In the midst of affluence there is want.
It’s hard to imagine, but in the west valley and Calabasas, there are almost 800 families and over 600 seniors who go hungry.
September is Hunger Awareness Month, and the West Valley Food Pantry is evidence that there is tremendous food insecurity in Los Angeles.
Debbie Decker, the nonprofit’s Executive Director, told Valley News Group that the pantry sees families that need help making ends meet, seniors on a fixed income, and homeless who need a meal.
“We feed the entire San Fernando Valley,” Decker said. “But 80% of those we serve are within five miles of the pantry. We see families drive through for supplies, and we deliver to shut-in seniors in low-income housing. The homeless are our lowest count, with only about 150 per month coming to us.”
Even in affluent Calabasas there are needy seniors living in ADU’s and converted garages. Decker told the story of one 80-year-old man who had lived in a mobile home for 30 years. He ran into health problems and with medical bills couldn’t pay his rent. He was evicted and living in his car. “He didn’t know he could get help,” she said.
In Canoga Park and Winnetka younger families are needing assistance, and something new for the pantry are the Ukrainian refugees from all over the city who come for assistance.
The West Valley Food Pantry provides food – but also supportive services to those who come to their door. They offer information on housing and healthcare, and support families with additional needs including infant necessities, school supplies, hygiene items and toys. They also host vaccination clinics, mobile pet clinics and family holiday parties.
The drive-through food pantry is open five days a week. Staff and volunteers pick up about 15,000 pounds of food from grocery partners. The food is sorted, organized, and handed out to those that visit the drive-through food pantry. Within five minutes of checking in, each person is provided with a full week’s worth of groceries for their household.
In order to expand their services the pantry embarked on an $8 million project of two phases.
Phase One is fully funded and under construction, and includes a new building that will house the actual pantry warehouse, offices, a distribution room, meeting rooms and bathrooms, plus a circular parking lot for people to drive through and pick up food.
They have garnered $7.5 million and are fundraising for the last half million for Phase 2. That phase will serve the community at large with expanded services offered jointly with other valley nonprofits.
ONEgeneration will offer a drop-in senior center for rental and financial assistance. Haven Hills domestic violence shelter will offer workshops and case assessments there. Homeless services agencies will be there a few days a week to help with housing and job assistance.
The new community room in Phase 2 will be offered to organizations such as the neighborhood council for meetings.
The pantry is always looking for volunteers, food, toys and cash donations to help in their mission. “We are here for everybody,” Decker said. “And invite everybody to join us.”
The West Valley Food Pantry is located at 5700 Rudnick Street in Woodland Hills. Visit westvalleyfoodpantry.org or call (818) 346-5554 to volunteer or donate.