Hello! I have a very special guest on the blog today and his name is Roger Castle. He is the Chief Development Officer for the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. I met him at a donor lunch and tour for the Food Bank recently and had a chance to see and hear first-hand about the inner workings of the facility that helps feed so many impoverished in Los Angeles. It feels good to help people and it’s always the right time to start making a difference in our communities.
Recently, I volunteered there and spent my time bagging some up some fresh produce. Waking up early on a Saturday morning was totally worth it. I had a wonderful time serving with other volunteers from the LA community and getting to meet new people I never would have met otherwise.
"Volunteering in our communities brings all of us a little closer."
Have you ever volunteered at the Los Angeles Food Bank?
Let's find out more...
Hi Roger! Thank you for sharing your time with us today. It was really interesting to see how this massive operation works at the Los Angeles Food Bank facility.
How long has the Food Bank been around and how many organizations do you partner with?
The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank was founded in 1973 by Tony Collier. He noticed the co-occurring issues of hunger and food waste in his community, so he started rescuing donated food with his truck and distributed that product to agencies that were helping people in need. Now, 45 years later, we have distributed enough food for more than one billion meals. We distribute food directly to kids and seniors and we partner with more than 650 organizations across Los Angeles County to feed more than 300,000 people each month.
What types of organizations do you partner with and where is the food distributed?
These 650 agencies are made up of other charitable, non-profit organizations such as soup kitchens, food pantries, senior centers and children’s programs. They are located all throughout Los Angeles County, which is the largest county in population in the country. It is estimated that 1 in 7 people in our community struggles with food insecurity, meaning at some point in the month they struggle with finding enough food, especially nutritious food, for themselves and their loved ones.
What are the most common contributing factors to food insecurity in Los Angeles?
The common contributing factor is the high cost of living in Los Angeles, especially the high cost of housing. Most of the people we distribute food to have housing and are employed, they just don’t make enough to cover their basic needs and can't afford a basic monthly budget that includes housing, food, child care, health care, transportation and a cell phone.
What companies or grocery stores donate to the LA Food Bank?
Most of the major retailers donate food to the Food Bank. We also acquire food directly from farmers and markets. This is perfectly good food that would go to waste and potentially end up in a landfill. In 2017, more than ($70?) million dollars of food was received by the Food Bank.
If a company wants to donate food or other supplies, who would they contact?
They could contact our Chief Product Acquisition Officer, Jeanna Kindle. For individuals who want to help, start a virtual food drive and help raise funds for the acquisition of food at lafoodbank.org/virtualfooddrive. For every dollar you raise, we can provide 4 meals to those in need in our neighborhoods.
You mentioned that there is a growing need for food amongst college students and that there are literally “starving college students” who need this help right now. Can you tell me more about this situation, the contributing causes, and what the LA Food Bank is doing to help solve this problem?
A recent survey of University of California students revealed that 48 percent of underclassmen are food insecure and have to skip meals. That number is even higher on community college campuses. When students are hungry, they are more likely to have low grades and poor health and they are less likely to graduate.
To combat this problem, we expanded our Mobile Food Pantry program to distribute food on college campuses. Our Mobile Food Pantry goes directly to the campus and sets up in a parking lot or common area where students are able to access nutritious food in a farmer’s market style distribution. This way we are able to ensure that students have the nutrition to do better in class, which leads to better opportunities and more productive, happier futures.
What is the biggest obstacle for individuals to overcome when seeking help from food banks?
The biggest obstacle is a stigma, followed by a general lack of knowledge about what resources are available. There is no income requirement or registration to get food from one of our agencies. If you know someone who needs help, they can find food by using our agency locater on our website at: lafoodbank.org/findfood or by dialing 211. 211 LA provides information and referrals for all health and human services in LA County.
The statistics on your website say that 1 in 4 children in LA struggle with experiencing hunger. What types of programs do you provide to help children?
Besides feeding families through our agency network, we have a few direct distribution programs designed specifically for children. Before the weekend, our BackPack Program distributes backpacks containing enough food for six nutritious meals to ensure that kids who rely on school meals do not go hungry over the weekend when school meals are not available. We run this program at 10 elementary schools in Los Angeles and Compton Unified School Districts. The After School Meal Program provides meals for children at their afterschool programs across LA County each day during the school year. When school is out of session, the Summer Meal Program, which has nearly doubled in size over the past three years due to increasing need, serves more than 4,000 meals a day at more than 70 distribution sites, including Boys and Girls Clubs, summer schools, community centers, the Salvation Army and some libraries. Finally, the Mobile School Pantry provides a monthly food distribution for low-income elementary schools in Los Angeles and Long Beach. Through the Children’s Breakfast Program we provide breakfast items, such as oatmeal, pancake mix, granola bars and dried fruit to children who are also enrolled in our After School Meal Program and Summer Lunch Program.
We know that the senior population is one of the most vulnerable to experiencing hunger. How is the LA Food Bank helping seniors?
Nearly 20 percent of the individuals served by the Food Bank are seniors. We also run the largest Commodity Supplemental Food Program in the country, providing monthly food kits to seniors. The Food Bank serves more than 28,000 seniors every month through this program.
How can we get involved and help make a difference in our communities?
Each year, the Food Bank depends on the generosity of our community to raise funds and provide volunteer support to make sure we have the recourses to help the 1 in 7 people in LA County who is hungry. Donate, volunteer, and fundraise for the Food Bank.
• Donate – www.lafoodbank.org/donate
• Volunteer – www.lafoodbank.org/volunteer
Thank you for educating us about the LA Food bank Roger!