Group Works to Feed Hungry Schoolchildren

As the pickup truck was loaded with food Wednesday morning, Tina Terrazas tried to explain what it meant.

"I can't even describe to you the looks that we get," said Terrazas, school librarian at Parthenia Elementary School in Northridge.

She and plant manager Jesse Castro had driven to a warehouse in Chatsworth to pick up 12 boxes of food--cereal, tuna, pasta, canned fruits and vegetables, and even condiments and instant coffee.

Later, the pair would be delivering the food to the poorest of the families whose children attend their school. Graciously, parents usually ask the pair if they can offer them something to drink, Castro said.

"That's when you face the reality of it," Castro said.

Most of the families are surprised that someone would take such an interest in helping them, she said.

Two months ago, David Kaye and Marvin Flagg of the Encino B'nai B'rith started a small food distribution program out of the organization's Chatsworth warehouse. The men were intent on trying to do something about the problem of schoolchildren who go to class hungry.

Wednesday was a major distribution day in which eight schools from throughout the San Fernando Valley were given 113 boxes of food.

"As you can see, I wasn't prepared," said Pat Garcia, the plant manager for El Dorado Elementary School in Sylmar, after backing his small black Mustang hatchback up to the loading bay. It was his first time picking up food from the group. The other schools had sent pickup trucks and station wagons to handle the load.

By a miracle of efficient packing techniques, 12 boxes were expertly loaded into Garcia's little car by volunteers, who spread out blankets--also being donated--among the spaces.

"We have a lot of students that have a need for this," said Garcia, who added that he plans to come back again soon. "So, I'll do whatever it takes."

Encino B'nai B'rith is a nonprofit organization that last year distributed 9,000 blankets, as well as 3 million pounds of food, soap and other items through other charities.

"In the past several years, we've been making heroes out of several organizations," said Flagg, who is retired from the grocery business. He is in charge of distributing the food.

Kaye, the group's community services chairman, is retired from the frozen foods business. Both are now putting their talent for acquiring and distributing goods to better use, they said.

Kaye estimates that 250 to 300 boxes of food--plus blankets for each family--have been distributed in the past seven weeks.

"This food is a lot of help," said Norma Boudreaux, president of the bilingual group for the Lowman Special Education Center in North Hollywood. Many parents of the mentally and physically handicapped children in the program have a difficult time making ends meet because of the expense from the disabilities, she said.

"Thank you so much," Boudreaux said to Kaye, adding that she will be back again.

"When people are at the poverty level, I don't think anything is ever enough," said Thelma Sullivan, assistant principal at Noble Elementary in North Hills. She described children who only eat when they get meals at school. "But you do what you can to help," she added.

Most of the food is purchased from Encino B'nai B'rith funds that have been set aside. Kaye obtains the rest in donations from manufacturers. He also is starting to distribute donation bins to local supermarkets.

"If everyone would start something like this," Terrazas said, "we'd all be in a better place."

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