WEBSTER PARISH, La. (KSLA) - This need is evident.
A line of cards runs parallel to the Christian Church at Minden, waiting for a delivery of food from the Joe LeBlanc Food Pantry — an invaluable service helping feed hundreds of families.
“This whole thing is a God thing,” said Jennifer Lewis, executive director.
Joe LeBlanc, a former member of the Christian Church, founded the food bank in 2007 after he foresaw a need when the economy fall— eerily similar to the country’s current financial predicament.
Thirteen years later, the Joe LeBlanc Food Pantry has grown exponentially, highlighting the importance of a feeding program in Webster Parish during normal times, let alone during a pandemic.
“It’s like every month we do distribution, we’re like, ‘this is the biggest one we’ve ever done,’” Lewis said. “It just grows and grows.”
According to Lewis, as of February, 500 families across the parish were benefiting from the food pantry. Now, months into a financial down spiral, sparked by the novel coronavirus, an additional 150 families are seeking help to get food on the table.
“It just tells me people are scared, people don’t know what’s coming next and they want to be as prepared as they can be,” Lewis explained. “We had a lot of people saying, 'I have a good job, I’m laid off temporarily, I know that I wouldn’t normally qualify for assistance, but I’m in a desperate situation.”
Thanks to the Food Bank of Northwest Louisiana, the Joe LeBlanc Food Pantry is able to provide food throughout some of the summer for children in need of a little extra help.
Children up to the age of 18 are served Monday through Friday, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Meals are distributed at 814 Constable Street in Minden.
“We had kids knocking on our door asking if we have snacks, food, water,” Lewis explained. “On Monday, we did 96 families, which blew us away, we weren’t expecting that.”
A total of 126 children were served the subsequent day, Tuesday, an emotional reality that is striking to Lewis.
“I just want them to know that God loves them, He’s not going to leave them and he’s not going to abandon them.”
The Joe LeBlanc summer feeding program runs until June 30, but Lewis is hoping to extend the initiative until school resumes in the fall.