LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) — Every year in December, the KLFY FoodNet Food For Families Food Drive brings in thousands of pounds of food donations for people in need and tens of thousands of dollars in monetary donations to benefit local food banks. This year marked the 35th annual drive with over 20 drop-off locations across Acadiana.

The main food drive location is at the Cajundome in Lafayette where dozens of volunteers lined the sidewalk to unload cars and organize food donations.

These donations are then redistributed to smaller food banks across Acadiana as needed.

Marcelle Citron, the late co-owner and Vice President of Hub City Ford and founder of FoodNet, brought the idea of FoodNet to KLFY, which helped her launch it in 1987. There have been annual KLFY Food For Families food drives every December since.

Catholic Charities of Acadiana took over FoodNet in 2019.

Ben Broussard, Chief of External Affairs for Catholic Charities, said the ability to give online and make monetary donations via text message has been a very helpful turning point for FoodNet in general, especially on the day of the drive.

“The landscape is changing,” Broussard said. “A cash donation is maybe one of the most compassionate things someone can do.”

Monetary donations are accepted 365 days of the year. Any amount given will go directly toward the specific needs of local food banks, and a $35 donation can provide food for up to a week for a single person. FoodNet has a breakdown online, and a link you can follow to donate. You can also text a donation by sending the word “Foodnet” to 797979.

It’s hard to set an exact goal for the drives each year because the need throughout different parishes changes constantly and is subjective based on population and other things that have affected the areas, such as Hurricane Ida, but Broussard said they always aim for “as much as possible.” At the Cajundome, the goal was to fill at least one 18-wheeler truckload, which is exactly what happened.

“The 18-wheeler was full,” Broussard said. “We couldn’t put another thing in it.”

Though the COVID-19 pandemic added strain to virtually everyone’s homes in 2020, FoodNet was still able to provide for the community. In April of 2020, FoodNet did a food drive with KLFY and raised $300,000 in a single day. They were also able to distribute supplemental food supplies when it was hard for most people to get what they needed due to shortages at groceries stores, losing their jobs, and other pandemic-related struggles.

Over the past year, FoodNet has served around 500 families and individuals per month.

Because of the pandemic, the 2020 Food for Families food drive was held online. Broussard said the 2021 monetary donations throughout the day surpassed the previous year’s within the first few hours of the drive.

”This is a joyous event,” Broussard said. “People are excited to know that they’re part of something that helps.”

FoodNet’s Food for Families food drive monetary donations exceeded $30,000 just online. There are still checks and other forms of monetary donations to add up to the total as well.

FoodNet Food Bank provides supplemental non-perishable food boxes for families and individuals who are experiencing food insecurity. Averaging 14 new clients per week throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, FoodNet Food Bank distributes almost 500 food bags per week, helping families who are in a financial or situational crisis. 

FoodNet Food Bank also partners with rural parish social ministry food pantries throughout the Diocese of Lafayette, helping them to serve their clients in their time of need.

In 2021, FoodNet Food Bank provided over 26,000 supplemental food bags to families and individuals who are experiencing food insecurity throughout Acadiana.

FoodNet Food Bank averages about 2000 bags a month distributed to neighbors and families. Bags weigh about 18 pounds. 36,000 pounds.