Central, Van Nuys has been serving Food Distribution since October 2019 through the LA Regional Food Bank Mobile Food Pantry. In response to the COVID-19 Crisis, through a grant from our local County Supervisor, we were able to expand to weekly distribution, using another program from the LA Regional Food to fill in the weeks when we were not getting their mobile program. However, the LAFB is often able to leave partial pallets of food from the Mobile Food Pantry, and ordering for the drop-off is not an exact science, so we have found ourselves multiple times having to turn down food we could have given out later because we only had a shared refrigerator.
We applied for and received a grant for a commercial freezer, and this has significantly increased our ability to serve on the alternate weeks when we do not have the Mobile program. We have been able to take a lot more food in for future distributions, both through Food Bank resources and through donations from the community, including grocery stores. This has allowed us to almost double the number of people we had been serving on those alternate weeks, from 144 to 288 households, and the freezer has often stretched us to over 300. (The other, Mobile program can serve up to 620 households, and will be expanded to up to 800 as demand continues to increase for us).
We are building relationships not only with neighbors, but with other organizations that serve in nearby communities. When we received more food than we could fit into our freezer and shared refrigerator, it helped us develop stronger ties with both the San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission, who could pick up entire pallets of over-supply, one time – they are about 8 miles away from us. We were able to take leftovers that wouldn’t fit in our fridge to Lutheran Social Services-North Hollywood, where we were able to take what didn’t fit into our freezer for their freezer (twice). They are about 7 miles away. There are no other food pantries working with the LAFB in less than a 6-mile radius to us, and our community is largely transit-dependent, so while these other agencies don’t supply our clients, too, they serve the needs of the LA Food Bank for our “local area”.
We now have used the gift of our freezer as a spring-board to get a $1,000 grant from Pacific Network for Mission Education, “Bread for Mission” fund, toward our own (not shared) 3-door commercial refrigerator, plus solar-powered exhaust fan, electrical upgrades and UV window film to reduce heat in our pantry. These will make it possible for us to share the pantry space when our homeless services partner reopens, without giving up refrigerator space or freezer space. The fact that we already have the freezer has been key to the initial Pacific Network for Mission Education funds, and we’re holding a matching fund drive for the remaining $3,400 for all that’s needed to make our pantry work well into the future for both us and our partner, as we bring in our own refrigerator.