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Non-profit which helps feed one in four Ventura County residents reports demand for aid is surging

Volunteers with the Food Share organization prepare food shipments to help those in need in Ventura County.
Volunteers with the Food Share organization prepare food shipments to help those in need in Ventura County.

Oxnard-based Food Share helped more than 260,000 people in 2022.

Joy Demdordan is one of dozens of people lined up for a food giveaway in Oxnard. She’s a senior, on a fixed income with health issues.

"Sometimes we would go hungry. Sometimes I would go to bed with nothing," said Demdordan.

The Port Hueneme woman said the food from Ventura County’s Food Share food bank makes a huge difference.

"It helps out a lot. Sometimes there's milk, meat, rice, and canned goods."

The Oxnard-based food bank is a critical resource for hundreds of thousands of people in need in Ventura County. It distributed 19 million pounds of food last year. That’s about 16 million meals.

Monica White is President, and CEO of Foodshare. She says between inflation, the uncertain economy, and the end of some pandemic-related food programs, they’ve seen a spike in requests for help.

"The demand is going up," said White. "There's a definite need that's increased since January. It could be rent, utilities, and the cost of food going up."

Food Share is a food bank. It collects food from a variety of sources, and then distributes it to more than a hundred groups in the county that act as food pantries that get it to those in need.

The food is donated by grocery stores, farmers, produce companies and from the community. Food Share also buys some food, and because it does it in mass quantities, it can get good deals. Then, with the help of more than 3500 volunteers, it sorts and packs it for distribution to groups which get into to those in need.

Inside one of Food Share’s massive buildings volunteers are lined up in an assembly line. Kay Simmons of Camarillo is one of them. "I am opening cases of fruit, and different items that we put on the line to pack in boxes for seniors."

In another part of the warehouse, volunteers from community groups are picking up some of the food for distribution. Tyson Ramsdell is with Light House Church, in Newbury Park.

"We do a food pantry Friday nights," said Ramsdell. He said they've seen a surge in who's seeking help. He said it's not just the homeless. Ramsdell said it includes single parents, and seniors, and people who are unemployed and struggling.

While Food Share is seeing record demand for help, the message they want to share is that there is food available. Pam Castro is Food Share’s Agency Relations Manager, and works with group which distribute food.

"Those families who have no idea that just across the street, or right down the block there is does break my heart when there's a family finally discovering, and saying they wish they would have known this." Castro said they are always looking for more groups to help with food distribution.

Food Share distributed an estimated $59 million worth of food last year.

Officials stress that it’s possible through the support of the community, in the form of food drives, plus food and cash donations. They say with demand sky high, it’s critical to keep the support coming to insure they can keep people from going hungry.

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.