Families across Southland struggle with food insecurity this holiday season – CBS Los Angeles

STUDIO CITY (CBSLA) – In California, one in five families deals with food insecurity and those numbers are even higher in Los Angeles, where food banks and the volunteers who work at them struggle to keep up with demand.

On Thursday, many families were madly rushing to pick up the finishing touches for their Thanksgiving meals.

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But for other families, Thanksgiving shopping looked a little different this year, as they queued up for free food all over Southland.

“Times are really tough and this is a blessing and a help,” a woman waiting in line at the food bank told CBSLA.

The additional need means that everyone at the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank is up and running over time.

“Los Angeles is counting on us now, because we feed Los Angeles,” said Fernando Romo, who drives the forklift at Vernon warehouse, a job he’s loved for 18 years.

Romo said he and everyone he works with have been working eight to 10 hours a week over the past several months.

“Lots of extra work, more agencies, more pounds of food donated to agencies,” he said.

With boxes stacked on top and food pallets in and out, in the warehouse, they know they need it more than ever.

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“Last year, as soon as March came around, you know, our local unemployment rate went up to 20% here in L.A. County, and we just saw this tsunami of demand for food assistance,” Michael Flood, president and CEO of Bank of Los Angeles Los Angeles Regional Dining, she said.

The pandemic has doubled the need for those struggling, and although much of Los Angeles has reopened, need remains alarmingly high.

“Our local unemployment rate, here in Los Angeles County, is 9.4%. So, we’re above the state average, above the national average,” Flood said.

At the height of the pandemic, the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank fed 1.5 million people each month. They still feed about 900,000 a month.

“We are still operating at more than double 2019 levels. So, this gives us an indication of how high the demand for food aid is across LA County,” Flood said.

Since the cost of groceries has jumped more than 5% in the past year, the largest increase in two decades, it has added an even greater burden to local families.

“People are fiddling with those bills, figuring out what they have left for food,” Flood said.

The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank is always looking for volunteers or financial donations as they provide food to hundreds of local agencies, feeding those in need.

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