A Look Back at Westside Food Bank’s History of Innovation, Community Leadership and Efficiency, a three part series.
Part One: History
Westside Food Bank was founded in 1981when the local need for food assistance was on the rise. At that time a number of Westside social service agencies had been working separately to try to meet the rising need. They soon found that space and financial constraints were hindering their ability to accept large scale donations of food and make economically efficient food purchases. A group of community leaders asked the Westside Interfaith Council to provide a 501(c)(3) umbrella for the fledgling agency. Then they gathered volunteers, rented a warehouse space, and acquired an old dog catcher’s truck from the City of Santa Monica for $1, and the Westside Food Bank was born. By 1983 WSFB had become an independent 501(c)(3), unaffiliated with any religious organization. In its first year of operation WSFB distributed 100,000 pounds of food to 8 agencies, serving 2,000 people.
In 1997 Westside Food Bank added a prepared and perishable food program. Extra Helpings Westside (EHW) is our volunteer-run, food recovery and distribution program which allows us to more effectively fight hunger by minimizing food waste. EHW coordinates volunteers and member agency staff to pick up prepared and perishable food donations from markets, delicatessens, bakeries, restaurants, caterers and other food retailers. Food that might otherwise go to waste, bypasses our warehouse and is delivered directly to an agency where it can be distributed or served right away.
Now WSFB distributes over 4.5 million pounds of food each year to the food assistance programs of more than 65 social service agencies in Western Los Angeles County. Our food reaches over 105,000 local people, nearly half of whom are children. Bruce Rankin has served as WSFB’s Executive Director since 1989.
Next week we will explore WSFB’s role in creating a strong social service network locally, throughout the state of California, and beyond.