BDJ Center hosting Summer Feeding Program, starts next Monday

From left are Bridget Gustafson (Garden and Nutrition Coordinator VISTA), JoAnna Cooper (Executive Director), Alejandro Dager Carrasquilla (Summer VISTA), Mavis Collinsworth (Summer VISTA), Annabelle Parker (Summer VISTA), Shannon Tucker (Community Resources Coordinator VISTA), Nathan Holder (Marketing and Recruitment Coordinator VISTA) and Khalil Corbett (Summer VISTA).

The Ben D. Johnson Educational Center will host a summer feeding program for 100 students starting June 21 for anyone aged 18 and under. Meals will be distributed at the Ben Johnson Auditorium, 400 MLK Drive.

The feeding program will consist of two meals served Monday through Friday. Breakfast is from 9-10 a.m. and lunch is from 1-3 p.m.

The summer feeding program is being coordinated and organized by four Summer VISTA volunteers from AmeriCorps: Mavis Collinsworth, Alejandro Dager Carrasquilla, Khalil Corbett and Annabelle Parker. The center and Legacy Café will host a block party in the 400/500 block of North Street Saturday, June 26 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Guests are asked to park in the Ben Johnson Auditorium lot.

Many youths in Natchitoches qualify for free or reduced lunch at school. During the summer, these students are impacted by increased food insecurities. The BDJ Center and Legacy Care are stepping up to help. With funding from the USDA, support from local residents and donations from friends across the country, the BDJ Center will provide breakfast and lunch for up to 100 students. On Fridays, they will provide extra meals and snacks for the weekend. No application or screening is required for anyone to receive meals. The program will begin Monday, June 21 and will last six weeks.

“We’ve made a commitment to help this community by supporting the residents in any way that we can. We are asking the community to join our efforts to feed the youth. If you want to volunteer, make a donation or simply help spread the word, please call us, no gesture is too small,” said Executive Director JoAnna Cooper.

If interested in supporting the BDJ Center’s Summer Feeding Program, call (318) 460-7460 or email

The Ben D. Johnson Educational Center, (BDJ Center), is a 501(3)c nonprofit organization located in the heart of West Natchitoches. The mission of the BDJ Center is to build community in Natchitoches and give access to social and economic success to all of its residents. The BDJ Center was founded in 2017 by Claire Prymus in honor of her uncle, Ben D. Johnson. Johnson was a Natchitoches businessman and philanthropist who believed the best way to support the community was to support the youth. The BDJ Center’s Legacy Youth Workforce Development Program is a sixteen-week training experience for 17-24-year-olds who are out of work, out of school and have barriers to employment. To support the program and provide resources to the surrounding community, the BDJ Center opened the Legacy Café, Legacy Garden and Legacy Corner Store in the last two years. Learn more at