AgCenter helps tackle hunger on the Northshore

(10/17/22) COVINGTON, La. — October is Tackling Hunger Action Month, and the LSU AgCenter is doing its part to help on the Northshore.

The AgCenter and its community partners recently installed a “blessing box” — similar to a little free library but stocked with staple foods instead of books — in an area of Covington with a high rate of food-insecure households. The items in the blessing box supplement the fresh produce that is available to residents at a nearby community garden.

The AgCenter has worked with the Covington Mayor’s Council on Healthy Lifestyles Healthy Communities Coalition, the Northshore Food Bank, St. Paul’s School, Pine View Middle School and community member Ray Herndon on these efforts.

“Food access came up as an area of concern for residents,” said LSU AgCenter agent Valerie Vincent. “With the wonderful community partners all working together, we were able to install another blessing box in this food desert to assist families with access to healthy food options. The blessing box installation between the garden and the school offers community members the opportunity to pick fresh produce and use the blessing box to find products such as brown rice, canned goods, dry beans, shelf stable milk and other products to help them build a healthy meal.”

Blessing boxes can be found in many communities and provide a lifeline for families in need, Vincent said. Constructing and installing the new one in Covington had the added benefit of bringing together many partners who have a passion for serving their community.

The Northshore Food Bank worked with Lowe’s of Covington to have all materials donated for the box, which Herndon built. He then delivered it to Gerald Ancar at St. Paul’s School. Ancar, who serves as the art department chair and a coach, worked with students William Cambre, Max Biggs and William Herndon to add artistic touches to the box. Once complete, Covington Public Works employees Jim O’Berry and Charlie Arthur worked with Herndon to get it installed.

“This was a great team effort, a terrific job by Coach Ancar and his St. Paul’s art class to make it look great, Lowe’s for having contributed the materials and Ginger Kunkle at Northshore Food Bank with the vision to place this resource so that anyone in need can access it day or night,” Herndon said.

Kunkle, Vincent and Mayor Mark Johnson stuffed the box with its initial food offerings. Seu Hee Ledet, principal of Pine View Middle School, adopted the box, and the school will keep the box filled in the future.

“We are excited about the efforts to make food more accessible, both through the Covington Community Garden and their new blessing box,” Kunkle said. “The community support for the box made connecting the dots to complete the project an easy process, from receiving donated supplies from Lowe’s to the time and talent put in by Ray Herndon and students at St. Paul’s.”

The AgCenter and its Healthy Communities program have numerous blessing box partnerships and projects across the state. For more information on these initiatives, contact Vincent at

Two boys paint a wooden box.

St. Paul’s School students William Cambre and Max Biggs add artistic touches to a blessing box. Photo provided by Gerald Ancar

A boy paints a wooden box.

William Herndon paints the blessing box. Photo provided by Gerald Ancar

People stand next to a small food pantry box.

From left, Ginger Kunkle, of the Northshore Food Bank; Valerie Vincent, LSU AgCenter agent; and Covington Mayor Mark Johnson stock the newly installed blessing box. Photo provided by Valerie Vincent/LSU AgCenter

10/17/2022 12:49:39 PM
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