Community Comes Together at Cane River Food Pantry
It takes a village. Or in the case of Cane River Food Pantry in Natchitoches, it takes a community. This local food pantry serves 250 families – about 600 individuals – each month with pre-packed bags of groceries that include a balance of shelf-stable items and fresh foods. They couldn’t do it without help, and help comes from businesses, social groups, service organizations, and individuals throughout Natchitoches.
Cane River Food Pantry participates in a Retail Recovery Program, where four times each month, they receive food donated from the local Walmart or Super1Foods stores. Anything they can’t get from the Food Bank of Central Louisiana or from donations like these, the pantry would have to purchase. The pantry’s director, Donna Greene, recalled the most recent pickup from Walmart, where the pantry received over 200 pounds of food. “That’s really the average, but sometimes Walmart might have a s much as six- or 700 pounds of food in one pick-up, so we are extremely appreciative of everything they’ve done with that program.” Because of the relationship with Walmart, the pantry doesn’t have to purchase bakery products at all. Cane River also relies the Retail Recovery Program for much of the meat and fresh produce they distribute to families.
Local food pantries like Cane River depend on volunteers. Cane River Food Pantry is 100% volunteer-operated, and they need all the help they can get. On any given distribution day, they might have 10-20 volunteers working – packing food bags, setting up to-go boxes, delivering to the homebound, and distributing food in the drive-through. Some volunteers come on their own or volunteer with their family or school group. But other community organizations also come out to lend a hand.
On a recent Saturday, a group of women from WoVeN – Womens Veterans Network – were there to help. WoVeN is a national group that takes women through an 8-week program; starting as individuals and weaving them together into a community. All members are veterans, and interested vets can go online to wovenwomenvets.org to learn more. The four WoVeN women volunteering at Cane River Food Pantry, Valerie Minchew, Sarah Blanchard, Grace Lucas-Sargee and Jeanette Smith, reflected on their service there while they bagged bakery items for distribution. “I knew we were coming to be put to work,” said Valerie. And Sarah added, “We knew that we wanted to do something service-wise, and work with veterans as well.” The pantry was an ideal opportunity, as many seeking food assistance there are veterans in need. Donna Green couldn’t be happier with WoVeN’s commitment to service. “We could not exist without our volunteers. That’s just bottom line.”
Cane River Food Pantry distributes food via drive-through on the 2nd Saturday of every month at 446 Martin Luther Kind Drive in Natchitoches. For more information, visit them on Facebook: www.facebook.com/crfoodpantry. To sign up to volunteer, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 318-356-0646.