemental and emergency food distribution services. Currently, the Food Bank of Northwest Louisiana meets the urgent need in the community by supplying an average of 1,000,000 pounds of food per month to over 35,000 children, adults, seniors, and special needs populations though a network of over 150 non-profit agencies and organizations. The Food Bank meets the needs of the community by providing food to church food pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, after school meal programs, and other non-profit organizations. Some of the Food Bank’s partnering organizations are the Shreveport-Bossier Rescue Mission, Salvation Army, Christian Service, Providence House, Volunteers of America, Noel Food Pantry, Operation Blessing and many, many more. To reach specific populations we offer several programs such as the Back Pack Program, Kids Café After School Meal Program, Summer Breakfast and Lunch Meal Program and Disaster Relief.
The Food Bank is the largest distributor of donated foods in the area and the only organization in northwest Louisiana that provides this basic need. Last year the Food Bank distributed 11,700,000 pounds of food with a value of $18,628,052 to 77,900 children, women, and men in Caddo, Bossier, Webster, Claiborne, Bienville, Red River and DeSoto Parishes. Without the Food Bank’s massive collection processes, relationships with local and national food donors, and warehousing capabilities, food distribution would be a slow and ineffective task with the result of hungry children, seniors, and adults throughout our community.
Providing more service to clients in northwest Louisiana than almost any other non-profit organization, the Food Bank is a fiscally responsible organization. For every $10 donated to the food bank, we can provide $100 in food. Our administrative cost are very low at 5%; meaning for every $1 in income, 95 cents, is used for food for our programs.
The Food Bank of Northwest Louisiana’s sound fiscal management practices, financial health, accountability and transparency have earned the highest rating from two leading charity evaluators—Guide Star and Charity Navigator. In recent publicized reports, the Food Bank of Northwest Louisiana earned one of the highest overall scores in the State of Louisiana and a 4 Star Rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator. Similarly, the Food Bank earned the highest rating of Platinum Level from Guide Star, world’s largest source of information on nonprofit organizations.
Your support in helping us feed the poor is essential to our mission. We welcome you become involved in our organization whether as a donor, volunteer, or through a food drive. Please call us to schedule a tour of our facility and to allow us to share with you the great work we do for the community.