This unprecedented COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic has obviously had a tremendous impact on all of our lives but especially for those who have lost loved ones. Meanwhile, a much more persistent crisis has taken hold – one that has been here for decades but has grown and come to the forefront due to the economic crisis that has paralleled the current health one.
Even before COVID-19, “food insecurity” had become an ever-increasing health crisis as the growing number of working poor families in our community and country had grown exponentially over the past 10 years. Long before this pandemic, far too many families were barely making it even with two incomes, due to the realities families with minimum wage earners face. What happens when one lives paycheck to paycheck and an injury/illness requires a visit to the doctor or one blown gasket cripples one’s transportation to that job, or when a family emergency requires missing a couple of days of work? What happens when the unemployment insurance runs out and there is nowhere to find work or the work found leaves parents “one paycheck away” from not having enough food to adequately feed their children?
On the world stage, the hunger outlook is even bleaker. “While dealing with a COVID-19 pandemic, we are on the brink of a hunger pandemic,” David Beasley of the World Food Programme recently told the United Nations Security Council. “There is also a real danger that more people could potentially die from the economic impact of COVID-19 than from the virus itself.” He cited conflict, an economic recession, a decline in aid, and a collapse in oil prices as factors likely to lead to vast food shortages and urged swift action to avert disaster.
At the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Los Angeles Harbor, we have seen our families struggle for years to provide adequate food for their children, but never more than today. In response to this growing hunger crisis, since schools closed in mid-March, we have now established seven “Grab & Go” food distribution centers in the greater harbor area. On March 23, with only one center open, we served 87 meals and snacks. On April 20, as I am writing this column and sponsoring seven locations, we are now serving 2,800 meals and 2,800 snacks daily (and those numbers are growing). The need for basic food allocations that almost all of us take for granted is overwhelming at times. What we have in our pantries and freezers would probably feed 20 food-insecure families for a week. I’m not trying to make any of us feel bad about that; it’s just a fact which sadly highlights the huge food disparity in our own community.
Besides our daily meal and snack distribution program, we are also partnering with donors and vendors to 1.) provide 300 families a hot meal weekly––about 2,000 dinners in all; 2.) distribute “staples” (bags of beans, rice, canned goods, etc.) to needy families for the weekend; and 3.) due to the tremendous generosity of San Pedro native son Chuck Ursini, we are distributing over $100,000 of Vons gift cards per week to needy families. If you are interested in donating to this growing effort and need, please visit our website at bgclaharbor.org.
Food insecurity will still be here for thousands of our neighbors and millions of Americans after a vaccine is found to combat COVID-19. Daily lack of food is the largest health crisis facing too many of our neighbors today and tomorrow. I thank all those already providing food support, but so much more needs to be done at a local, national, and world level. We can either rally around solutions, and thousands of children could subsequently go to bed nourished in the days and years to come, or we can rally around excuses, and those same children would go to bed hungry. Which option will we choose? spt