A real ‘blessing’: Grant will allow for 10 more food boxes

Published 3:36 am Saturday, September 7, 2019

“Blessing boxes” are a common sight in Bogalusa, and thanks to a recent grant there will be 10 more installed in the city and across the parish.

The blessing boxes are regularly stocked with nonperishable food items, and any community member can visit one to get food they may need. On Thursday, Therapeutic Counseling Clinic Inc. announced it had received a $15,000 grant to expand the program’s reach.

The clinic, in collaboration with Greater Bogalusa Community Center, Bogalusa YMCA, the LSU AgCenter and Rayburn Correctional Center, was awarded the funding by the Louisiana Healthcare Connections Community Health Grant program. The grant will be used to fund the “Nutrition for a Healthier Tomorrow” campaign, which includes not only the blessing boxes but also additional programs.

These programs include weekly nutrition and cooking classes for ages 14-21, monthly community health resource fairs, and regularly scheduled youth fitness classes.

There were only six grants awarded in the entire state.

Chelsea Graves, communications principal for Louisiana Healthcare Connections, said Thursday that the Bogalusa group’s grant was one of the most well-written the team had seen.

“We received over 70 grant proposals, and yours was the quality of organizations many times your size,” she said.

Graves said that the state agency was also impressed by how the grant proposal would have a parish-wide impact, rather than simply focus on Bogalusa. Glenna Anderson, administrator of Therapeutic Counseling Clinic, said that the hope is to put blessing boxes in communities such as Angie and Franklinton as well.

Anderson explained that the plan is for inmates at the Rayburn Correctional Center to build the boxes, which will then be painted and installed at locations of greatest need. She hopes to get the boxes out in the community as quickly as possible.

Other future plans include an “adoption program,” which would allow a school, church or individual to take responsibility for keeping a box stocked for a certain amount of time.

“We definitely hope to get other groups involved, and maybe set up a few regular food drives,” she said.

With the 21st highest “food insecurity” rate among Louisiana’s 64 parishes, Washington Parish has nearly 3,000 children living in households that have a lack of access to enough food for a healthy, active life, according to Feeding America’s “Map the Meal Gap” data for 2018.