With prices going up and some incomes not, food pantries in Ponchatoula are reaching out monthly with groceries to help take up the slack for needy residents.
Our city, known for its volunteerism, has so many people involved in food ministries that this article has to be limited to only four local food pantries that come under the leadership of Hammond’s Our Daily Bread: First United Methodist, Helping Hands Ministries World Wide, Inc., Westside Baptist Church and Westside Church of God in Christ.
Some of these groups and others also cook and serve hot meals locally as well as for Our Daily Bread, other locations throughout our own parish and as far south as for the homeless in the French Quarter.
So, how do the food pantries work for local residents and where does the food come from?
“Work” is the key word as it takes lots of people lots of time and lots of effort to make it all come together but each volunteer interviewed ignored talking about the work part, saying basically the same, “I love what I do.”
“We’re just obeying scripture,” one said. “When Jesus fed the 5,000 men plus the women and children, He had the disciples gather the leftovers so that nothing be wasted. No doubt to be eaten the next day and to be shared with the poor.”
At times in our area, freight truck drivers call Our Daily Bread to offer pallets of food that stores didn’t need after all. Our own grocery stores call, needing to clear shelf space to make room for new deliveries. Nothing is stale or old, whether canned, packaged or fresh produce and meat. Other foods are ordered but all means much paperwork.
In the meantime, some local residents with low incomes, especially Seniors, need assistance. By contacting Our Daily Bread at 985-542-4676, they can learn where and when to find their nearest food pantry and where to begin the paperwork to see if they qualify.
Application requirements are photo ID, Social Security card, proof of income, and proof of address with a utility bill, for example, plus a list of everyone living in the home. It’s necessary to name a second person to pick-up in case the recipient can’t go, again, to avoid waste.
All four local pantries use trucks or trailers specifically to get the groceries from Our Daily Bread.
Don Hutches described volunteers unloading the trailer at First Methodist, organizing and keeping inventory, then filling each box so that recipients get identical items when they drive through on the designated day. The heavy boxes are wheeled or carried out to their cars after ID’s are verified.
Helping Hands on Highway 22 West has been supplying boxes for a long time with John Hair as its leader, now also at the helm of Our Daily Bread since founder Myrna Jordan’s retirement. The list of volunteers of all ages at Helping Hands is unbelievable.
The Reverends Cox at Westside COGIC on Murray in Millville also depend on volunteers as does Westside Baptist where member Paul Hinkston said he became more aware of needs after helping Katrina victims then realizing they continue, disaster or not. When he retired from the telephone company he plunged in to work both at his church and at Our Daily Bread.
Because of these food pantries and their many volunteers, some people no longer have to choose between medicines and food and are grateful to live in Ponchatoula where help is as near as the caring heart of a volunteer.