LA food banks could face critical shortages

A spike in the newly unemployed is expected to put additional strain on the food banks.

Food bank

LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Food banks in Los Angeles and Orange County are currently standing their ground amid the growing coronavirus crisis, but if demand remains high in the next week or two, supplies are expected to dwindle, the heads of two of the Southland’s largest operations said today.

The number of volunteers working at the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank and Orange County Food Bank have taken a hit, too, dropping dramatically in the days after the first social distancing guidelines were issued — at the same time the charities’ warehouses filled up with food originally slated for delivery to suddenly shuttered hotels and restaurants.

“We went into the situation with a pretty strong food inventory, but if demand is high in the next few weeks, it could become an issue,” said Michael Flood, the Los Angeles food bank’s chief executive.

The food bank’s coffers are momentarily strong, helped by a daylong telethon hosted last week by the Los Angeles Rams and ABC7, which raised more than $2.2 million to assist Southern California response efforts during the COVID-19 global health crisis.

Organizers said all contributions will benefit the United Way of Greater Los Angeles’s Pandemic Relief Fund in direct support of community partners, including the L.A. Regional Food Bank.

Mark Lowry, director of the O.C. Food Bank, said the Garden Grove- based charity is also managing with fewer volunteer workers, but has received “a flood of beautiful produce” from wholesalers in the last few days. At the same time, supplies are running low on donated non-perishable foods, such as canned goods and dried fruit, which have a long shelf life and don’t require refrigeration.

“There’s a critical shortage — that means, no rice, no beans, no pasta — and no milk, eggs or butter,” Lowry said. “We’re asking for donations of staples.”

He also pointed out that food drives and fundraising appeals, which normally provide money to purchase such items, are on hold since churches and other places where charitable groups gather are closed. Among other efforts, the food banks pack and often deliver food boxes for seniors who might otherwise miss nutritional meals.

To make matters worse, a spike in the newly unemployed is expected to put additional strain on the food banks, causing fears that higher demand will outpace supply as more people ask for help. In the past month, the Los Angeles food bank has seen food distribution increase by 20%, Flood said.

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