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Los Angeles County Has the Largest Food-Insecure Population in the Country


Los Angeles is home to 1.5 million hungry people. Now what?

Food insecurity — a lack of reliable, nutritious food sources — is a problem that exists in every county and congressional district in America. This startling fact was reported by Feeding America, the hunger awareness organization that just released a study called Map the Meal Gap 2015 that analyzes food insecurity levels across the United States.

The county with the highest rate of food insecurity is Holmes County, Mississippi, where more than one-third of the population does not have regular access to affordable, nutritious food. Perhaps more surprisingly, Los Angeles County is home to the highest food insecure population, with nearly 1.5 million food insecure people countywide, or 14.7 percent of the population.

Los Angeles is also home to the largest population of children suffering from food insecurity: nearly one in four Los Angeles children under the age of 18 are at risk for hunger. Since 2011, there has been a movement to serve breakfast to children in the classroom, which has increased school breakfast participation rates and hopefully quelled some hungry stomachs.

On Hunger Action Day, held on May 12 and 13, Los Angeles residents will push for further action to diminish the effects of hunger and food insecurity throughout California.


Study Shows Children More Likely To Face Hunger Than Overall Population Across America

CHICAGO &ndash May 1, 2019 &ndash Children are more likely to struggle with hunger than the general population in just about every state, county and congressional district across the country, according to Map the Meal Gap 2019, released today by Feeding America. Map the Meal Gap is the only study that provides local-level estimates of food insecurity across the United States. Feeding America, the nation&rsquos largest domestic hunger-relief organization, has released the report for nine consecutive years to offer insights on how food insecurity and food costs vary at the local level.

The analysis finds that children nationwide are more likely to face hunger than the rest of the population, with the percentage of children estimated to struggle with hunger at the state level ranging from 10% in North Dakota to 24% in New Mexico. However, rural and Southern communities are disproportionately impacted. Eight of the top ten states with the highest percentage of child food insecurity are located in the South. Additionally, 84% of the counties with high child food insecurity rates are rural. East Carroll Parish in Louisiana has the highest rate of child food insecurity at nearly 40%. Jefferson County, Mississippi has the highest county food insecurity rate and the fourth highest child food insecurity rate. Both counties are rural and in the South.

The report not only provides data on child food insecurity nationwide, it also highlights the urgency of addressing the problem of hunger by emphasizing its profound consequences and costs. Children struggling with hunger may be at a greater risk for health, social and behavioral challenges including stunted development, anxiety and poor academic performance. These issues are exacerbated when the National School Lunch Program closes for summer. Many kids rely on the program for meals&mdashmeaning they may go without lunch altogether when school is out. As we head into discussions about the Child Nutrition Act reauthorization, this research demonstrates the importance of expanding summer feeding options to ensure our children are able to succeed.

&ldquoThere isn&rsquot a single state or county in America free from child hunger, and it is within our collective power to change that and ensure that today&rsquos children are tomorrow&rsquos leaders,&rdquo said Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, chief executive officer of Feeding America. &ldquoThe Feeding America nationwide network of food banks is investing in our nation&rsquos future by helping to provide over 146 million meals to children every year. Still Map the Meal Gap highlights that more must be done. Together food banks, corporations, policymakers, donors, volunteers and advocates can solve hunger.&rdquo

&ldquoI encourage everyone to visit the website, map.feedingamerica.org to find out what hunger looks like in their community and get involved to be part of the solution,&rdquo Babineaux-Fontenot continued. &ldquoOne way is to tell Congress to invest in kids during Child Nutrition Reauthorization legislation and increase access to food for kids during the summer. Your voice matters and we can make a difference.&rdquo

The report also sheds light on urban counties with large numbers of children facing hunger despite relatively low rates of child food insecurity. The counties encompassing Los Angeles and New York City have child food insecurity rates that are close to the national county average, yet a significant number of children in these areas lack access to the meals they need. Nearly 414,000 food-insecure children live in Los Angeles County and more than 335,000 food-insecure children live in the counties encompassing the five boroughs of New York City.

The Map the Meal Gap 2019 findings underscore the extent of need that remains in communities across the U.S., despite national measures from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that indicate overall improvement. Food insecurity is a measure defined by the USDA as lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members.

Other key findings of Map the Meal Gap 2019 include:

  • There are people in every county in the nation who are estimated to be food insecure, from a high of 36% in Jefferson County, Mississippi, to a low of 3% percent in Steele County, North Dakota.
  • Virtually every county (99%) is home to people who are food insecure and likely ineligible for federal nutrition assistance. The estimated share of food-insecure individuals who earn too much to qualify for most federal nutrition programs reaches as high as 80% in Daggett County, Utah.
  • Counties with the highest rates of food insecurity tend to be geographically concentrated. Rural counties &ndash those outside of major metropolitan areas &ndash make up 63% of all U.S counties, but 78% of counties with food-insecurity rates in the top 10%. The South contains 45% of all counties, but 87% of counties with the highest food insecurity.

