Within the 9.6 square miles of the City of Irwindale, more than 1,400 residents can only count on one food pantry in the area, and that’s Los Angeles Regional Food Bank partner agency, Shepherd’s Pantry.
For over 15 years, Cory’s Kitchen and Shepherd’s Pantry worked together to serve the Foothill communities, until both merged in 2019 to become a greater force for their community. Their Irwindale location is one of three sites, and serves as the warehouse and distribution center, in total, seeing about 400-500 families at their weekly distributions.
Whether they are housed or unhoused, Shepherd’s Pantry’s mission is to provide assistance to whoever needs it. With a growing need, staff and volunteers at this pantry greet returning and new recipients with the dignity and respect they deserve, hearing their stories and learning about their situation and their needs.
Executive Director Jhoana Hirasuna has been with Shepherd’s Pantry since November 2021, and in her short time, has heard her share of stories from returning and new food recipients. Although she sees the number of individuals seeking food assistance rise, it was a phone call that she received that made her realize the growing need.
Hirasuna recalls that the woman was calling seeking information on how the pantry worked, sounding hesitant to ask for help. The woman said she was employed and had worked her whole life, but due to the rising costs of everyday essentials, and after depleting her savings, she did not know whether she would make it to the end of the week.
Alfred Palafox is a Site Manager at the Shepherd’s Pantry Irwindale location. After he gets off from work, he goes straight to Shepherd’s Pantry to do what every volunteer and staff member does at this food pantry love to do – serve their neighbor in need.
Palafox has heard his share of stories, but there’s one that comes to mind and keeps him motivated. He had the opportunity to meet a U.S Veteran, who despite being retired, continues to serve. Although this veteran struggles to make ends meet, and has several health conditions, he continues to attend the distributions to pick up food for himself and his ailing mother. To Palafox, this veteran continues to serve in one way or another.
Shepherd’s Pantry is signed up for the Extra Helpings Program, a program designed to route perishable and other donated food from grocery stores and other local sources directly to Food Bank partner agencies.
In 2021, the Extra Helpings Program connected 165 partner agencies to roughly 500 local food donors, resulting in 22.5 million pounds of food being rescued and distributed to individuals in need.
While many believe that attending a food pantry will only bring canned goods, there are much more items other than canned goods that come as part of attending a Food Bank partner agency. Many of the items donated are welcomed by clients that are housed, but the majority of the items received come in handy to the unhoused clients as many of these do not need heating or refrigeration, don’t need a can opener, and are ready to eat.
In addition to these ready-to-eat items, unhoused individuals also have the opportunity to claim a hygiene kit, and at Shepherd’s Pantry, receive a new set of clothes.
Shepherd’s Pantry estimates that about 10% of its clientele is unhoused due to its location next to the Santa Fe Dam.
As inflation continues to impact our daily lives, low to middle-income families are struggling to make ends meet. If you are in a position to do so, donate today.