Rachel, 28, phlebotomist at a local Los Angeles doctor’s office and Food Bank volunteer shares her story.
Home to 10.04 million people and made up of 88 cities, Los Angeles County is the most populous city in the United States. Its population is greater than that of 41 individual U.S. states. It is also home to 2 million children, seniors, families and individuals who are food-insecure. With the ongoing pandemic and its economic toll disproportionately impacting those that are already struggling, that number and demand for food assistance continue to climb.
As of November 2020, food distribution at the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank has increased by 145% compared to the pre-pandemic period. 130 million pounds of food including 1.6 million emergency food kits full of fresh produce, shelf-stable products, and frozen protein kits have been distributed to families and individuals in need through our partner agency network of over 700 organizations throughout Los Angeles County.
While the Food Bank has seen historic numbers for food assistance, the Food Bank has been able to expand reach and work thanks to the generous support of our donors, partner agencies and volunteers.
One of those food bank volunteers includes Los Angeles-native, Rachel Lewis. Rachel, 28, is a phlebotomist at a local Los Angeles doctor’s office and volunteers in her spare time. Rachel grew up in Culver City before moving to San Francisco where she pursued school and recently moved back to the area after being away for 10 years.
Not new to volunteering, she was urged to sign up for a shift at the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank after remembering fondly volunteering at the San Francisco Food Bank.
“One of my first bosses asked, ‘What would a world be like if everyone did just a little bit more than what they should or are expected to do?’ and that [still] resonates with me,” Rachel said.
“I never forgot [what he said] and in college, I joined a community service organization and did a bunch of service projects all over the Bay Area and they reinforced that idea to do a little bit more, to volunteer a little bit of your time here and there which can help so many people. I’ve incorporated it into my life and volunteering has become my hobby, my fun thing to do. My boyfriend is a fisherman and my thing is: I volunteer.”
Newly back to the Los Angeles area, Rachel thought it was the perfect opportunity to volunteer where she could meet people her age, and network with other like-minded people while getting to walk directly in the life of service she is committed to.
“When I was really young, my mom, stepdad and sister and I grew up really poor. People would give us food and groceries. And I have someone in my family who is home-insecure currently by choice and it’s nice knowing that there are organizations out there looking out for them because it’s hard for families to look out for people who choose to do that. While I can’t really help them personally, I can help others in their situation. That’s why I do it: I don’t have a lot of money but I have a lot of time – it’s worth something.”
“I learned it goes so far to be kind and helpful to others – I have always been dedicated to a life of service because I know how it feels.”
One recent Saturday morning, Rachel joined other Food Bank volunteers at our Commerce location to glean pears. They were given instructions to inspect and package about 15 pears in a bag and then 5 bags in a box and at the end of the shift, Rachel and the other volunteers gleaned a total of 7,000 pounds of pears. These pears become part of emergency food kits distributed through our agency partner network and direct drive-through and mobile distributions throughout Los Angeles County.
“I had no idea honestly – I knew it was bad but I didn’t know what the numbers were like. Before COVID-19, the Food Bank was serving 300,000 and because of COVID-19, food insecurity almost tripled to 900,000. It’s nice to know that there are organizations like the Food Bank to make sure food is distributed to those people that need it.
I can toss around a few pears for a few hours if that means it will help almost one million people. And I think there was no way one person could sort through all those pears – they need people. It was cool to see and to understand what my little task was doing for so many people.”
“With everything going on with Covid-19 and everything that avalanched from there, I’m hopeful more people will be more mindful and considerate of others. Whether that’s giving their time or being kind to one another, not being easily frustrated and more understanding.”
Being a non-profit organization, the Food Bank solely relies on the kindness of people like Rachel, all of our Food Bank volunteers, our network agency partners, donors and the generous support of our community. We are grateful for Rachel and all those that give help. Together, #WeFeedLA.