Map the Meal Gap 2019 uses data from USDA, the Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics and food price data and analysis provided by Nielsen, a global measurement and data analytics company. The study is supported by The Howard G. Buffett Foundation, Conagra Brands Foundation and Nielsen.

&ldquoConagra Brands Foundation is committed to raising awareness of food insecurity, an issue that exists in every community across the country. We strongly believe the work of Feeding America with Map the Meal Gap will drive vital conversations about the prevalence of hunger in America and foster solutions that can directly impact the lives of millions of children, teenagers, adults and senior citizens,&rdquo said Robert J. Rizzo, Senior Director, Community Investment, Conagra Brands and Conagra Brands Foundation.

In addition to food-insecurity estimates, Map the Meal Gap 2019 reports on food price variation across counties. Using data from the Census Bureau&rsquos Current Population Survey (CPS), the study finds that, on average, food-secure individuals report spending $3.02 per person, per meal. This is a slight increase in nominal terms from the national average of $3.00 as reported in Map the Meal Gap 2018.

Using data from Nielsen, Map the Meal Gap 2019 estimates that county meal costs range from 68% to more than 205% of the national average. This means that people in places like Willacy County, Texas, where the cost per meal is $2.07, are able to purchase more than twice the amount of food as someone in New York County, where the average meal cost is $5.85.

&ldquoI'm so proud to be part of Feeding America's Map the Meal Gap by delivering local food pricing data pro bono through our Data for Good program,&rdquo said Ana Milena Salamanca, SVP Data Science for Nielsen U.S. Connect. &ldquoOur experts volunteer their time and insights to this relationship year after year because food insecurity is such a critical issue affecting all our communities, and we believe in Feeding America's work to make the vision of a hunger-free America a reality.&rdquo

Dr. Craig Gundersen, Professor of Agricultural and Consumer Economics at the University of Illinois, Executive Director of the National Soybean Research Laboratory and a member of Feeding America&rsquos Technical Advisory Group is the lead researcher of Map the Meal Gap 2019.

Map the Meal Gap 2019 provides the following data online through an interactive map:

  • The estimated percentage of the population and number of individuals who are food insecure in every U.S. state, county and congressional district, as well as the service area of each Feeding America food bank.
  • The percentage of the food-insecure population who likely qualifies for SNAP and other federal nutrition programs.
  • The percentage of the food-insecure population who likely does not qualify for federal nutrition programs and thus must rely even more on charitable food assistance. These percentages reflect individuals in households with earnings that are higher than the state gross income limits for federal nutrition programs.
  • The average meal cost in every state and county.
  • The food budget shortfall in every state and county.

In addition to the study, Feeding America has developed interactive data visualizations to better see and understand the issue of hunger and food insecurity. One data visualization contextualizes study data by including photographs of local scenery and a narrative about the lived experience of food insecurity of ten communities chosen to capture every geographic region and census division in the country.

The Map the Meal Gap 2019 interactive map allows policymakers, state agencies, corporate partners, food banks and advocates to develop integrated strategies to fight hunger on a community level.

Along with the interactive map and visualizations, Feeding America has published an executive summary and full report as well as a series of report briefs on the topics of child food insecurity, food prices, and health.

Join the conversation about Map the Meal Gap 2019 on Twitter using #MealGap.

Highest/Lowest Child Food Insecurity % by State

HighestLowest
24.1% New Mexico9.8% North Dakota
23.6% Arkansas11.7% Massachusetts
23.0% Louisiana12.3% New Hamshire
22.9% Mississippi12.6% Minnesota
22.5% Texas13.2% New Jersey

Highest/Lowest Child Food Insecurity # by State

HighestLowest
1,658,680 Texas16,900 North Dakota
1,638,430 California18,760 Vermont
854,880 Florida23,960 Wyoming
732,300 New York26,450 District of Columbia
510,030 Ohio31,640 New Hampshire

Highest/Lowest Meal Cost by State

HighestLowest
$3.95 District of Columbia$2.62 Indiana
$3.55 Massachusetts$2.66 Kentucky
$3.50 Maine$2.70 Iowa
$3.38 Vermont$2.71 Texas
$3.37 Alaska$2.71 West Virginia

About Feeding America

Feeding America ® is the largest hunger-relief organization in the United States. Through a network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs, we provide meals to more than 40 million people each year. Feeding America also supports programs that prevent food waste and improve food security among the people we serve educates the public about the problem of hunger and advocates for legislation that protects people from going hungry. Visit www.feedingamerica.org, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

Map the Meal Gap 2019 released by @FeedingAmerica shows children more likely to face hunger than overall population across America. #MealGap Tweet


Covid-19 Rates in Los Angeles Have Gone From Worst to Among the Best

Talal Ansari

Ian Lovett

LOS ANGELES—At the start of the year here, hospitals were full, restaurants were empty, and three times more Covid-19 cases were being reported every day than in any other U.S. county.

