Written in partnership with Danielle Richardson, Child Nutrition Coordinator, Foodbank of Central Louisiana, and the No Kid Hungry Louisiana Team.
No Kid Hungry Louisiana recently visited the Foodbank of Central Louisiana where Senior Program Manager, Ariyon C. Bryant, spoke with the foodbank’s executive team about their accomplishments and impact being made around feeding children and families in the Central Louisiana region. Scroll down to learn more!
Interviews in the Community: Danielle Richardson
Coming on as the new Child Nutrition Coordinator, Danielle Richardson has always had a sense of civic duty and enjoys working within the community. While in her role for only a few months, the transition for Louisiana WIC services to community foodbanks was a natural progression. Currently, the foodbank serves Allen, Avoyelles, Catahoula, Concordia, Grant, LaSalle, Natchitoches, Rapides, Sabine, Vernon, and Winn Parishes. Danielle believes that the lack of transportation across service areas contributes to numerous challenges faced by residents. In a recent survey conducted by the Food Bank, more than 40% of residents reported not having access to reliable transportation. Moreover, the USDA has identified all eleven (11) Parishes as census designated food deserts with Natchitoches and Rapides Parishes reporting food insecurity rates of 19.6% and 16.3%, respectively. Central Louisiana is predominantly rural, and many rural communities across the region have few options for groceries, limited-to-no transportation services, and insufficient local food pantries to serve those in need.
To help with this, The Food Bank of Central Louisiana partnered with 10 Rapides Parish Libraries to provide summer meals for kids from May 31 through August 5. Initially only providing snacks, an area library reached out to see if a foodbank-sponsored summer feeding program could be a possibility – the Food Bank of Central Louisiana team wanted to do more! Danielle has stated, “Many of the libraries located near residential areas have children who stay there most of the day. It’s often the only option of a safe place for children to visit during summer months. It’s close enough for them to walk to and they often provide summer programming. This is one of the reasons we partnered with the Rapides parish libraries to pilot the [SFSP] program this summer.”
The Food Bank has also partnered with the Boys and Girls Club of Acadiana-Natchitoches to provide daily breakfast and lunch to kids.
In stride with these tremendous accomplishments, The Food Bank of Central Louisiana plans on expanding their programs and partners. “Our vision is to expand the Summer Feeding program in our service area…We envision working with new partners in the near future to provide more meals to food insecure children,” says the Team. In August, the Food Bank is also poised to begin its CACFP sponsorship which will provide both hot and shelf-stable meals to more students, in addition to partnering with local area YMCA’s.
The Summer Feeding program has had a positive impact on the community. Between May 31 to June 30th, the Food Bank has already served 3,942 meals, and just in the first two weeks alone, the foodbank served approximately 1,500 meals through the Rapides Parish Library. The Food Bank’s efforts were extremely well-received. Danielle shared, “Parents are very appreciative of the Summer Food Service Program. They are grateful to come in and receive a meal without any questions or paperwork required, and the kids are excited about their fun bags. We are very thankful for our site partners for working with us to provide meals to kids across our community. In terms of outreach and engagement, in addition to sharing information and news resources about the Summer Meals Program on the organization’s Facebook page and website, and contributing to several news reports, the Team has noted that the work has paid off in that “Our Facebook post about the [SFSP] program has been shared more than 350 times.”
As for what keeps Danielle going, she shared, “The most rewarding part of my job is feeding kids and to see the smiles on their faces when they open the lunch bags, and being excited about what is inside. It brings the kid out in me!”
Danielle also expressed her appreciation for the Team at the Food Bank of Louisiana, especially Linda Huston, Director of Development and Community Relations for the Food Bank, as well as Marleah Walker, Child Nutrition Initiatives Manager at Feeding Louisiana. “This would not be possible without either one of them,” said Danielle.
She went on to say, “We are so grateful for our support from No Kid Hungry Louisiana. Our grant funding not only supported our BackPack program for the summer months, but also helped us start our Summer Feeding Program. This funding was critical for expanding our child nutrition programs. We are also thankful for the support from No Kid Hungry with marketing materials and training as we learn best practices for these new programs.”
To learn more about No Kid Hungry Louisiana, you can view our website and fill out our inquiry form.
To view No Kid Hungry’s Center for Best Practices, click here.
To view Danielle’s interview on KALB News, click here.
View the full photo gallery below!