About 37 years ago, several organizations, ranging from religious to social clubs, came together for the greater good and formed the West Valley Food Pantry in Woodland Hills. Soon after that, the pantry became part of the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank and its partner agency network and continues to be one of the 600+ partner agencies that serve those in need of food assistance throughout LA County.
The West Valley Food Pantry works diligently to fulfill its motto, “no one goes away hungry.” While the pantry primarily serves three different communities – the unhoused population, seniors, and families – no one is turned away, according to Executive Director, Debbie Decker.
Woodland Hills may be known to be more affluent than some areas of LA County, but the current inflation rates have caused all types of individuals to seek food assistance in order to be able to provide for their families.
“In this time with inflation and Covid still ranging, [the working families] community is really the largest,” Decker said. “The majority of our clients live in the area, but there is a small percentage that work in the area and they’ll stop off before work, during lunch, or after work to grab their groceries.”
Reynaldo Pedrozo is one of the hundreds of clients that go through the weekly drive-through lines at the West Valley Food Pantry. Like the majority of single parents, he is trying to better his and his daughter’s situation by going to college.
However, going to school, completing assignments, and caring for his school-age daughter doesn’t leave him much time to work, limiting their income and overall budget. Furthermore, nutrition plays a vital role in a child’s and college students’ education. Without proper nutrition, students struggle to learn in the classroom, suffer psychological effects, and are sometimes held back in their academic careers.
By attending weekly food distributions like the one at West Valley Food Pantry, Pedrozo, his daughter, and hundreds of other San Fernando Valley families can put food on the table and strive for a better tomorrow.
The West Valley Food Pantry has proven to have helped thousands of individuals and families since its inception, but it’s been in the most recent years that they’ve seen the need grow in the community.
When the pandemic initially broke out in 2020, the West Valley Food Pantry saw its number of clients increase, including individuals who were seeking help for the first time.
“There was a mother who came here with her two children, she and her husband had just lost their jobs, and she said, ‘I only have $5, can you help me?’ We gave her groceries and granola bars to her kids as she wept,” Decker recalls. “I couldn’t do anything about her financial situation, but I could help feed her kids.”
When the Stay-at-Home order came into effect for seniors, many were left without food, and living in solitude, unable to obtain sustenance. That was until the Food Bank and its partner agencies stepped in.
The West Valley Food Pantry was one of the Food Bank’s partner agencies that signed up to participate in home deliveries of groceries to seniors. Initially, Decker and her team were hesitant due to staffing, but thanks to a donated refrigerated van from the Food Bank, they knew they could get the job done.
What started off as initially serving 100 seniors, the Food Pantry now serves around 600 seniors in the area. As the team at the West Valley Food Pantry delivered these groceries, the staff and volunteers grew to get to know the seniors they were serving, forming friendships and bonds that they still carry on today.
“If our neighbors are doing well, we do well,” Decker finalized.