Now Los Angeles County has one of the lowest rates of infection per capita of the nation’s 10 most populous counties. Restaurants are packed, hospitals have open beds, and researchers are studying possible reasons for one of the pandemic’s biggest turnarounds, which has occurred despite vaccination rates lower than the national average. Their theories include high immunity caused by previous spikes and a common variant in California that may be keeping out more infectious strains.

As case rates have fallen across the country in recent months, California has led the way. It now has the lowest per capita Covid infection rate in the continental U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, thanks in large part to Los Angeles County, where a quarter of the state’s 40 million people live.

About 20% of Covid tests were coming back positive in Los Angeles County in early January, with more than 15,000 new cases and 250 deaths reported most weekdays and more than 1,600 intensive care beds taken by coronavirus patients. In the past week, the positivity rate has been hovering around or below 1%. There are around 400 new cases and fewer than 50 deaths reported most days and just under 500 people are currently hospitalized with Covid-19.

“It’s a dramatic decrease,” said Barbara Ferrer, Los Angeles County’s director of public health. She said it would take months before there were definitive answers about why the Covid rates have come down so sharply, but several factors are likely at play.


Teaching Gardens

For more than 10 years, the American Heart Association&rsquos Teaching Gardens have been teaching kids about growing food and eating healthy. It serves as a real-life laboratory where kids learn to plant seeds, nurture growing plants, harvest produce and ultimately learn the value of good eating habits. There are more than 400 Teaching Gardens nationwide, including 60 in South and East Los Angeles, where the program has reached more than 50,000 students and parents.

To expand Teaching Gardens, the American Heart Association collaborated with Kelly Meyer, founder of OneSun, and Gail Becker, CEO of CAULIPOWER, to launch a nationwide grant program to support the Teaching Gardens Network, which provide access to free garden resources and curriculum, helping school gardens become Teaching Gardens®.

According to the American Heart Association&rsquos 2019 Statistical Update, most children don&rsquot eat enough fruits and vegetables. On any given day, 27 percent of 2- and 3-year-olds do not eat a vegetable and among those who do, fried potatoes are the most common. The problem isn&rsquot just among toddlers. Data shows kids eat less and less of these important foods up to age 19.

Lifelong habits are created during childhood and the American Heart Association wants to help children learn and adopt healthy behaviors early. School gardens pair a hands-on experience with an interactive nutrition curriculum to help students make healthy food choices.


All Farmers Markets in Los Angeles Now Accept EBT

10.24.16 – Today is Food Day 2016! We wanted to celebrate by recapping a huge policy victory for food justice in Los Angeles: the introduction of CalFresh EBT (food stamps) to all LA City Farmers Markets. This piece was written by Catherine Achy, one of our amazing student interns from UCLA.

Access to Farmers Markets

In March 2016, the LA Times published an editorial titled “It’s Time For all L.A. Farmers Markets to Accept Food Stamps.” The piece criticized the fact that only half of the 57 farmers markets in LA accepted CalFresh EBT (electronic bank transfers), or food stamps, when many more Jack in the Box fast food restaurants and liquor stores eagerly accepted the form of payment. How was it right that the city denied many lower income Angelenos some of the “few oases of reasonably priced, healthy, and local produce?” The LA city council set a goal to figure out how to have all farmers markets accept CalFresh EBT by the end of March.

The city of Los Angeles is home to 57 farmers markets that sell produce from SoCal and Central Valley farms, one of the most agriculturally productive areas in the world. There are many people who are able to and willing to buy this produce, but until recently, there were many more people who wanted to participate in these markets than were actually able to due to financial access. Even though they did not meet their March deadline, in May 2016, the LA City Council passed an ordinance that required all 57 markets to accept CalFresh EBT, or food stamps. This has enabled many lower income families who were unable to participate in farmers markets the ability to do so.

LA is characterised by both an innovative foodie culture with some of the richest neighborhoods in the world, and some of the largest food deserts and food insecure communities in the country. Los Angeles County has the highest population of food insecure citizens in the country, with 1.5 million people and 1 in 4 children who at times lack access to enough food to live an active and healthy life, based on Feeding America’s recent report. Food deserts are defined as areas without fresh fruit and vegetables and other healthy food, usually in impoverished areas. These areas generally lack grocery stores and most groceries are purchased at convenience stores and corner markets. In addition to geographic availability, people lack access to healthy foods when the only markets around cater to people of higher incomes, and fresh produce is simply too expensive to purchase.

Almost a million people in LA rely on CalFresh EBT to buy groceries every month, according to laist. Federally, the program is known as SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and it aims to add to people’s food budgets so they can buy and eat nutritious foods. However, before May 2016, more than half of the farmers markets in LA were not equipped to accept CalFresh EBT .This made it difficult and even impossible for many food insecure families to buy produce at farmers markets, greatly limiting their access to healthy food. In some areas without supermarkets, farmers markets that come into neighborhoods even just once a week provide the only access to fresh produce.

