Food bank fills a neighborhood need

By 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, a line snaked around the back of the Maple Park Community Center as roughly 70 people waited in line at a new Glendale food bank located in one of the city's poorest neighborhoods.

It was 30 minutes before the food bank, operated by International Families Assn., officially opened, and by 4 p.m., two hours before it closed, volunteers had served about 200 people.

PHOTOS: Food bank of International Families Association gives to the needy

The food bank, which has been open on Wednesday afternoons for about two months, serves 7,000 pounds of donated food to hundreds of people a week, said Ara Hanbardzunyan, chairman of the association, a nonprofit based in Glendale that provides food and clothing to the needy.

The group has operated a food bank on Mondays at 1741 Gardena Ave., Unit E. since 2001, but Hanbardzunyan has wanted to open a second food bank for about a year. It's been difficult to find a location with inexpensive rent, though.

Then the city presented him with a $400 monthly offer — the nonprofit rate to rent space at the community center — making his dream a reality.

“People need help,” Hanbardzunyan said. “They keep coming and coming.”

The food bank offers supplemental food, such as fruit, vegetables, cereal, yogurt and juice, but it doesn't have perishables such as milk, eggs and meat. It provides the food using monetary donations from individuals and product donations from stores, such as Costco and Ralphs.

Guadalupe Valenzuela, a Glendale resident, said in Spanish that the food helps feed her and her 3-year-old and 2-year-old grandchildren whom she supports, freeing up money for other expenses, such as rent and other groceries.

She said making ends meet since her grandchildren came to live with her has been difficult.

It also helps Armand Rodriguez, who recently moved to Glendale after he lost his house in San Jose to foreclosure and his business — building office cubicles — declined with the recession.

“I'm not making enough money out here,” said Rodriguez, who now works as a sound engineer.

International Families Assn. opened a second location even as other food banks in Glendale have been struggling to support their growing customer base.

But Lora Young at Catholic Charities' Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry said she welcomes the new addition.

“There are so many hungry people. The more food banks there are, eventually they will get fed,” Young said.

Toros Pepikyan, who waited two hours in line on Wednesday for a small pushcart of food, including tomato juice, pears, cereal and squash, said he was grateful for the new food bank.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” he said.


Follow Brittany Levine on Google+ and on Twitter: @brittanylevine.


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