Unfortunately, food insecurity has risen dramatically since the COVID-19 outbreak. At one point, the unemployment rate in LA County passed 20% as entire industries were put on hold to limit the spread of the virus. Restaurants, hotels, theme parks and other aspects of the tourism industry have suffered greatly, as has the entertainment industry and many other areas of employment common in Los Angeles. It is estimated that 1 in 4 people living in LA County has struggled with food insecurity as a result. The LA Regional Food Bank expects the economic impact to outlive the pandemic, and there will be many people who need our help for the foreseeable future. The situation in Los Angeles caught the attention of national and international media, resulting in thousands of news stories. Here are just a few stories from 2020 that you may have missed.
— LA Regional Food Bank (@LAFoodBank) December 23, 2020
Just before Christmas in 2020, MSNBC’s Gadi Schwartz visited one of the Food Bank’s drive-thru distributions, this one at the Santa Monica Airport. The story begins with Gadi on-site with at least six semi-trucks behind him. He describes the line of cars that started lining up at 6:30 am, two and a half hours before the distribution opened. Eventually, he meets up with a family who was in line to collect food for their Christmas dinner. The driver once worked in the restaurant industry, but has been unemployed since March and has been gathering items to recycle for money. Gadi becomes choked up when he looks behind him and realizes this is one story of a full parking lot full of cars – people who are picking up their meals, potentially for their holiday celebrations, at this drive-thru distribution.
In December of 2020, President and CEO of the LA Regional Food Bank, Michael Flood, was invited to appear on the CNN show “OutFront” with Erin Burnett to discuss the dramatic increase in distributed food. At this time, the Food Bank was tracking 145% ahead when compared to the pre-pandemic period. As of February 16, 2021, the Food Bank’s distribution numbers are still tracking 145% ahead of the pre-pandemic period. This story also includes some interviews with food recipients.
In October of 2020, CNN’s Kyung Lah met Rose, a single mother of three who was furloughed from her job at LAX Airport. As this powerful, heartbreaking story shows, this pandemic causes real pain in our community, especially among working-class families. Rose once lived check to check, like most workers in America, but now lives “box to box.”
Rose has applied for 50 jobs since her furlough. Thirty interviews later and no new job, her unemployment benefits stalled along with 1 million others within the California system. Rose relies on a weekly box of donated food from the Salvation Army, one of the LA Regional Food Bank’s 700+ Partner Agencies.
In September, Michael Flood met MSNBC’s Steve Patterson at a drive-thru distribution at Athens Park in Los Angeles. At the time, the unemployment rate was 17.5%. In this video, Michael also describes how the drive-thru distributions help supplement our Partner Agency Network’s activity, where there are many opportunities for walk-up food assistance. The Food Bank has added roughly 100 Partner Agencies since the start of the pandemic, and as of February 16, 2021, there are roughly 700 Agency Partners.
In May of 2020, Programs Director Hilda Ayala appeared in an LA Times Today story on Spectrum News 1. Between the start of the pandemic and the time this story aired, the Food Bank had delivered 18.5 million pounds of food and grocery products. By February 16, 2021, the number increased to 168 million pounds – the equivalent of 137 million meals – since the crisis started in March of 2020. Roughly 5.7 million individuals have been served in total.
The distribution featured in this story took place at IATSE headquarters in Los Angeles. Many people from the entertainment industry received much-needed food as they faced reduced hours or layoffs, many of whom were seeking assistance for the first time.
In early May of 2020, CNN’s Kyung Lah visited a drive-thru food distribution at Citrus College in Glendora, CA. At this distribution, food recipients were interviewed who had income that more than provided for themselves and their families, but amid the pandemic, they were now struggling to make ends meet.
As of February 2021, the LA Regional Food Bank has provided almost 2 million emergency food kits since the start of the pandemic in 2020, and these kits are delivered throughout all of LA County. High, middle and low-income areas are all home to people who are hurting right now as the economy continues to feel the impact of the virus.
These are just a few stories from more than a thousand news and radio clips. The Food Bank is grateful for the people in the news media who have helped to tell the story of the Food Bank.