As reported by the LA Times, in May 2016, the Los Angeles City Council, with the support of the LA Food Policy Council and LA CAN, took a stand for food justice when they unanimously voted to pass a new ordinance that requires all 57 markets in the city’s limits to accept CalFresh EBT. No longer is income the deciding factor in whether a family can support their local farmers market and eat fresh and nutritious foods. This ordinance will greatly increase people’s access to healthy food, and it is a big victory for food justice in LA.

In order for a market to be able to accept EBT, it must be authorized by the USDA Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) and equipped with a machine that processes an EBT card, which is similar to a debit card. The market manager swipes a card and issues the user scrip, a form of currency, to purchase eligible food at the market. At the end of the market, merchants redeem the scrip for cash from the manager. All of the markets will need to be equipped with these machines for them to be able to accept EBT.

Enabling markets in Los Angeles to accept CalFresh has benefited both the local consumers and the merchants. More people are now able to buy the local and sustainable produce from the markets, allowing them to contribute to their local economies. For example, the LA Times estimates that EBT contributes to 30% of all market purchases in South LA. This also means that there are more customers for the merchants, drawing in new merchants and encouraging markets to grow.

This is a large victory for food justice in LA, but there is still much work to be done. There are many communities that lack access to any fresh produce and farmers markets, and expanding markets to these areas will be critical for establishing food equity in the city. However, providing the purchasing power to buy healthy food to the many people are food insecure is a critical first step.

To find and support local farmers markets, check out this market locator. To find out how your local or state representatives are doing on food issues, check out this food policy scorecard.


The Food Bank Receives $100,000 Donation From Delta Dental

The Delta Dental Community Care Foundation donated $100,000 to the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank to help communities most impacted by COVID-19. The gift will help support the Food Bank’s mission to assist those experiencing food insecurity during the pandemic. The contribution is part of its donations to organizations across their 15-state service area that are at the foreground of supporting those most affected by the crisis.

Donations like this will enable the Food Bank to serve the LA community without interruptions and provide food to children and families who rely on federally-funded school lunches facing current school closures, serve senior citizens who cannot attend congregate meals and those workers facing lay-offs or reduced hours.

Delta Dental is the philanthropic arm of Delta Dental of California and its affiliated companies including Delta Dental Insurance Company, Delta Dental of Pennsylvania and Delta Dental of New York, Inc. The organization partners with local communities to increase access to care, support dental education and fund research that advances the oral health field.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is having an unprecedented disruption on daily life across the globe, and while we don’t yet fully understand the extent of the public health or economic implications of this outbreak, we do know that it will be particularly challenging for those who are already vulnerable,” said Kenzie Ferguson, Vice President of Foundation and Corporate Social Responsibility for Delta Dental of California.

LA County faces food insecurity more than any other country in the nation. It is thanks to our donors like Delta Dental, that the Food Bank can provide undisturbed distribution of healthy food to more than 300,000 people monthly during this pandemic.


Food Insecurity in the Time of COVID-19: A California Primer

We’ve all seen the images, a stunning visual representation of the double whammy punch landed by an unprecedented public health pandemic and resulting record unemployment.

Miles-long lines of cars with thousands of people waiting to enter food banks in California, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and elsewhere in the country. Some food relief organizations, such as Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County, responded by providing their first pop-up, drive-through food distribution for people in need. So did a similar effort in Inglewood, California in partnership with the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank.

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis food insecurity is surging in the United States and food banks are struggling to meet the need.

More than 38 million Americans — about 1 in 7 people — were food insecure in 2018, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data. That number could double in the wake of the economic havoc caused by the novel coronavirus, according to a spokesperson for Feeding America, a hunger relief nonprofit that oversees 200 food banks.

Demand for food aid has increased as much as eightfold in some areas, according to an investigation by The Guardian. With 16 million and counting joining the unemployed ranks across the U.S. within weeks of the COVID-19 crisis, food insecurity is a major concern for many Americans right now. That’s especially the case for employees in the retail, restaurant, and hospitality service industries, where thousands of workers — who often live paycheck to paycheck — have been laid off, with little or no buffer as yet against the abrupt loss of income.

All this demand is spiking at a time—because of stockpiling and social distancing mandates—when food is becoming more challenging to access. Many grocery stores are stripped bare and there are long waits to enter many supermarkets. Food pantries are dealing with shortages of donated food, as restaurants, hotels, and casinos — all vital sources of surplus food — are shut due to COVID-19 and grocery stores have no excess. (On top of that, volunteer workers are typically retirees, most of whom are sheltering in place, under government directives or doctors’ orders.)

Adding to the challenge: schools and childcare centers are closed across the country due to COVID-19, which means that many families who rely on free or reduced-cost school breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and even dinner to feed their children are facing greater need. The school lunch program, notes an NPR report on the problem, is the second-biggest anti-hunger initiative in the country, after the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, (SNAP), formerly referred to as food stamps. In a pivot that’s had a profound impact in communities across California and elsewhere, schools have continued to find ways to feed students and their families. As one student nutrition services provider told a reporter: “The title of lunch lady is going to be replaced with school nutrition hero. Not all heroes wear capes some wear aprons.”

