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Voices of the Food Insecure in LA County

Voices of the Food Insecure in LA County

Los Angeles County boasts a vibrant mosaic of communities sprawled over 4,000+ square miles – making it the most populous county in the nation. It is also home to one of the most profound cases of food and nutrition insecurity. LA County has an estimated two million food-insecure individuals, including children, older adults, families and individuals from different backgrounds and experiences. Food and nutrition insecurity is indiscriminate, impacting individuals of various ages, ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds from all educational and employment statuses.

Thankfully, with the support of its community partners, the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank and 600 partner agencies across the County reach about 900,000 people in a month. 

Here are some of the people that your contributions positively impact. 

Foster parent Laura Lacy wishes she could take in as many foster children as possible. However, inflation rates on grocery items, rent and utilities have kept her from growing her household. She attends food distributions at Food Bank partner First New Christian Fellowship to help save money to pay the rent and other items for the three young girls she supports.

The food she receives is welcomed by her budget and her girls, who love to make vegetables fun and indulge in the snacks that are distributed.

With a family of six and two adults working full-time, Marisol has a lot of mouths to feed but not that big of a grocery budget. Fortunately, she visits All Peoples Community Center to seek out essentials. Additionally, Marisol has an infant son, which means diapers and wipes, a premium item at the store. Thanks to the help she receives at All Peoples Community Center, she can stretch her dollars and properly feed her family. 

“You go to the grocery store and get five items, and it comes out to $70 or $50,” Marisol said. “And here, they help me a lot with that.”

After retiree Felipe went through eight surgeries, he is now fortunately cancer-free and naturally more mindful of healthy lifestyle choices, including his diet. He and his wife and caretaker, Clara, attend distributions at Desert Reign Church in Downey in Southeast LA County. Nourishing food is the cornerstone of well-being, supporting physical health, mental clarity and overall vitality for all individuals and families, particularly older food-insecure adults. 

“From vegetables to salads, protein; everything is provided here,” Felipe said. “These people work very hard so that we’re okay. When I say everyone, I mean the entire community. The food we get here helps us a lot because most of our protein comes from here. So when we go to the supermarket, we buy what’s needed. The food quality is great, and we have a healthier life. We don’t have to worry much because we have saved money to pay for rent, electricity, gas, gasoline, car bill and car insurance.”

Eduardo, a retired LA County employee living on a monthly pension, attends the distributions held at Our Saviour Center in San Gabriel. 

Eduardo anticipates the food distributions at Our Saviour Center to help manage his living expenses. He can reallocate his over-stretched budget towards essentials like rent, electricity, and gas by receiving food assistance. He expresses gratitude for the community’s kindness, which allows him to attend these distributions and optimize his resources further.

“I’m here to pick up what’s distributed because it helps me a lot on a daily basis, on everyday meals, and all of that because I can’t afford to pay for self-sufficiency,” says Esparza.

Food assistance can be a lifesaver, especially in unforeseen circumstances that can take a person years to recover. Julia has had her share of unexpected events. After her husband of 52 years passed away, she was robbed of her life savings. A brain injury had her living in and out of nursing homes and hospitals for years, and she was homeless for five long months while in a wheelchair.

Thanks to veterans’ housing programs, Fahrer now has a room to call home but is living penny to penny. Attending a local food pantry in San Gabriel Valley is a lifeline for her, as she needs a grocery budget. Furthermore, Fahrer underwent jaw surgery, so she does not have teeth, forcing her to blend her meals at the food pantry she attends for sustenance.

A mother of three living with a family of six, Alondra counted on her job to help provide for her family. When she was in an accident that temporarily immobilized her, her ability to take care of her family changed. With a smaller budget, Flores and her family turned to Central City Neighborhood Partners (CCNP) for help. Flores was able to visit CCNP every week to pick up meals for her kids and food for her family. But once she had surgery and was bedridden for six months, CCNP continued to help Flores and her family, providing the meals her family needed at a time she needed the help the most to the only persons who could pick up the food at the time – her underage children.

“It’s a place that is close to where I live; so, that’s why I really appreciate the support, because they could come, and they didn’t deny my children food,” Flores said. “They had that support, their bags of food, their breakfasts.”

Like too many, Patricia and her husband had lost their jobs during the pandemic and with three young children to support, they needed to find a way to find their next meal.

Patricia found the help she needed just around the corner also at CCNP. There, she found out about food distributions that would help keep her kids nourished and help alleviate a huge financial strain on her and her husband. “Thanks to those that donate, we have something to eat at home,” Patricia said. “Our children are not starving to death. And thank you to the donors because you are helping not only me but this whole community. So, thank you!”

While rain is usually celebrated in Southern California, for those who depend on outdoor work, it can be detrimental to one’s income and ability to provide. For example, Maria’s husband’s job depends on weather conditions, and if there’s rain in the forecast, there is no work or pay for the day. With their family budget negatively affected, Maria turned to Foothill Unity Center to help stretch out their already-limited budget for their household, including their young son, after being forced to downsize due to the decreased work and pay.

As a veteran, Williams can receive social security checks and retirement. Unfortunately, in LA County, that is not enough to pay for his home and other essentials, which caused him to lose his home. Attending food distributions like the one available at Iglesia El Lirio de los Valles is invaluable. Here, he can get fresh produce that he loves and other items that will help him get by.

“This is a life-saving event for me,” Williams said. “I’m just doing my part to make myself available to whatever you have to offer. Last month, it was such sustenance that I appreciated it, and it carried me through the month.”

Another veteran, Lay, is also a thankful recipient of the nourishment that his community can provide, particularly during the Thanksgiving holiday season. Despite profound challenges, including two surgeries and the completion of chemotherapy, Lay found solace, joy and community through food distributions, which provided turkeys for the big holiday.

“I’m here to support my family and have a good Thanksgiving. The turkey is going to be a blessing on all the tables because they are so expensive at the store. It helps us save. I’m grateful to be here, and it’s been wonderful to have help and support for the city of Long Beach. You all are making a big impact on this city today. Thank you for being out here and doing this; it takes a lot.”

Reynaldo is one of the hundreds of food clients who attend the weekly drive-through lines at the West Valley Food Pantry. Like most single parents, he is trying to improve his and his daughter’s situation by pursuing higher education and college.

Balancing going to school, completing assignments and caring for his school-age daughter doesn’t leave him much time to work, limiting their income and overall budget. Additionally, nutrition is vital to a child’s and college student’s education. Without proper nutrition, students struggle to learn in the classroom, suffer psychological effects and are sometimes held back in their academic careers in and outside of school.

By attending weekly food distributions like the one at West Valley Food Pantry, Reynaldo, his daughter, and hundreds of other San Fernando Valley families can put food on the table and have one less thing to worry about so they can focus on their studies.

Another single parent juggling school and making ends meet, Ilda, shares the difference of being able to attend food distributions.

“It takes a lot of weight off of my shoulders for a change,” said Ilda, a single mother studying to become a nurse. “Sometimes, I have to make sacrifices here and there to be able to provide for my family.”

Ilda said taking away the stress of knowing where the next meal will come from is a big reprieve. She explained that she’d have to start selling her belongings to pay for food without this assistance.

These are just a few of the voices of those who directly benefit from your generosity of time, money and resources. The LA Regional Food Bank can only continue our essential work with the support of the community. Please consider getting involved by subscribing to the Food Bank’s newsletter to stay informed. Together, #WeFeedLA.

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