Our world and our communities have experienced incredible hardship, strength, and perseverance in just the past few months. At Westside Food Bank, we have witnessed the tragedy of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the compassion it has inspired. Now more than ever, we stand committed to helping ensure that no person in Western LA County goes hungry.

Our food goes to the most vulnerable members of our community: children, seniors, veterans, college students, disabled individuals, domestic violence survivors, people experiencing homelessness, and low-income people, among many others. They now face even more challenges to obtain enough nutritious food as a result of this unprecedented societal shutdown. Our food is also reaching people who have never needed to visit a food pantry before, such as those facing job cuts, homebound seniors, and people with existing health complications. Feeding America reports that the national food insecure population could reach up to 54 million—a 16.8 million increase from 2018—which would surpass numbers from the Great Recession. The face of hunger is changing, and a food bank’s work is even more essential now to help our neighbors stay healthy.

To address this extraordinary surge in need, Westside Food Bank has increased food purchases to distribute almost twice as much food as normal. Truckload deliveries of many items previously lasted up to eight weeks; now food is leaving our warehouse much more quickly and sometimes on the same day it comes in. Our agencies continue to request even more food for the many more people that are seeking food assistance. Our staff is working hard to accommodate the unique needs of our more than 55 member agencies throughout this crisis so they can stay in operation and provide for their clients. For instance, we helped the Culver City School District convert their farmers’ market style pantry for parents to a safer grocery pickup model. Similar adaptations are happening at other school food pantry programs including at Santa Monica College and UCLA.

In addition to supporting our existing member agencies, we also formed new partnerships to bring food to those who need it most. We coordinated with the City of Santa Monica to open a pop-up food pantry at Virginia Avenue Park to expand and replace the service of two food pantries that had to close as a result of COVID-19. Since its opening, the pantry has provided over 500 households with more than 40,000 pounds of emergency food. We are also working with Meals on Wheels West to provide boxes of groceries that volunteers deliver to homebound seniors along with their prepared meals. We will continue to explore opportunities for collaboration to ensure that local individuals and families have regular access to enough nutritious food.

We are deeply grateful for the outpouring of support from our community. From sending words of encouragement to organizing creative fundraisers, to making additional financial contributions, we are heartened by your kindness and generosity. Here are just a few of the people and organizations who have gone above and beyond to help us strengthen our emergency response:

Boy Scout Troop 223 started THE FIRST GREAT BACKYARD CAMPOUT 2020!, which continues through the end of summer. We encourage schools, faith groups, families and others to join in and camp out at home in support of WSFB. A registration link is on our website, wsfb.org.

Robin Aronson created the Pacific Palisades Front Porch Project, using her talent to photograph happy families on their front porches for a donation to Westside Food Bank.

Our friends at Bad Robot sourced and donated truckloads of shelf-stable food and continue to support our on-site staff with surprise meal deliveries.

Local college students Jack Cortese, James Kanoff and Aidan Reilly connected with farmers, rented trucks, and delivered over 40,000 fresh eggs from the farm to our warehouse, then founded a nonprofit to get even more food from farms to food banks.

Saint Matthew’s Parish School student Parker Ehlers organized a “Coronavirus Read-a-thon” with a goal of providing 40,000 meals to local families.

The Sugar and Stilettos Charitable Foundation helped us provide 100,000 meals from funds that were raised ahead of its annual bakesale, which had to be postponed. Plus, S&S founder Nanci Christopher often brings her special sweets to treat our staff.

Thanks to you, Westside Food Bank is fulfilling its mission as a vital service. The immense rise in need for food assistance is not likely to flatten any time soon. In fact, we are preparing to reach at least 200,000 local people this year, which is about twice the number of people who received our food in 2019. Our food is a lifesaving resource for thousands of households that are struggling to keep food on their tables. The last few months have made us hopeful that the adversity our community faces in the uncertain future will be met with even greater solidarity. We are stronger together in ending hunger.

If you’d like to support Westside Food Bank, you can donate to our COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund at my.wsfb.org/covid19. Financial donations support our wholesale food purchases and essential operations. Every donated dollar allows us to provide enough food for four nutritious meals.

Lia Williams is the Executive Assistant at Westside Food Bank.

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