Food pantry shelves need stocking

GLENDALE — With the holiday season coming to a close, local food pantry operators are looking nervously to their stock shelves.

In the months surrounding Thanksgiving and Christmas, churches, service groups and other organizations typically host numerous food drives to help the nonprofits provide needy families with food for holiday meals.

But pantry operators say they also rely on food donated during the holiday season to carry them through the winter months — a time that is generally void of major food drives around town.

"After Christmas people suddenly forget that we might still be in need," said Barbara Howell, of the Burbank Temporary Aid Center, which operates a food pantry.

And with local unemployment rates remaining in the double digits, food pantry operators across the region say they are continuing to attempt to meet unprecedented demand.

"We keep seeing more people, a lot of people who keep saying that they have never had to ask before," said Rick White, director of social services for Salvation Army Glendale, which runs a food pantry among other social services.

The nonprofit generally serves low-income families and seniors on fixed incomes, he said, the majority of whom live in south Glendale.

A September report issued by the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank cited that nearly 300,000 Los Angeles County residents now receive monthly food assistance.

That's an increase of about 20% compared to last year, and a nearly 50% increase over two years, according to the report.

Like many food pantry officials, White said he is worried about continuing to meet the demand as donations dwindle.

"We definitely don't have as much food as we had a year ago at this time," he said. "Our next big food drive happens in May, and I am not sure we have enough food to last that long."

With the Salvation Army already squeezed for funding, the nonprofit would have to cut other programs in order to purchase food, White said.

Loaves and Fishes, a food bank in south Glendale operated by Catholic Charities of Los Angeles Inc., is serving roughly 1,200 people per month, said Lora Young, program coordinator.

While the pantry's shelves are currently full from holiday donations, she said she would welcome additional community food drives or individual donations of non-perishable canned and dry food items during the coming slow months.

"Right now, it looks very good, but I don't know what it's going to be like for the next months," she said. "I hope people remember that people are hungry all year long."

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