Bonnie Modugno, MS, RD - Stamping Out Hunger in WLA
For the past 10 years I have spend a Saturday in May sorting through hundreds of pounds of donated food to Stamp Out Hunger. All over the nation postal carriers retrieve bags, boxes, and tied up parcels of donated food. Locally our donations ultimately end up at the LA Food Bank, but they stop off at the Motor Avenue USPS office in Palms first.
My husband donates his trucks from Nemco Foods, and his staff generously donates their time. I am lucky and get assigned to a post office close to home. Tonight I ride my bike home after a shorter day than usual.
Most years I limp home while Frank drives a truck back to Vernon to offload the bounty. This year was too easy. We were done in a fraction of the time. The truck was barely 2/3 full. Previous years we had to leave product on the dock for pick up later in the week.
LESS FOOD OR JUST FABULOUS HELP?
By the time we drove up with the truck, a crew of 6 volunteers waited for direction: a community college student, a young single women from the neighborhood, a mom with her two daughters looking to snag a few community service hours, and the shop steward from USPS. The mix was perfect: Black, Asian, Latino and White. It was an amazingly efficient crew. We needed more to do.
From the start, there weren’t as many bins, they weren’t as full. The sorting was accomplished in a little over an hour. It has taken 3-4 hours in years past. Each of us started speculating, and we aren’t sure. Are the donations down that much this year, or were we just spectacularly efficient?
SORTING FOOD: A SORT OF SOCIOLOGY LESSON
I always take away insight from the mix of donated food. The year the retail food workers were striking, we noticed a significant impact. Fewer bags from the usual neighborhood markets. Trader Joe’s became the prominent bag of West side donors. TJ earns the honor again this year.
The year we learned of mercury in fish, there was far more donated tuna. Ten years ago there was far more sugared cereals, snacks and treats.
Today people seem far more discriminating. This year was the year of staples: rice, beans, canned vegetables. Do donors understand that especially if you are hungry, it is important to eat good food?
THE FOOD BANK IS MORE DISCRIMINATING TOO
We learned from Michael Flood, the executive director of the LA Food Bank, that demand and donations have increased 60% over the last two years. That is stunning, and sobering.
With 12.5% unemployment, the stream of hungry continues to range beyond the chronically unemployed, homeless, and mentally ill. More people need donated food to get through to the end of the month. It is the difference between making it and not.
At the same time, the LA Food Bank has raised the bar. More fresh fruits and vegetables. More whole foods. People are being given donations of wholesome food that truly nurtures and nourishes those who need a helping hand. Fabulous.
There is no benefit when we donate food that contributes to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Health care costs much more than food. I’m glad to see that most people understand what it means to truly help.
Next year maybe we’ll fill the truck up again.
Bonnie Modugno, MS, RD
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