A local charity plans to open a new food distribution hub

Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Baton Rouge is planning to repurpose the former Re-Bath showroom on Coursey Boulevard into a food distribution hub to help reduce food insecurity in the region.

The organization is partnering with the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank and Feeding America to launch its “food rescue program.” For the program, Catholic Charities will pick up excess food from area retailers and redistribute it to people and organizations in the 12-parish region it services.

Catholic Charities launched a small program last fall aiming to help a few hundred people, says executive director David Aguillard, but within a few months the program grew to more than a thousand.

“We’ve been using our building, our hallways, our conference room and offices as a food distribution site,” Aguillard says. “It’s been an obstacle to our growth and an obstacle to meeting the community’s needs. … We stopped accepting applications because we couldn’t handle it anymore.”

Catholic Charities bought the 15,000-square-foot building for $1.65 million in a deal filed with the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court’s office on Monday. Aguillard estimates renovations will wrap up sometime this winter and that the building will be operational by mid-February. The building has a mix of retail, warehouse and office space, and Aguillard says they hope to open a market-like pantry where people can browse for food items they like.

The efforts are being funded through a grant and with the help of program partners, but Aguillard says Catholic Charities needs more money to fully equip the warehouse and to buy vehicles to move the food.

“The warehouse is the first step,” Aguillard says. “But we are asking the community for donations and financial support.”

This story originally appeared in an Oct. 20 issue of Daily Report. To keep up with Baton Rouge business and politics, subscribe to the free Daily Report e-newsletter here.