Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2011
FoodNet is marking a quarter century of service to the less fortunate with a new leader and a renewed focus on its core principles. By Andrea Gallo
|Photo by Robin May|
|FoodNet's Lemel Jones|
Lemel Jones laughs as she recalls her college days when, as a “rapid train who’s out of control,” she used to wake her friends from their Saturday morning slumber to work on projects, particularly ones involving feeding the hungry. While the people she inspires to volunteer may have changed over the years, her attitude of service and love for reaching out to the community are permanent.
“When you come across a family that calls you and says, ‘I have no food,’ it’s so overwhelming and touching. I live the experience and I take it home,” Jones (pictured above) says, tears welling in her eyes. “People tell me, you always take it home with you. But why not? I take those kids with me, those seniors with me, and I think about them — what I can do to make things different. I literally want people to be able to get the best of what we have.”
Jones was recently named executive director of FoodNet — The Greater Acadiana Food Bank — after her predecessor, Mary Ellen Citron, retired. Jones says she’s been inspired by Mary Ellen, along with Marcelle Citron, who started FoodNet 25 years ago. Community, Jones stresses, is what keeps FoodNet running, and is why she chooses to work there.
With more than 10 years of food bank experience under her belt, Jones climbed her way up to chief programs officer at Second Harvest Food Bank in New Orleans, where she labored during Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. While she enjoyed her experience there — Jones says she was “meeting the Nancy Pelosis and John Travoltas” — she realized she wanted to work where the people who need help are and where the volunteers go. This led her to Lafayette’s FoodNet, where she waded into the community and among the volunteers.
“Sometimes people say, ‘It’s free food, they get what they get,’” Jones says, bristling. “That makes me upset. It’s never, ‘What you get is what you get.’ We are all one step away from needing assistance… you don’t know the behind-the-scenes story.”
Fred Alexander, FoodNet’s office manager, says he is amazed that volunteers come “from all walks of life.” Some are wealthy, like one man who develops condominiums in Florida, while others are “trusties” — people in jail for minor crimes who have volunteered with FoodNet for years.
The goal with volunteers, Jones says, is to help them understand how much their work impacts their community. Though volunteers may never distribute food directly to the hungry, Jones and her staff are responsible for making sure volunteers realize that the box of pasta and jar of sauce they bag is dinner for a hungry family.
Jones hopes to bring in more fruits and vegetables and work with local farmers, and would like to write and apply for grants, which she did at Second Harvest. Her ultimate vision for FoodNet includes a farmer’s market, cooking classes and sessions about healthy eating.
“We want to say, ‘We’re here for you,’” she says. “We’re not claiming to be the grocery store, but we will be a supplement to get over that difficult point in your life. We have the homeless mom of five who comes through, but we also have the retired person. We want to handle that with efficiency, qualify of food and compassion.”
FoodNet’s “25 for 25” program is under way, and the community can support FoodNet in any way it sees fit. Volunteers are welcome on Mondays, Wednesdays or Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and FoodNet often has special projects on Saturdays. FoodNet also welcomes monetary donations. And if anyone wants to host a food drive, FoodNet will provide signs and materials. FoodNet is located at 217 Surrey St. and can be reached at (337) 232-3663.
Joshua Dore of Breaux Bridge was sentenced Tuesday to 1.5 years in prison for counterfeiting, according to a press release issued by U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley’s office on Wednesday.
Last month, 19,629 passengers boarded planes at the airport, and another 19,627 passengers deplaned, also the highest number on record for the month, according to the airport’s figures released Wednesday.
School super Pat Cooper alleges Lafayette Parish School Board member Mark Allen Babineaux, an attorney, publicly disclosed the details of a closed-door executive session.
The Silverbacks Improv Theatre presents their annual “holiday” show tonight at Theatre 810.
A legal tug-of-war continues in a state levee board's lawsuit against 97 oil, gas and pipeline companies over the erosion of wetlands.
A former BP drilling engineer was convicted Wednesday of deleting text messages from his cellphone to obstruct a federal investigation of the company's massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Sun Belt commissioner presents title and practice gets under way in preparation for Saturday
In Louisiana's latest tax amnesty period, Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration added a new twist, letting companies settle their back-owed taxes with unused tax credits, instead of paying cash.
Kerry Bertrand’s charge was upgraded Tuesday by an Acadia Parish grand jury from manslaughter to second-degree murder for his alleged role in the drowning death of his stepdaughter, Skylar Credeur.
Sean Payton announced Wednesday that veteran Shayne Graham was New Orleans' new kicker, and that rookie Terron Armstead would get his first start at left tackle.
It’s the season for saving by helping Lafayette Animal Aid
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Wednesday, December 18, 2013
NOLA Bowl outfits with flowy pieces
The lawsuit filed in New Orleans alleges that more than half the Social Security numbers on Mikal Watts’ client list were fake — either dummy numbers or numbers belonging to someone else, living or dead.
Industry veteran named GM and CEO of Cypress Bayou's casino and hotel operations.
The IND's directory, the most comprehensive in the market, includes health clubs, gyms, health and sports drinks, medical fitness facilities, and studios and classes to keep you healthy and fit in the new year.
More local companies expected to take advantage of economic boom.
Should new parents be required by law to attend special classes before being permitted to raise their child? It’s an idea state Rep. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, is seriously considering.
The National Conference of State Legislatures estimates $800 million of sales tax revenue annually in Louisiana is not collected and remitted by internet vendors.
State Treasurer John Kennedy argues in a new op-ed emailed to media Tuesday that, with an anticipated $100 million surplus from the last fiscal year, Louisiana should invest the funds in I-49 South.