In 1973 Tony Collier, a Pasadena cook, noticed valuable food going to waste and decided to establish a system to donate it to agencies that help Angelenos in need using just a borrowed truck and 200 square foot garage. In the 41 years since, the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank has expanded to multiple facilities, allowing the nonprofit to help one million people a year–400,000 of which are children. Despite the outreach of the Food Bank, there are still more than 800 agencies on the waiting list.
Here’s how the staff receives, processes, and distributes 59 million pounds of food a year.
The product donations department secures food from 500+ sources, such as growers, manufacturers, and retailers. Staff picks up the food and when it gets back to the warehouse, the receiving department determines where the items head next.
Pallets of dry goods get shelved immediately and loose donations go to the gleaning room, where volunteers sort the food based on expiration date and type. More than 32,000 volunteers a year help the Food Bank move 1 million pounds of food every week.
In recent years the Food Bank has increased its emphasis on nutrition, developing programs to educate children and adults on healthy food choices. Today 20 percent of all food given out is produce, so the Food Bank built a 6,000-square-foot refrigerator to keep perishables fresh; a 7,000-square-foot freezer is under construction.
Available food is listed on the Food Bank’s menu, which is updated every day. How much food an agency can request depends on how many people they serve and how many times a month they give out food. To reach areas of Los Angeles County not serviced by agencies, the Food Bank operates a mobile food pantry.
Members of the 656 agencies the Food Bank serves arrive at the receiving end of the warehouse on Thursdays to pick up the items from their list, which have been packaged by the bank’s 118 staffers. The Food Bank has 18 trucks that deliver orders to agencies that cannot pick it up. Agencies can also supplement their orders with extra food from the shopping area, which can be purchased for 19 to 26 cents a pound.
In addition to serving local agencies, the Food Bank provides grocery bags of food to seniors and backpacks of food for children to take home over the weekend. A sample menu for the senior program might include cereal, apple juice, dry milk, peanut butter, rice, apricots, green beans, and cheese. A backpack menu could contain milk, juice, oatmeal, peanut butter, spaghetti sauce, wheat pasta, and a bag of fresh produce.
Now through November 22, USC and UCLA football fans (and everyone else, too) can help raise funds for the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank by texting “GoUSC” or “GoUCLA” to 85944 to donate $10.