In September 2014, the Food Bank of Central Louisiana commemorated 25 years of service. Over the past 25 years, the Food Bank of Central Louisiana distributed more than 115 million pounds of food to those in need in our community, with an average wholesale value of more than $197.8 million.
The concept of food banking began in the late 1960s in Phoenix, Arizona, when John van Hengel decided to set up a warehouse to store donated food products for a local soup kitchen. Mr. van Hengel credited his idea to a woman with 10 children and a husband on death row who rummaged for food in bins behind grocery stores. She suggested that what was really needed was a place to both deposit food and check it out – like a bank.
The Food Bank of Central Louisiana was conceived when a group of concerned citizens met with Lyman Adams, who had recently moved to the area. Adams had been the director of the food procurement department of the Baton Rouge Food Bank. The groups of citizens became the board of the directors for the Food Bank, and Adams was installed as the executive director.
The Food Bank of Central Louisiana was incorporated in September 1989 with the mission of alleviating hunger in Central Louisiana. In May of 1990, the Food Bank officially began operations from its original location at 1902 Main Street in Alexandria, and distributed 2,329 pounds of food to two pantries. The Board faced many challenges during those early years, often passing the hat at the board meetings to collect enough money to pay the organization’s utility bills. The Food Bank had one part-time warehouseman as its staff, a team of VISTA Volunteers and the Board of Directors. The Board Chair also served as the Executive Director during the first four years of the life of the Food Bank.
In 1994, the Food Bank was blessed with a generous bequest that empowered the Board to make a down payment on the warehouse on Baldwin Avenue. The team moved there in March of 1995 and became a member of Feeding America that same year. The Food Bank has grown over the past 25 years, adding member agencies and programs. In 2013, the Food Bank distributed more than 5.7 million pounds of food to 104 member agencies in Central Louisiana.
“It’s a really important milestone,” said Todd St. Romain, Food Bank of Central Louisiana’s board chair. “We’re blessed to have strong leadership. The board has always been very passionate, and we have a very generous community who cares about the underserved.”
“Every day we work to feed the hungry in our community, but our efforts would not be possible without the continued support from the Central Louisiana community. We are grateful for the funds and food donated to our organization, as well as the countless hours our volunteers and board of directors donate to help others,” said Jayne Wright-Velez, executive director of the Food Bank.
Instead of resting on its laurels, the food bank is still moving forward. “We are continually looking for innovative ways to serve more people across central Louisiana and working towards our mission of alleviating hunger,” said Wright-Velez.