CULVER CITY, CA — Venice Family Clinic, the nonprofit community health center that has distributed free food during the coronavirus pandemic, is expanding food distribution operations at its Culver City site starting Thursday.
The clinic has been providing "free, healthy food" to about 200 pregnant, pediatric and diabetic patients for several months at Colen Health Centers, 4700 Inglewood Blvd., #102. That number is being upped to 1,500 people, with distributions from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month.
"Food is medicine, and that is why Venice Family Clinic committed itself to providing fresh and healthy food to our patients—and with the COVID-19 outbreak, to the broader community," said Rigoberto A. Garcia II, the clinic's director of health education.
"The pandemic has greatly increased the need for food for people who have lost their jobs or seen their income reduced because they're working fewer hours," he said. "We expect the needs will grow as this health crisis continues, and we are pleased we can be there to help our patients and the community."
Venice Family Clinic already serves about 1,500 people a week at its Simms/Mann Health and Wellness Center at 2509 Pico Blvd. in Santa Monica, where food is distributed from 10 a.m. to noon on Tuesdays.
The clinic actually began distributing food to patients at its Santa Monica location in November. When the COVID-19 outbreak hit in March, the number of people seeking food began to grow, so the Santa Monica distributions were expanded from biweekly to weekly in May.
The food comes from Food Forward, which rescues more than 500,000 pounds of surplus produce each week from fruit trees, farmers' markets and the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Markets and donates it to Venice Family Clinic and other hunger-relief agencies.
"We thank Food Forward and our generous donors and sponsors for making it possible for us to provide healthy food to our patients and our community," Garcia said. "With their support, Venice Family Clinic has distributed nearly 170,000 pounds of food since the pandemic began."
Anthem Blue Cross Medi-Cal has provided funding and support for healthy food for the clinic's patients. Other sponsors include the Albertsons Companies Foundation, The Kroger Co. Foundation & Ralphs, Health Net, the Audrey and Sidney Irmas Foundation for Social Justice and the Simms/Mann Family Foundation.
Venice Family Clinic, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, provides care to nearly 28,000 men, women and children annually through sites in Venice, Santa Monica, Mar Vista, Inglewood and Culver City.
People are reaching out for help at a new level following major shifts and changes due to the coronavirus pandemic, health experts at Venice Family Clinic told Patch in July.
No matter who you are, there is help at Venice Family Clinic, said Mimi Lind, Director of Behavioral Health Services at Venice Family Clinic, a nonprofit community health center.
"Venice is such a special community – it's a great mix of cultures, people from all walks of life and activism," Lind told Patch. "Venice Family Clinic has been honored to have supported the health and mental health of its residents for the last 50 years. We serve nearly 28,000 men, women and children, regardless of their ability to pay or their immigration status."
Most people are feeling a major change and challenges, Lind said.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the lives of almost everyone in Venice, which significantly increases emotional stress," Lind told Patch. "Many people have lost their jobs or seen substantial declines in their incomes as a result of furloughs and other cutbacks in employment. Many of the people who have continued working are in health care and other essential jobs where they are more likely to be at risk of infection, creating substantial anxiety for them and their families."
- City News Service and Patch Editor Nicole Charky contributed to this report.
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