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|Much to lose for Food Bank in time of great need|
Director accepts Graphic Packaging donations, tells officials about funding concerns
About a week ago, Northeast Louisiana Food Bank director Richard King got an email from a 10-year-old girl who told him about how her family barely had enough to eat.
The food bank's staff quickly got food to the girl's family, just as it does for thousands of other northeast Louisiana residents who need their services.
"I got an e-mail from her," King said. "She said, 'Hello. My name is Marie. I saw something on TV about food banks. I got on the Internet and I found you guys.' She said her mommy got hurt a while back and cannot work. Her granddaddy has been helping her, but he lost his job."
The girl told King her mother was only eating about twice a week so she and her little sister would have enough food to eat.
"Now, that's a real world, right now, today story," King said. "And there's thousands and thousands of others like her out there."
On Tuesday, King and food bank officials accepted 30 turkeys and non perishable food items from Graphic Packaging in West Monroe, which recently held a food drive for the food bank.
Graphic Packaging also raised $76,000, which it plans to donate to the United Way of Northeast Louisiana next year.
"We thought we would do something a little extra, so we started asking people to drop off canned goods," said Tim Lawson, Graphic Packaging's manager of human resources.
"We didn't collect what we wanted to, but this was our first year doing this," Lawson said. "Last year in Hampton, Va., we gathered eight tons of food for the food bank there, so that's our goal next year."
"This being our first year, there were a lot of lessons learned on how we can do better next year, and we sure will," Lawson continued. "We want to help the community. We know it's tough times. We're blessed here and we want to help as much as we can."
Union president Al Hamby said, "I'm not going to lie: I was a little disappointed in the outcome (of the food drive). But, it's a starting place, and we want to see it grow to eight tons of food a year because this is a great cause."
King told Graphic Packaging officials, "I don't care if you have just one can out there. We took care of that little girl. We made that happen. But we can't make that happen without donations like this. For that little girl, and her sister, and her mommy, if they were here they would stand here and cry and hug your neck. Well, they can't be here, but for them, I say thank you. I want you to pass that along to all the people in this mill who made that happen. For that little girl, we thank you."
King said next year will be a critical year for food banks throughout the state as the state Legislature considers cutting funding for various services from the budget in light of an anticipated budget deficit.
With more layoffs a possibility around the country, food bank officials are concerned that more and more people will need their services in the coming years.
The Northeast Louisiana Food Bank already has seen about 30 percent more people show up this year in need of food.
Last year the food bank distributed more than three million pounds of food throughout northeast Louisiana. Roughly one million pounds of that food was purchased with state funding.
King said if the Northeast Louisiana Food bank loses that funding for next year, it would lose roughly one million pounds of food.