Volunteer-staffed Zachary Food Pantry serves double the clients despite fewer team members

Zachary food pantry struggling to keep up with increased demand due to COVID-19

ZACHARY, La. (WAFB) - Every Tuesday morning, volunteers like Roma Prejean meet at the Zachary Food Pantry, ready to serve the masses.

Since the initial stay-at-home orders issued by Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, the food pantry has seen nearly double the number of clients needing food.

“I get here at 7:30 a.m. and I don’t stop until I get home,” Prejean said. “I mean, it’s just constant.”

To keep up with the demand, volunteers, who are mostly retirees, come in Monday to stock the shelves, then return Tuesday to distribute the food. They come in periodically throughout the week for housekeeping and paperwork.

“It has been challenging to try and figure out new ways of doing things with the resources we have,” executive director of the food pantry, Eelin Golan, said.

The problem the pantry is having is not getting enough food, even though they receive constant shipments from the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank.

"With social distancing, we have the same amount of space, we had to limit the number of volunteers coming in,” Golan said. “The profile of volunteers is usually older retirees, so we have told some of our volunteers who have family members or themselves who are in the really high-risk groups to just hang out for a bit.”

That means the volunteers, like Prejean, have to work harder to keep up with the growing demand. In the warehouse, that means volunteers are often moving at a frantic pace, pushing carts around, filling them with food before loading the groceries into clients’ cars.

“We just can’t keep going like this,” Prejean said.

For Prejean, even though the pace is dizzying, and she’s worn out when she gets home, she cannot see herself stopping anytime soon.

“As long as the good Lord keeps me in this standing position, I’m here for the long haul,” she said.

To keep going, though, the pantry needs volunteers and donations. You can find more information about the Zachary Food Pantry by clicking here.

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