Pasadena Star News Article Launched: 03/09/2006 12:00 AM PST
Many go hungry to pay for expenses
By Marshall Allen Staff Writer
PASADENA - About 70 percent of people who received food from charities reported
being hungry or having to choose between eating and paying for other necessities,
according to a preliminary report released Wednesday by the Los Angeles Regional Food
The Regional Food Bank is one of the largest in the country and is a central player in
food distribution to charities throughout the county. The independent study, called
Hunger in Los Angeles County 2006, was commissioned by a nonprofit organization that
links food banks throughout the nation. It was conducted in 2005.
The findings - that hunger remains a problem locally - are consistent with other studies
and the experience of local service providers.
A 2003 UCLA study showed nearly 1 million adults in the county are food insecure,
defined as having limited access to nutritious food, or having to choose between food and
other needs, like rent or medicine. More than 280,000 adults countywide experience
involuntary hunger, the report showed.
Joan Whitenack, executive director of the Foothill Unity Center, which has Pasadena and
Monrovia locations, said she sees hunger as a constant problem.
"The seniors are making choices between food or clothing, or rent, or medicine," she
said. "They just don't have enough money."
The East San Gabriel Coalition for the Homeless serves about 250 families a month at its
food pantry at St. John Vianney Church in Hacienda Heights. The pantry helped about 20
families when it opened a dozen years ago, said Bob McKennon, of the coalition.
The number of people looking for a meal tends to spike around Thanksgiving and
Christmas, when as many as 360 families may line up for a box of food, he said.
"The vast majority are working poor," McKennon said.
Michael Flood, executive director of the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, said there are
about 150,000 people served each week by the network of agencies linked to his
organization. Of them, the survey showed that 37 percent reported food insecurity in the
previous year. And 33 percent reported involuntary hunger in the previous year.
The others are "poor and struggling, but not in as desperate a situation," he said.
The survey also shows a lack of resources, including a lack of food, funding and
volunteers, among the 260 agencies that responded. In the year before the survey, 31
percent of food pantries, 11 percent of soup kitchens and 49 percent of shelters turned
clients away, the survey said.
Staff writer Jason Kosareff contributed to this report.
(626) 578-6300, Ext. 4461