How to help patients in need? Here’s a guide to public, private, and nonprofit resources during the pandemic, with a particular emphasis on California, for clinic clients who need food relief right now:

  • U.S. Department of Agriculture/Food and Nutrition Services has compiled a list of updated program information in response to COVID-19, including state waivers, flexibilities, and contingencies in relation to enrollment in government food aid programs for children, seniors, and individuals with disabilities. The site includes details on programs such as Child Nutrition, WIC (Women, Infants, and Children), and SNAP. It also includes a school meals site finder. Find tips for meal planning, cooking, and shopping during social distancing at MyPlate.
  • California Department of Education has posted a list of all school districts and locations offering grab-and-go meals during the COVID-19 school closure. They’ve also created an app, “CA Meals for Kids,” to help families locate food pick-up sites.
  • School Lunch is still on the table. The COVID-19 Child Nutrition Response Act established a nationwide waiver to help school districts continue to provide students with meals while minimizing exposure to the novel coronavirus. Even though schools are currently online, school district nutrition staff and scores of volunteers are still feeding children, and in some cases, adults too. For instance, The Los Angeles Unified School District — with 700,000 students, the nation’s second largest — has served roughly 5 million meals to children and adults alike at 63 grab-and-go food centers set up since it closed schools March 16, according to Civil Eats . Find the LAUSD student pick up sites map here. The LAUSD Superintendent announced that his district is serving more meals daily than any of the nation’s food banks, according to the Civil Eats story. The district distributed more than 432,000 meals on one day alone. It is also providing meals to 13 temporary homeless shelters in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, New York City Public Schools , the largest district in the U.S., has 400 grab-and-go meal hubs, which is also now offering free meals to both students and adults.
  • CalFresh is California’s version of SNAP, which provides federally funded benefits each month to low-income residents. Sign up online at CalFresh. In April, CalFresh recipients will receive an Emergency Allotment on their Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) Card, which can be used to buy food at many farmers markets, grocery stores, and supermarkets. California and Arizona were recently approved to participate in a pilot program that allows SNAP recipients to purchase groceries online (Amazon and Walmart are the current retailers accepting such payments). Other states that can offer SNAP online include Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, and Washington. There has been a record upswing in the number of applications for CalFresh, according to Code for America , a nonprofit that partners with the state to sign up people for the program. According to the Los Angeles Times , the group had seen a 350 percent increase in applications since COVID-19.
  • Online tools such as One Degree can help locate community food resources in a couple of clicks the site is frequently updating information for both the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles County in response to the rapidly-evolving COVID-19 crisis. Another online social care network resource, Aunt Bertha, designed the findhelp.org tool in response to the pandemic, for people needing food assistance and other aid. It includes new programs in response to COVID-19. Meanwhile, the social care coordination platform Unite Us is working with its health care partners to ensure accurate, up-to-date information in a scenario that is constantly changing. Free Food is an online user-populated resource that lists — by state and city — food pantries, soup kitchens, food shelves, and food banks around the country. It’s a useful resource for services outside large metropolitan areas. Food Pantries is a similar site.
  • Los Angeles Food Policy Council put together a detailed COVID-19 resource list on programs offering free meals, free or subsidized food delivery services, as well as information on where to find farmers markets, food banks, and food pantries.
  • Food Banks continue to provide free perishable and non-perishable groceries. Use the California Association of Food Banks find a food bank online service or call 211 to locate a nearby food bank or food pantry. Central California Food Bank has seen a 50 percent increase in demand, similar to other areas. The food banks are adapting to meet growing need: San Francisco-Marin Food Bank is running new pop-up food pantries . Los Angeles Regional Food Bank is distributing record breaking amounts of food during the pandemic to pantries around the area. Alameda County Food Bank has increased its distribution of emergency food bags, which include shelf-stable groceries intended to last a few days. San Diego Food Bank is offering emergency drive-thru food and essential supplies. Sacramento Food Bank is also offering “touchless” drive-thru food distribution direct to consumers. , the global food-relief nonprofit founded by celebrity chef José Andrés, launched “Chefs for America,” to respond to the pandemic, and has partnered with organizations on the ground to feed people in need due to the virus crisis in Oakland, Los Angeles, New York City, Washington, D.C., Little Rock, Newark, New Orleans, Puerto Rico and elsewhere in the nation.
  • Community kitchens have sprouted in restaurants closed for dining across California to feed people in need, either directly or through nonprofit programs. Everytable is offering meals to all vulnerable Angelenos, including food distribution for seniors who need food brought to their homes. Luka’s Taproom & Lounge in Oakland is working under the umbrella of a nonprofit to feed the unsheltered. The nonprofit SF New Deal has partnered with a slew of Bay Area restaurants to feed the most vulnerable during the crisis.
  • County and city initiatives in response to increased demand for food services include a Santa Clara County food locator map, which features more than 400 food distribution sites, including free meal pick-up locations for students and seniors, and food pantry locations. In Los Angeles, the Mayor’s Office Angeleno Campaign is providing grocery gift cards and pre-paid debit cards for individuals hard hit by the current crisis.
  • Nonprofit food relief organizations are also stepping up to help meet demand. The San Diego Hunger Coalition offers links to nonprofit feeding programs in the area in response to COVID-19. During the initial lockdown, Project Angel Food in Los Angeles delivered three weeks-worth of additional frozen meals and shelf-stable pantries to its 1,600 clients with life-threatening illnesses.
  • Serious Eats, an online cooking site, offers a comprehensive food safety and handling guide during COVID-19 as well as a guide to how to sanitize a home kitchen during the crisis.

