Food insecurity: If you need help or want to help others, we've got resources

Bonnie McCarthy
·3 min read
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 08: Ralph Sutton, left, food box outreach coordinator at the Los Angeles Mission in the Skid Row area of downtown Los Angeles gives boxes of food to Brent Kostanski, 41, who is homeless and is originally from Massachusetts as staff and volunteers assemble 150 bags of food and hygiene products that will be distributed to homeless people on Wednesday mornings. The staff is working to maintain safety with masks and social distancing as they serve those in need. Skid Row on Wednesday, April 8, 2020 in Los Angeles, CA. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Ralph Sutton, an outreach coordinator for the Los Angeles Mission in skid row, hands Brent Kostanski a box of food. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Food insecurity has always been an issue in Southern California, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for assistance is greater than ever. The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank reports that distribution is up by 145% since March and that 115 million pounds of food, the equivalent of 95 million meals, have been provided.

In more than 30 years of working in the food banking and pantry business, Michael Flood, chief executive of the Regional Food Bank, said he has never seen anything like it. “Not even close,” he said. “I know it’s used over and over again, but [the need] is truly unprecedented.”

The approaching holidays compound the crisis. “We are also moving into a time when people are used to doing something special in terms of getting together and having whatever their food traditions are,” said Flood, “so we have truckloads of turkeys purchased, full tractor trailer loads. The volume here is significant. Will it be enough? No. There’s more need than that, but will it help? Yeah, it will definitely help.”

Food banks are typically 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations that warehouse, organize and transport food to local pantries and programs, that will, in turn, distribute the groceries.

Want to help others? Go online to the food bank in your area to see what’s needed:

If you or someone you know is in need of assistance, there are a variety of ways to get help:

CalFresh

If you qualify for CalFresh, California’s food stamp program (SNAP), you may be eligible to receive up to $204 a month per household member. Go to GetCalFresh.org or call the Los Angeles County Health and Nutrition hotline, (877) 597-4777.

Dial 211

Dialing 211 will put you in touch with a 211.org operator in your area who will help you find and access food pantries, meal delivery services and public benefits.

World Harvest Food Bank

For $40 (cash, credit or EBT) or four hours of volunteer service, shoppers can fill up a grocery cart (estimated at more than $200 in value) with the food of their choice.

3100 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 746-2227; worldharvestla.org

Women, Infants & Children (WIC) Program

WIC provides monthly benefits to qualifying women and young families for purchasing supplies at the grocery store. For details, phfewic.org.

Seniors/older adults

For meals in Los Angeles County and the city of Los Angeles, call (800) 510-2020.

Food pantry locator

To find your nearest food distribution center or mobile drive-through event, go to LAFoodBank.org, click on the Find Food tab and input your area code for a list of resources, or call (323) 234-3030 for assistance.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.