Concordia program reaches beyond parish borders

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 5, 2002

VIDALIA, La. &045; Feed the Hungry started off small.

It was just a modest plastic garbage can that Linda Bonnette, now the director of the organization, had put in the foyer of Vidalia First Assembly of God to hold food donations for needy parishioners.

But six years later, Feed the Hungry has outgrown its original role as a side project of a small church.

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Now operating out of two buildings on the outskirts of Vidalia, the organization gives out 19,200 pounds of food each month, providing extra sustenance for 384 families. So far this year, Feed the Hungry has distributed 199,050 pounds of food.

First Assembly of God built Feed the Hungry’s facilities, but the church has no hand in its day-to-day operations and provides no part of its budget.

&uot;The church is behind us, but we have independently stepped out,&uot; Bonnette said.

And while Feed the Hungry initially served only needy people in Concordia Parish, Bonnette quickly saw that there was dire need elsewhere.

Bonnette now has families come from as far away as Sicily Island and Roxie.

&uot;We don’t stop at the Mississippi River,&uot; she said. &uot;Hunger doesn’t know any boundaries. If you’re hungry, you’re hungry.&uot;

But providing food for all those people doesn’t come cheap, and Feed the Hungry doesn’t have the luxury of outside funding from government agencies, grants or other charitable organizations.

&uot;It’s just donations,&uot; Bonnette said.

Because of that, Feed the Hungry can’t order any food from the Food Bank of Central Louisiana in Alexandria until it knows it has the money to pay its share of shipping and storage.

Even if a family is obviously in need, Bonnette said there is no way for her to add it to the distribution list without sufficient funds or a pledge for a $10 monthly sponsorship.

&uot;I can’t get them fed until I find them a sponsor,&uot; she said.

Bonnette has several volunteers from the community who fill boxes with rice, canned vegetables, toothpaste, frozen meat or whatever the food bank happens to have.

Each Saturday, Sheriff Randy Maxwell sends inmate crews from the Concordia Parish Correctional Facility to lend a hand.

&uot;They go an extra mile for us,&uot; Bonnette said. &uot;Believe it or not, they don’t have to work on Saturday.&uot;

In spite of the program’s success, though, Bonnette said there are always more hungry people than there is food to distribute.

In the past two months, she added about three dozen families to the list, and there is a waiting list with 45 more.

&uot;We don’t want to turn anyone away,&uot; Bonnette said.

Donations to Feed the Hungry can be sent to 4810 U.S. 84 W., Vidalia, LA 71373. For more information, call Linda Bonnette at 336-8748.