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Los Angeles Approves Plans to Fight Homelessness

LOS ANGELES — Five months after declaring that homelessness here had reached emergency proportions, city and county officials on Tuesday approved parallel plans that aim to combat the growing crisis of people living on the streets.

The city’s plan — which comes with a price of $100 million for homeless services this year and nearly $2 billion over the next decade for housing — includes appointing a city homeless coordinator, creating a network of public restrooms and showers, and, most critically, making a huge investment in affordable housing. Rising rents and home prices are considered prime culprits in the escalating number of homeless people here according to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, Los Angeles County has the largest chronic homeless population in the country.

The plan approved by the county supervisors, meanwhile, committed an additional $150 million over the next two years to services for the homeless.

While stubborn questions remain about where the money will come from and how quickly improvements can be made, local officials declared that Tuesday’s votes marked the start of a new era for fighting homelessness in the region, after years in which the local governments did not work together and homeless people were chased from one area to another.

“This is a historic moment for the city,” said José Huizar, a city councilor and sponsor of the legislation. “For the first time in our recent memory, we have a comprehensive approach.”

Mayor Eric Garcetti said that the money would come from new revenue and shifting existing funds, and that voters would most likely be asked to approve more funding to address the issue in November or in March of next year.

“This is the highest priority that we have, to make sure that nobody is living on the streets and nobody is without a home,” the mayor said at a news conference after the City Council vote.

Mr. Garcetti said that significant progress had been made in the past year. He highlighted a collaboration with the county government to clean up Skid Row, one of the nation’s largest homeless encampments, with a goal of reducing the population there by a quarter before the end of the year.

The county’s homeless population shot up 12 percent from 2013 to 2015, and last year’s count put it at an estimated 44,000 people, with more than half of those within the city limits. Officials predict that this year’s numbers will be even higher.

Marqueece Harris-Dawson, a city councilor, said the expansion of encampments from downtown to freeway overpasses throughout the city had helped spur action. “All of us have encampments on one corner or another, under one freeway pass or another,” said Mr. Harris-Dawson, who co-sponsored the legislation.

Although the city is home to most of the county’s homeless population, it is the county, which runs the Public Health Department and the jail system, that provides most services for the homeless. The county already spends around $1 billion per year on health and welfare for the homeless, as well as on law enforcement to both help and police the population. The additional county funding will, in part, pay for short- and long-term housing.

Though some advocates for the homeless applauded the joint plans, others said the efforts would not do nearly enough to alleviate the suffering of those on the street. Neither plan, for example, addressed the ongoing complaint that the police harass people for sleeping on the streets — a policy that advocates for the homeless refer to as criminalization — and confiscate their property.

Pete White of the Los Angeles Community Action Network, an anti-poverty group, said the money the city had earmarked for emergency housing during potential El Niño flooding was nowhere near enough. “You must highlight criminalization,” Mr. White said. “Make sure it’s not part of the plan.”

But Peter Lynn, the executive director of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, said the plans were important steps forward, because they identified just how much money would be required to end one of the region’s most intractable problems.

“Homelessness is at a crisis level in Los Angeles,” Mr. Lynn said. “It’s going to take time and serious resource investment to fix it, but the plans lay out a road map to get us there.”


If Los Angeles finally plans to help the homeless, the effect will be felt nationwide

Home to the third-largest homeless crisis in America, Los Angeles has reached a reckoning to finally help the affected population. In order to prompt the city to do something, a judge is withholding the $1 billion worth of homeless relief that has piled up over the years and placed it in escrow for 60 days . These 60 days will be absolutely crucial if LA can come up with some sort of plan in that time, then it could set the precedent for homeless relief in other counties, and even across the country as a whole. However, in order for this to be truly effective, county officials must make sure they take into account a number of factors to not only solve the homeless crisis as is, but also make sure to address the crisis at its root.

