Take Five: Ellah Ronen, LA n Sync Program Officer

May 8, 2020

California Community Foundation (CCF) launched the COVID-19 LA County Response Fund to address the immediate and emerging needs of our region’s most vulnerable residents—from mitigation to eventual recovery. This fund will support community needs identified by our partners in health, housing, education and immigration.

Our staff is partnering with community leaders to make grants and provide supports based on what they are learning from the field. In this series we will ask five questions of our program officers to better understand the impact of our work and the ongoing needs of community members.

  1. Reports in the news continue to mention the increase in “food insecurity” as a result of the pandemic. Can you define what we mean when we say “food insecurity” in relation to COVID-19 pandemic?

Food insecurity means a person does not have reliable access to enough nutritious food that is affordable. People who are food insecure also often lack economic resources and live in food deserts which means there is an absence of grocery stores within a convenient traveling distance.

Food insecurity is, unfortunately, a chronic issue for many Angelenos, that has been severely exacerbated as a result of COVID-19 and has even spread to effect those that haven’t previously experienced food insecurity due to the current economic conditions. It will most likely increase over the next several months and potentially longer.

  1. Describe the toll food insecurity can have on a person?

Healthy bodies and minds require nutritious meals at every age. But when people don’t have enough food or must choose inexpensive foods with low-nutritional value, it can seriously impact their health.

Food insecurity can lead to Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity or can exasperate the negative effects of chronic conditions for those who already have them.

Family members in food-insecure households are also more likely to struggle with psychological and behavioral health issues. And kids struggling to get enough to eat are more likely to have problems in school and other social situations.

  1. What was food insecurity like in Los Angeles prior to COVID-19?

Before the pandemic, an estimated 29% of LA County households experienced food insecurity, with Latinos making up approximately two-thirds of the food insecure population. Deep food insecurity, characterized by reductions in total food intake, affected an estimated 11% of LA County households prior to the pandemic.

  1. How has the problem become worse?

Over the next few months, the number of people needing food assistance could increase by 2 million residents. The LA Regional Food Bank has seen an exponential increase in the number of people attending its food distributions. Its ability to maintain its food supply has not kept-up with demand, leading to a potential shortage of shelf stable, perishable and frozen food items, that people are depending on. In addition, food delivery services such as Meals on Wheels and Project Angel Food, which deliver to the elderly, disabled, and otherwise homebound, have seen a sharp increase in demand since March 2020.

  1. What is CCF doing to respond? And how can donors further address the needs.

The first thing to understand is that this problem is solvable. With enough resources to fill our food banks, increase meal delivery and institute policy that is inclusive, we can get food onto the tables of people in need. We are trying to keep the food banks stocked by giving them the dollars they need to buy high-volume goods at reduced prices while increasing the support of direct-to-door meal delivery for the home bound. We’re also working with the LA County Office of Education on ensuring school meals continue throughout the summer months, and we sit on the LA County Food Security task force to ensure our efforts promote systematic changes that will have a lasting and scalable impact across the County.

Donors can give to our COVID-19 LA County response fund to further our efforts. They can also give directly to the following organizations:

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