Donation celebrated by Second Harvest, but volunteers are still needed

Published 7:20 am Sunday, June 30, 2024

Second Harvest loves to celebrate generous donations like the one it received from the Southwest Louisiana Chapter of Jack and Jill of America on Friday. This summer, it is also hoping for helping hands.

Friday, Jack and Jill handed over $15,000 to Second Harvest to help provide hot breakfast and lunch for kids this summer and meals for seniors.

“We worked really hard to make an impact,” said Tiffany Lewis, Jack and Jill chapter president. The group has pledged to help fight hunger in America starting at home, and its Run for the Roses fundraiser made the gift possible. The teen chapter raised $500 dollars to fight food insecurity. GeLaya Carter, is teen chapter president.

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Chapter teens and adults also pitched in by helping plate and pack meals.

Natasha Curley, Second Harvest, said there is an urgent need for more volunteers to plate and pack meals Monday through Friday at the McNeese Community Kitchen, 6 a.m. to 9 a.m.

When volunteers arrive, Chef Brandon Johnson and other kitchen staff will be there. They start work at 4 a.m. The assembly line method is down to a science, said David Smith, Second Harvest development officer.

“This  year we partnered with the city to feed at locations with summer camps,” he said. “We also provide meals for the Council on Aging in Jennings. This isn’t fast food, it’s hardy, freshly prepared, nourishing food.” The summer feeding program prepares 410 breakfasts and 410 lunches for its summer feeding program and 105 meals in Jennings for seniors. It also provides 80 percent of the food used for meals at Abraham’s Tent, a Lake Charles Food Kitchen.

Plan in place to meet more needs

“We want to serve our rural areas and out skirting municipalities in the same way we serve urban and suburban communities, ” said Paul Scelfo, Second Harvest Chief Regional Officer.

In March 2022, McNeese and Second Harvest committed to working together to fight hunger in Southwest Louisiana. Gayle Hall Annex had an 1,865 square foot kitchen it wasn’t using. Now it’s used by Second Harvest and for McNeese dietary classes.

That kitchen was supplied with food from the Second Harvest distribution center in Lafayette. Recently they have purchased a warehouse in Lake Charles that will help streamline operations, save on time and fuel costs.

A pro bono consultant is gathering data on who the food insecure are in Southwest Louisiana communities.

Second Harvest buys produce from local farmers, not commodity type purchasing, but more like cash crop/truck farm purchasing. With the new warehouse, it’s possible to get fresh produce in from farmers and out to the people who need it – while it’s still fresh produce.

“There’s a real need,” said Scelfo, who thanked the City of Lake Charles, Calcasieu Parish Police Jury, McNeese State University, private donors and volunteers for helping them meet that need.

“We still run into people who feel guilty for receiving, feel guilty that they have to ask,” said Scelfo, mentioning seniors who planned for retirement often cope with rising prices by not eating, or by using money to pay for medications. “We work very hard to meet people where they are and treat them with dignity. We are one disaster away from 90 percent of our population facing food insecurity.”

Jack and Jill of America is an organization of mothers working to enrich the lives of young children and raising the next generation of African American leaders while enhancing the lives of all children.

Second Harvest Food Bank leads the fight against hunger in South Louisiana by providing food access, advocacy, education and disaster response.