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Ventura County's Largest Food Bank Reports Demand For Help Doubled In 2020 Due To Pandemic

Food Share distributes 26 million pounds of food, the most in its four decade history

The pandemic has had all kinds of unexpected impacts on us, from shutting down schools, to working from home, to costing people their jobs.

Many non-profit groups in the community have seen unprecedented demand for help. Ventura County's largest food bank, Food Share, literally doubled the amount of food it distributed in the last year.

In many cases, it teamed up with other non-profits to get food to those in need

The Safe Passages Youth Foundation is focused on keeping kids out of gangs in the Conejo Valley. Tim Hagel is with Safe Passages. He says the pandemic quickly added a new priority to the non-profit intended to help kids. They realized that most of the kids wouldn’t be getting meals they would normally be getting through school programs.

Hagel says many of the parents of the kids in the program worked in the service industry, at places like restaurants and hotels. Within a week of the shutdown, 40% of them were unemployed. The anti-gang organization suddenly became a key food clearinghouse. They went from helping to feed just over 120 kids a week to 600.

Food Share heard about the non-profit's situation, and stepped up to help, with fresh produce, chicken, bread, and other necessities.

Monica White is Food Share’s President, and CEO. She gives an example of how much food they distributed in 2020. Dodger Stadium holds about 56,000 people. During the pandemic, Food Share distributed enough food to feed everyone in a full stadium breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the entire baseball season, plus the playoffs and World Series.

White says aside from the people that were already have a tough time making ends meet for the pandemic, they’ve been serving others who’ve never needed help before.

The head of the Oxnard based non-profit says while we might be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel for the pandemic, the demand for help won't end anytime soon. White says they expect to see the spike in need for help for at least another 18 months.

In addition to helping get food to those in need through non-profits, Food Share has held more than 300 emergency drive-though food distributions, and distributed more than 360,000 food boxes.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.