Church fights hunger with food

Published 12:02 am Saturday, November 10, 2007

VIDALIA — For the last 10 years, one local church has given away thousands of pounds of food to fight the blights of poverty and hunger.

First Assembly of God in Vidalia began their Feed the Hungry program in February 1997, starting with helping seven needy families and working their place up to the present approximate 280 families, program Director Linda Bonette said.

Once a month the program gives out a 50-pound box of food to the families that participate in the program, who come from Concordia Parish and the surrounding area, as well as some from Adams and Wilkinson counties, Bonette said.

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“We started out small and we just try to help people,” she said. “At present, we’re giving away about 14,000 pounds of food a month.”

Participation in the program is based on the family’s income and how many people live in the household, Bonette said.

“I’ve had one person who had 12 kids,” she said. “They ran out of spaces to fill out on the application.”

Regardless of income, the program will provide emergency assistance to someone who needs it, Bonette said.

“We don’t care about income or any of that stuff when someone is in need,” she said.

The program buys the food from the Food Bank in Alexandria, but because it is funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it is sometimes limited in what it can order.

“During the holidays the good Lord helps,” she said.

When putting the food boxes together, the group tries to provide from all of the food groups, but USDA requirements mandate certain products are only distributed to families in Concordia Parish.

“We can only give juices, dry beans and rice to Concordia Parish residents,” Bonette said. “If I put 10 pounds of those in a Concordia Parish box, I have to put 10 pounds of something else in a Mississippi box.”

When possible, some non-food items are included in the boxes, Bonette said.

“If I can provide soap, shampoo or other products in there, I will,” she said.

The program is largely operated by volunteers from the church, but also receives some inmate help from the Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office, Bonette said.

“We accept people to volunteer or we encourage people to sponsor a family for $12,” she said.

For more information about the program, contact Bonette at 318-336-8748 or at 318-336-2428.