For many Los Angeles County residents like Renee Contreras, living on $900 a month is not an option.
Despite the hardships Contreras finds herself in to make ends meet, she can’t help herself but to give what little she has to those in need. Contreras, a senior on a fixed income, has welcomed three of her grandchildren into her home and has taken on the role of being a foster parent.
The $900 a month she receives from her retirement benefits, plus $45 from the CalFresh Program is all the income she sees that will help pay for rent, utilities, food, gas, diapers and everything else.
With skyrocketing housing and transportation costs, for many LA County residents, $900 is not enough to cover all essential expenses, let alone provide for children.
That is why Contreras turns to Los Angeles Regional Food Bank Partner Agency Eastmont Community Center for food assistance. Every Friday, after dropping off the kids at school, Contreras drives over to the corner of Hoefner Avenue and Hubbard Street in East Los Angeles to pick up a few bags of food that will help stretch her income.
“This helps me out with the basics; beans, rice, chicken, we even get great meats here, and pampers,” Contreras said. “With the money I’m saving, I can buy [my kids] more stuff.”
Without the help from Eastmont, Contreras doesn’t know whether she would be able to provide for her grandkids and foster kids. She sees the need in her own life, as well as her friends and neighbors, whom she often carpools with to the food distributions.
“I’m a giver myself even though I don’t have much to give, but I give a lot,” she said. “I would encourage everyone to give and to donate because there are a lot of families that are on a fixed income.
“Everybody needs food,” Contreras finalized.
The global pandemic has affected people of all walks of life, whether it be physically, financially, mentally and/or emotionally. Millions of people lost their jobs or saw their household incomes affected, causing many to seek assistance from various sources.
When the pandemic hit, Ana Watkins, a senior, refused to accept the changes surrounding her. She carried on and continued collecting recyclable items in her daily walks around her community that would help bring in a few extra dollars into her household.
It wasn’t until both her adult son and daughter lost their jobs that the pandemic really hit home, and she fell into a deep depression. Watkins was now her household’s breadwinner. But her problems wouldn’t stop there. In December, Watkins, a diabetic, contracted COVID-19, keeping her and her loved ones quarantined and she was unable to continue collecting the recyclable items that brought in slightly more income into the household aside from her monthly retirement benefits.
After recovering, and receiving professional help for her mental health, Watkins began to return to her daily duties but making an extra stop in a place familiar to her: the Eastmont Community Center.
Before the pandemic, Watkins would go to Eastmont for their healthy meals that she describes as delicious, and safe for her diabetes. But now, Watkins would visit her friends at Eastmont not just for their food assistance, but their emotional support that would help boost her spirits in the time she needed most.
“This is of huge help; it’s a great relief,” Watkins said. “It’s like winning the lottery. I live nearby and coming here feels like a family, a very united family.”
Just like Contreras and Watkins, there are thousands of seniors in LA County who are dependent on the LA Regional Food Bank and their Partner Agency Network to help provide the food assistance that can help them pay for other essential items like utilities, medicines and rent. If you are in a position to help, please donate to the Food Bank. Together, #WeFeedLA.