‘We Will Leave No One Behind’: LA Food Banks See Surge In Help

The Knights of Columbus, an organization of volunteers, is stepping up to fight the problem by supporting food banks in Los Angeles through a $100,000 donation, a fundraising campaign and increased volunteerism from Los Angeles chapter members and the general public.

They partnered with the St. Francis Center in Los Angeles, The St. Joseph Center in Venice, Proyecto Pastoral at Dolores Mission Catholic Church in Boyle Heights, East San Gabriel Valley Coalition for the Homeless in Hacienda Heights and St. Madeleine Catholic Church in Pomona.

It’s part of the Knights of Columbus’ first phase of the “Leave No Neighbor Behind” campaign, which mobilizes its 1.25 million members and provides a total of $1 million to at-risk communities across the U.S. The Knights launched an additional multimillion-dollar effort worldwide and nationwide in April. That donation amount is expected to increase as needs progress in the pandemic.

Patch reached out to Knights of Columbus Rep: Stephen Bolton, State Secretary, California State Council and St. Joseph Rep: Va Lecia Adams Kellum, President & CEO for what people should know about why food banks are vital for the LA community during the pandemic. Here are the questions and responses.

Q: What’s the most urgent reason people should keep food banks in mind right now?

A: St. Joseph: We are only beginning to glimpse the repercussions of this pandemic, particularly its consequences for the most vulnerable people in our communities, those already suffering the impact of chronic economic disadvantage, and the folks who don’t have a cushion to protect themselves against the financial shock of this crisis.

People faced with economic devastation, job and wage loss, and long-term unemployment are dealing with not having enough to feed themselves or their families. Food insecurity and the shortage will only worsen as time goes on, and food banks are the first line of defense for many people who otherwise won’t have access to a need as basic as food. As income lines fall, so does nutrition. Food banks are a reliable source of high-quality food, produce, and protein, vital to maintaining overall health and wellbeing.

The food banks in our communities are lifelines for a great many people who would otherwise have nowhere to go for food and sustenance.

A: Knights of Columbus: Now more than ever, as community members are facing unemployment and limited access to resources, food banks are in high demand for increased donations and volunteers. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused greater competition for food supplies at grocery stores, diminishing a vital reservoir that food pantries and shelters have traditionally relied upon.

The Knights understand that food banks are an essential resource in these communities. Through the Leave No Neighbor Behind campaign, the Knights have donated $1 Million to food banks across the country and $100,000 to food banks in Los Angeles. Additionally, members are encouraged to increase volunteerism at their local food banks.

Q: Are the food donations top priority for food banks right now, and if so, what items can people provide?

A: St. Joseph: Yes, absolutely. Donations help buffer interruptions or shortages in the supply chain. Certain items are harder to stock as demand increases, and essentials become costlier and harder to find.

If the community would like to help, they can donate basics like dry goods – rice, beans, powdered milk, canned goods, tomato sauce, tinned vegetables, tinned protein (tuna, chicken). All non-perishables are welcome. They are easy to store and always necessary.

We also need proteins such as cheese, eggs, meat, chicken. Frozen food is easier for us to manage. And all produce such as fruits and vegetables are also great donations. Other items are also very important — and particularly costly for people who are facing financial challenges. These include diapers, baby formula, pet food, and feminine hygiene produces.

Because we have had to adapt our services to meet the social distancing guidelines, the food pantry is pre-packaging groceries for take-out. This means we need a steady supply of sturdy plastic grocery bags for grocery pickup. And to keep everyone safe, we always are grateful for donations of pocket-sized hand sanitizers and face masks.

RELATED: Venice Family Clinic Expanding Free Food Service During Pandemic

A: Knights of Columbus: In terms of how the food donations work, we are organizing the Knights to be able to pick up food from their local parishes or buy extra canned goods at the grocery store and then deliver those to food pantries and organizations that are most in need.

Q: What else should readers know about this important community effort?

St. Joseph: Like we saw in 2008 economic downturn, one of the first places people turn is a food pantry. We are seeing this now. Our food pantry is an immediate and responsive way to help. When times are challenging, food pantries make a significant impact by helping people save money on food that they can then use toward rent or keeping the lights on. Food pantries like ours at St. Joseph Center, really help ensure that children, families, and seniors continue to eat and stay healthy and we are so proud to partner with the Knights of Columbus to provide to this vital resource in this time of need.

It’s a sobering fact that more than 2 million people in Los Angeles are considered ‘food insecure’, meaning they don’t have enough money or resources to feed themselves or their families. These alarming statistics existed before the COVID-19 pandemic, which has only increased the need. For instance, at St. Joseph Center, we are seeing a 75% increase in people coming to our Food Pantry for help. Food banks create security where it is lacking by providing a stable and reliable source of quality food for seniors, individuals, and families, and that is especially important as we grapple with the effects of this public health crisis.

It’s important for people to know that everything helps. No donation or offering is too small. It will have an impact, and all support is very much wanted and needed.

A: Knights of Columbus: This will be an ongoing effort that we will continue throughout the rest of the year, and as long as the COVID-19 crisis and economic downturn of the United States continues.

Additionally, the Knights are continuing long-time work around blood donations. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, thousands of blood drives have been canceled, resulting in a shortage of over 100,000 units of blood. In response to current shortages, our members and their families, who are not affected by underlying conditions, are being encouraged to donate blood.

Q: Do food banks help fill the gap for a lot of people in our community? And if so, explain why.

A: St. Joseph: Very much so, especially right now. With so many people dealing with income, wage, and employment loss, money is just scarce. Food banks ensure that no matter a person or family’s economic situation, there will be food available and accessible for those who need it. Food banks make sure that no one goes hungry.

A: Knights of Columbus: Food Banks do fill the gap in our community, as it is one of the first places people turn to when hunger becomes a growing concern. As many families have already stocked their pantries in preparation for shelter in place orders, others are relying on food banks in order to keep food on the table, which is why the Knights of Columbus is committed to keeping families fed through the continuation of this important effort.

We will leave no one behind.

Q: Where can they provide donations? Can people also donate money?

A: St. Joseph: To schedule drop-offs, or to find out other ways to help, please email our Volunteer Manager, Shelly Aydin [email protected]; Yes – https://stjosephctr.org/donate…

A: Knights of Columbus: Those wishing to support the Knights efforts can make a monetary donation to K of C Charities at www.kofc.org or by mail to Leave No Neighbor Behind, Knights of Columbus Charities, P.O. Box 1966, New Haven, CT 06509-1966.

The Knights of Columbus also provides resources and ways for those interested in volunteering in their communities. Learn how to get involved with a local parish, a Knights of Columbus chapter or community food bank at kofc.org.

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