Food insecurity in our country is real.
It is estimated that locally and nationally, one in five children do not get enough food daily — this in the richest country in the world. During the pandemic, when food insecurity grew dramatically, our Boys & Girls Club started our Weekend Wellness food distribution program, distributing enough food for one million meals within our Harbor Area communities.
This year, we will continue Weekend Wellness once a month, but we will also be sponsoring eight food pantries in our traditional club sites to provide daily assistance to food-deprived families. Obviously, this single effort is not enough, but it is one of several local food support programs that have become increasingly important to so many individuals and families.
Thirty years ago or so, Curt and Helen Grove started their own weekly food distribution program out of their home to support the food deprived. They would cook during the day, load up their car, head out to a local park, and hand out food throughout the evening. Word spread and the line got bigger, so they secured the use of the kitchen at Holy Trinity parish and recruited a few volunteers to help, using personal finances and donations to meet the demand. Curt eventually passed, but Helen continued the effort, and in 2013, she was able to secure donated storefront space on Pacific Avenue — and Curt’s Kitchen was born.
Helen soon recruited Gina Foster, who had been volunteering to take over the effort starting in 2015. Since then, Gina and her band of merry women and men volunteers have developed quite a volunteer food kitchen for the homeless, the working poor, and a couple of individuals who should be volunteering or donating rather than getting in line. But no one is turned away, and the need is great.
Curt’s Kitchen is open for food distribution every Monday and Tuesday evening. While they used to sponsor sit-down dinners, everything has been to-go since the pandemic. The volunteer cooks start the hot meal preparation every Monday in the early afternoon. Each patron will receive a box with two hot meals and water, lemonade, and sometimes hot chocolate that evening. The line starts forming around 4:30 p.m., even though distribution starts an hour later. The second group of volunteers arrives around 5:15 p.m. for the distribution, which continues until 7 p.m. On average, 100 people are served, which means 200 hot meals are distributed to the needy.
Tuesdays are even more impactful. The routine is the same — volunteer cooks arrive in the early afternoon, and most distribution volunteers come just before 5:30 p.m. However, besides the box of two hot meals and drinks, the patrons also receive a brown bag with two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chips, a granola bar, a cookie, and fruit to support those lining up with an extra takeaway for Wednesday. This requires over 50 “PB&J ladies” to make ten sandwiches each month and deliver them to the kitchen that day. Much-needed donated clothes are also distributed on both Monday and Tuesday evenings.
Gina is the heart and soul of Curt’s Kitchen and is both its conductor and woman of many tasks throughout the week. Besides conducting every Monday and Tuesday, she places orders and makes Smart & Final and Costco runs to secure food to be cooked or brown-bagged. She schedules all the volunteers for the different shifts — cooks, distributors, and PB&J ladies — making sure each volunteer is only scheduled twice a month “so they won’t get burned out.” In addition, she and her husband donate their own money to help facilitate the purchases and accept other donations to further support the weekly budget. Gina and her merry band bring love, comfort, and nourishment to those in need.
Food insecurity is real — which is why Curt’s Kitchen is an excellent resource for so many. If you would like to support this cause by donating money, clothing, or volunteering, please call Gina at (310) 251-4801. spt