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How One Los Angeles Food Pantry Is Serving up Nutrition and Humility

How One Los Angeles Food Pantry Is Serving up Nutrition and Humility

Carol Burton, My Friends House, Inc. volunteer and member of Ascension Lutheran Church, shares her experience about serving her community

My Friends House, Inc. is a non-profit committed to uplifting those in need by providing the best services possible with love and compassion and seeking to strengthen the social safety net while maintaining human dignity. The volunteer-run team hosts a weekly food distribution, which has been the organization’s core program for two decades.

One of the volunteers includes Carol Burton. Carol has been a volunteer with the food pantry since 2020 when the pandemic started. “As the pandemic progressed, our distribution also increased to help families in need have food assistance,” Carol shares. 

She usually works as a Tuesday volunteer preparing for the food distributions on Wednesdays. Her role includes unpacking all the food that their organization receives from the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank and other vendors that support their distribution, re-packing them for distribution on Wednesdays to meet the quota of expected clients at distributions.

Food Security Misconceptions

“A lot of people assume it is people who are very poor or maybe receiving financial assistance and what I found and see is that it is a very broad spectrum of people seeking food assistance,” Carol explains. “We have seniors who rely on the distributions we hold. They may not be food insecure, but they need assistance in getting the nutritional things we provide such, as fresh produce, which has been a big help. I think what’s misunderstood is the broad spectrum of people that actually receive food from food distribution programs – it’s not just the very poor. It’s everybody. Everybody can find themselves at a point of need and when there’s a program like this, it really helps clients manage their food needs without stressing themselves financially.”

“When I was treasurer of the program and I was working in the office close to a charter school associated with the church, there were students who had a need. We were able to coordinate with the food distribution program and provide them with some food assistance during that time. It’s not just adults – it’s children reaching out trying to get food for their families and for the program to help meet their needs. The principal came to us who said some students expressed a need and asked if we could help them out and we were able to do that. That was heartening for me because it was indirectly related, and they may not have been students in this specific community, but they were students who came here for their educational needs.”

Giving is a Gift

“The most important thing about volunteers is that no one comes expecting to be acknowledged for what they do,” Carol says. “All the volunteers come because there is a need and there is something that needs to be done.” 

“The most impressive thing to me is how we work together and how we cooperate trying to get all the tasks done. There’s nothing that’s beneath us to do. We do any and everything that is asked of us and we do it willingly. We do it because we know that in order for this to happen, we’ve got to work together without any egos. We do it with joy.” 

Related Story: Volunteer Mary Connor’s Decade-Long Service to the Food Bank

Omicron’s Impact on Volunteerism

According to the LA Times, food banks all over the country are experiencing volunteer shortages due to the Omicron variant. The Food Bank has also experienced a shortage of volunteers. We are grateful for Carol and the hardworking volunteers committed to helping us and our partner agencies continue to be a lifeline, especially during a time of need. 

To help raise awareness around volunteerism and food insecurity, Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff recently visited Food Bank Partner Agency Jewish Family Service SOVA Community Food and Resource Program to help volunteers organize food products for clients in partnership with LA Works and AmeriCorps.

 

The engagement and participation from our community allow the Food Bank and our partner agencies to continue our pandemic relief efforts as many families in our community continue to recover from the pandemic and its related economic hardships. Together, #WeFeedLA.

Join the fight against hunger!

“The need is always out there,” says Carol. “For people who consider whether or not they should donate, that’s a no-brainer. These programs need as much financial support as possible and the support of volunteers to carry out their mission. If you think about yourself and you put yourself in someone else’s shoes for a little while and think about what would you like to have available to you so that you’re not struggling or that you still feel human in being able to fulfill your family’s needs. I think programs like this serve the community with humility, grace and thanksgiving because I think it is something that we are thankful to be able to be here for the community.” And Carol, we are grateful for your partnership in the fight against hunger. Join us in the fight against hunger, whether it’s donating your time or financially supporting our mission.

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