Los Angeles Regional Foodbank Policy Brief by nle13756


									                                                                Release Date: June 2, 2009

              Los Angeles Regional Foodbank Policy Brief

 Food Pantry Demand Continues to Increase as the Economy Weakens
As the ongoing effects of the weakened economy impact millions of Los Angeles County
residents, food pantries in Los Angeles County are collectively serving more families and
individuals than ever before. Food pantries, which distribute grocery bags of food to
families and individuals seeking food assistance, are the best barometer of charitable food
assistance trends for two reasons: 1) food pantries are able to increase or decrease service
quickly to respond to demand; and 2) people who live in apartments or homes are more
likely to seek assistance from a food pantry than any other type of charitable agency.

The Los Angeles Regional Foodbank serves 500 food pantries located in different
geographic areas of Los Angeles County. These food pantries, which rely on the
Foodbank for a significant percentage of their food, distribute to recipients based on a set
schedule depending on the food pantry’s facility, operations and programs.

In total, food pantries served by the Foodbank are distributing an average of 110,921 food
packages to families per month. These food packages consist of six to twelve meals per
family member and typically include staple food items, fresh produce and other items.
Some of the families seeking assistance receive more than one food package a month due
to their financial situation. Thus, on an unduplicated basis, an average of 231,359 people
received assistance from food pantries for the period of January through April 2009.

 STATISTICS                               Jan-Apr 09    Jan-Apr 08
                                           Monthly       Monthly           %
                                           Average       Average       Increase      # Increase
 Total # of Food Packages
 Distributed                                 110,921        86,477          28%         24,443
 Total Duplicated # of People Served         352,446       256,088          ------      ---------
 Total Unduplicated # of People
 Served                                      231,359       176,011          31%         55,349

This current distribution rate by food pantries has increased by 31 percent compared to a
year ago when 176,011 people received assistance from pantries on a monthly basis. The
current distribution rate has increased by 24 percent compared to six months ago when
the Foodbank released its previous Policy Brief.

Interviews of recipients at food pantries indicate that many families, which recently
considered themselves solidly “middle class,” have been forced to seek assistance from
charities for the first time. While a precise statistic is not available, we estimate that 12%
of food pantry recipients are seeking assistance for the first time. All geographic regions
of Los Angeles County have experienced an increase in the demand for food assistance
with the highest increases in Service Planning Area (SPA) 6 (South LA and adjacent
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               Los Angeles Regional Foodbank Policy Brief
cities), SPA 4 (Metro), SPA 3 (San Gabriel Valley), and SPA 1 (Antelope Valley).

Our research indicates that the primary reason for the increase in food pantry demand is
due to issues related to employment including the rising unemployment rate and cutbacks
or furloughs in the scheduled work hours for some workers. Out of an overall labor force
of nearly 5 million people in Los Angeles County, 534,400 people were unemployed in
April 2009 according to the California Employment Development Department, compared
to 282,000 people one year ago.1 This increase of 252,400 workers now unemployed has
led to many of these former wage earners to seek food assistance. In addition, interviews
of food recipients indicate that many adults are still working but are working fewer hours
per week, which has placed considerable pressure on their household budgets.

Foodbank’s Ability to Meet Demand

The Foodbank relies heavily on food and financial donations to acquire and distribute
grocery product to charitable agencies including food pantries. Foodbank distribution
volume has increased by 33 percent for the first four months of 2009 compared to the
previous year. The Foodbank’s focus on acquiring larger amounts of fresh fruits and
vegetables has contributed to the overall increase, as well as donations received from
community and “virtual” food drives and a significantly higher volume of commodities
received from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In total, the Foodbank is distributing
one million pounds weekly, the equivalent of 750,000 meals, to its charitable agency

Given that the Foodbank has a finite amount of food to distribute, the service provided by
the federal Food Stamp Program is another critical aspect of food assistance. As of April
2009 the Food Stamp Program, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance
Program at the federal level, provides a higher monthly benefit amount to Food Stamp
recipients due to provisions of the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,
also known as the Economic Stimulus legislation. According to March 2009 data,
743,833 residents of Los Angeles County received Food Stamp benefits, a 15 percent
increase from a year earlier.2 The Foodbank is working closely with the Los Angeles
County Department of Public Social Services, which administers the program locally, to
launch a new initiative to connect eligible food pantry recipients to the Food Stamp

  State of California Employment Development Department Monthly Labor Force Data for Counties,
http://www.edd.ca.gov/about_edd/pdf/urate200905.pdf and
http://www.edd.ca.gov/About_EDD/pdf/urate200805.pdf accessed May 29, 2009.
  California Department of Social Services Food Stamp Report,
http://www.cdss.ca.gov/research/PG350.htm accessed June 1, 2009.
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              Los Angeles Regional Foodbank Policy Brief
A View of the Short-Term Future

There are two issues which are causes of significant concern and may place even more
pressure on the charitable food assistance system to serve an even larger number of
people. The first issue is the California State budget, and proposals made to reduce
spending in order to close the budget deficit. The proposed cuts to the CalWORKS
Program, the Healthy Families Program and other cuts targeted to low-income seniors,
adults and children would lead to another large increase in demand for charitable food
assistance because individuals impacted by the cuts would have fewer financial or public
benefit resources.

The second issue involves the continued weakened economy. As the unemployment rate
remains high and as more people exhaust their unemployment benefits, personal savings
and credit, more families and individuals will be pushed into a situation of requiring food
assistance, or will require an increased level of food assistance, in order to avoid hunger.

Future increases in the demand for food assistance may not necessarily be met by the
charitable food system due to a finite amount of resources – food, funds and volunteers.
Even today, there is not a sufficient amount of food available to provide food to everyone
who requires assistance. An increased level of resources would be required in order for
the Foodbank, food pantries and other agencies to once again significantly increase the
level of service.

        Policy Brief is a publication of the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank:
        Michael Flood, President/CEO, Jeff Dronkers, Chief Programs and
           Policy Officer, and Elizabeth Cervantes, Agency Relations Director.

                       Los Angeles Regional Foodbank
                             1734 E. 41st Street
                           Los Angeles, CA 90058
                               (323) 234-3030

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