With so many funds, it seems obvious that first and foremost, the money could go towards building shelters for those in need. However, this isn’t the catch-all cure for this issue there is a stigma that permeates both society and the homeless community itself that homeless people are addicts. Though this stigma is sometimes true , it is also equally damaging to those who fall victim to it. However, in order to ensure the safety of all homeless people, LA would find it wise to develop divided housing shelters that allow each individual or family a room to themselves that only they have access to, so they have peace of mind in a sheltered situation. And within this divided housing format, those who do suffer from addiction can get the help they need in a separate part of the shelter.

Additionally, the funds should also go to competent, respectful staff. Cases of abuse in homeless shelters are sadly all too common, and funding a process of background checks and hiring people with the right qualifications for the job will ensure safer homeless shelters for all. Most importantly, proactive staff will help promote rehabilitation even more, and therefore this factor should be funded.

Of course, it is not enough to simply put the money towards helping those who are already homeless. Part of this funding should also go towards preventing homelessness in LA, particularly towards funding education and opportunities in Black and brown communities. Black and Indigenous people are more likely to experience homelessness than their white counterparts, and part of this can be chalked up to the lack of good education and funding in the neighborhoods that are predominantly nonwhite. If part of this fund was to go towards improving schools and expanding more opportunities for these communities to succeed, part of the issue of homelessness would be nipped in the bud.

Furthermore, the price of living in LA has significantly gone up over the years, which has only further contributed to the housing crisis. As the city has gained so much fame over the years, it has gradually become even more gentrified as celebrities and influencers move to LA and live in exorbitant wealth. Meanwhile, poorer communities are forced out of their homes because they can no longer make rent on their houses. In the case that more funding was needed for this push to help the homeless, then it should be levied from the influencers who have made LA all the more expensive to call home in the first place.

With these factors in mind, LA county must create a plan that will take into account both solving the problem for those who are already homeless, as well as taking steps of prevention. The plan, if there is one, will be an incredible piece of homeless relief if it is done well however, there is still a chance that the plan will not meet expectations. It is no surprise that bureaucracy will likely push back against any significant change to help the homeless, and as such, they may produce a plan that is lacking at best and harmful at worst.

It is of utmost importance that the LA community demands a plan of action that will ensure none of the money goes to waste, and this plan should not simply be a band-aid on a bullet wound. A good plan will allow for transparency as to where these funds are going, create opportunities in underfunded minority communities and assist those who are already homeless to help them get back on their feet. All eyes should be watching LA as they create this plan because it could alter the way the homeless crisis is treated nationwide if they create something solid.

Above all else, LA would be wise to remember throughout the process that homeless people are people too. They have rights just like those of us who are lucky enough to have a roof over our heads. Regardless of if they suffer from addiction or if they have simply fallen on hard times, shelter is a human right. Los Angeles needs to buck up and create a plan to help their impoverished residents, if not out of the goodness of their hearts, then to simply provide one of the most basic needs of humankind.


Los Angeles County's Forgotten Farming History

The following is an excerpt from the book "From Cows to Concrete: The Rise and Fall of Farming in Los Angeles" copyright (c) 2016 by Rachel Surls and Judith Gerber. Published by Angel City Press, Santa Monica. All images are courtesy of Angel City Press, used with permission.

Near the intersection of Short and Poppy Avenues in Compton, the branches of a massive sycamore spread over an apartment complex in a neighborhood where few large trees grow. Known as the Eagle Tree, the old sycamore is a living remnant of Los Angeles County’s largely forgotten history as a farming community. The Eagle Tree was one of the boundary markers of the giant Rancho San Pedro, a cattle ranch established in 1784 that sprawled over seventy-five thousand acres from the Los Angeles River to the Pacific Ocean. Local ranches like San Pedro were self-sufficient, raising corn, wheat, and a few vegetables along with enormous herds of cattle. For the little they couldn’t produce themselves, rancheros traded cowhides, building the first economy of Los Angeles.

Such pastoral history could not seem further away today. Compton has few gardens and little green space, which is true for much of Los Angeles County. Concrete covers the land where cows grazed and crops thrived. Under the pavement and parking lots of the vast urban landscape lie thousands of acres of once-productive farmland. Farming was at the center of life in Los Angeles from the time of its founding in 1781, an aspect of local history important well into the mid-twentieth century, when Los Angeles County was the top agricultural county in the nation.

Without farming, there would be no Los Angeles. The city exists only because in 1769 members of the first Spanish land expedition into Alta California recognized its potential for farming. Alta California, which encompassed the entirety of California today, was terra incognita for the Spanish, who claimed the land, but had not explored beyond its coastline. In 1769, members of the group led by Gaspar de Portolá, traveling through the area as they made their way toward Monterey, observed that the native people were not farmers. Rather, they harvested the land’s native plants. But the travelers noted the ingredients for successful farming: rich soil, lush plant life, and water nearby—plenty of water. In just over a decade, as part of Spain’s effort to colonize this unknown land, Los Angeles was established as an agricultural village, on the banks of the river that would be its main source of water for more than a century.

