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As the pandemic stretches into another week, many local food assistance programs are busy bustling to and from donation sites, warehouses and even residents’ homes in an effort to provide locals with life’s essentials like food, water and clothing.

When safer-at-home orders were first introduced, Westside Food Bank Executive Director Bruce Raskin detailed the effect the changes had on the local food bank and the thousands of people it serves.

“So much has changed since then and it’s only been a little while,” Chief Development Officer Genevieve Riutort said Tuesday. “But what hasn’t changed is our commitment to making sure that our neighbors in need have enough nutritious food to sustain themselves and their families through challenging times. Because we know Westside Food Bank provides an essential service, and we are stepping up to meet the extraordinary rise in need as a result of the COVID-19 emergency.”

Riutort said staff at the food bank has increased the quantity of food it’s buying so the local food bank can continue to provide assistance to the community members it already serves as well as the thousands of others who now find themselves in need as a result of Covid-19.

In the last two weeks, thanks to a partnership with the City of Santa Monica and Virginia Avenue Park, a pop-up food pantry at Virginia Avenue Park has handed out 7,770 pounds of food to about 400 households, according to Riutort, who added: “There’s been a couple of food pantries in Santa Monica that were serving who just were not able to stay open. But in the face of the increased demand, the city has really stepped up to meet that need, and it’s been extremely helpful.”

And for those who want to help, Riutort said, “it’s kind of an unusual call to action but I would say that we really need more sources for obtaining large-scale food purchases and donations, because we’re really having a tougher time than usual sourcing our food.”

Locals can of course still donate to the COVID-19 Response Fund, but demand for food has skyrocketed for vendors and consumers alike so competition in the marketplace is fierce once you consider the fact that supermarkets and grocers are now looking to purchase more as well, Riutort added. “So, if there’s anyone reading the article who says, ‘Oh, I have a connection to someone that’s got six pallets of hotdogs,’ or something like that — we are very interested.”

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