Over the decades, Los Angeles grew from a small farming community into an agricultural powerhouse. Farmers experimented with a multitude of crops, from fruits and vegetables, to hemp, cotton, and flowers. Livestock was important too, with a major stockyard rivaling those in Chicago and Omaha, hundreds of dairies and poultry ranches. Some enterprises faded away, while others thrived, influencing L.A.’s development as a metropolitan and cultural center. Local agriculture reached its apex in the four decades from 1909 to 1949, when Los Angeles County was the top farm county in the United States.

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Farms in Los Angeles had influence well beyond the county’s borders. From avocados to citrus to vineyards, several massive California agricultural industries first put down roots in Los Angeles County, helping to push the state into prominence as an epicenter for farming. Agriculture is still big business in California, the top farm state in the nation. And while it has faded from its glory days, Los Angeles County still makes a contribution to the Golden State’s vast farm productivity. L.A. County farm production ranked thirty-second among fifty-eight California counties in 2013, with crops including alfalfa, carrots, and peaches, along with nursery crops. A catchall category for shrubs, trees, flowers, and other plants produced for landscapes, nursery crops are one of the few types of commercial agriculture still relatively common in urban Los Angeles. Grown in containers, they can be squeezed into limited spaces such as land under power lines. The county’s more traditional farms, on the other hand, are mostly in the sparsely populated High Desert, sixty miles north of downtown Los Angeles, where fields of bright green alfalfa and orchards of cherries and peaches still dot the countryside around the cities of Lancaster and Palmdale.

In the county’s urban core, while farms are scarce, examples of the area’s agrarian past abound, often in unexpected places. But more than just history, these examples are also relevant to the present and future. Often, they help to explain how Los Angeles evolved—sprawling and unwieldy, diverse and eclectic. The farm history of Southern California also suggests solutions for the future, as Angelenos engage with food and farming. Area residents have become passionate about their farmers markets, community gardens, and fresh foods in general. Local folks are fighting city hall on issues including the legality of backyard beekeeping and planting vegetables in the narrow strip of land between the sidewalk and the street. Urban farms are sprouting up, testing community tolerance for the sound of crowing roosters and the smell of compost. Some see these as meaningful connections with nature, others, as nuisances.

The current interest in farming is evident in other major metropolitan areas, too. But in L.A., these issues take on added importance because of its sheer size. What happens in Los Angeles has relevance for urban communities across the nation, in part because Los Angeles grapples with common issues on a much larger scale. Just as Los Angeles County was once a farming behemoth, it is the demographic heavyweight among counties in the United States, with more than ten million residents. For comparison’s sake, the next largest county is Cook County, Illinois, home to Chicago and its population of more than five million. Home to more than a quarter of California’s residents, Los Angeles County has more people than all but eight states.

Los Angeles County is home to almost thirty percent of Californians who live in poverty. The level of income inequality has crept up over the past decade, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. There is enormous economic disparity in the City of Angels in particular, where the gap between rich and poor ranked ninth in the nation when the Brookings Institution reported on income inequality in 2014. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LADPH) reported that the number of food-insecure households (meaning those consistently unable to afford enough food), had reached crisis proportions. Many families ran out of food before the end of the month, and hunger was all too common. According to a 2013 study conducted by a national coalition of food banks, Los Angeles County had more children at risk of going hungry than any other county in the United States,.

Los Angeles, once famed as a land of health and sunshine, became known as a health-obsessed metropolis, with juice bars, vegan restaurants, and yoga studios galore—but not in every neighborhood. “There’s a saying if you know someone’s zip code, you know their health,” as one public health expert put it. East Compton, for example, had the highest adult obesity rate in the county, almost forty percent, while the affluent community of San Marino had the lowest, at just over eight percent, according to LADPH statistics released in 2011. In urban Los Angeles communities, the fact that burgers, fries, and unhealthy fast food prevailed in 2016. The land of fast food became home to an obesity epidemic and a resulting rise in chronic disease. Health experts and activists have connected the dots between public health and local farming, which some view as a strategy for making healthful food more available to urban residents. Hope springs eternal: in 2016, the celebrated chefs Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson teamed to open a healthy and inexpensive fast-food establishment called Locol in Watts, with plans to take the concept nationwide.

Whether the reasons relate to health, the environment, or simply a desire to better understand food and how it’s produced, farming has become part of the local and national dialogue. Once, Los Angeles was home to an extraordinary harvest, its bounty sustained for two-and-a-half centuries. What better time and place to start a conversation about the importance of honoring farm heritage? In that heritage is the story of those who cultivated the land the world calls Los Angeles—from the Native Americans who first gathered its wild crops, to a succession of immigrant newcomers who changed the cultural landscape.

"From Cows to Concrete" is the story of how thousands of acres of prime farmland disappeared under the spreading suburbs of the growing city. It’s a cautionary tale, but also a story of hope, as urban residents in Los Angeles engage with the region’s farm heritage. By connecting with the past, Angelenos hope to create a more abundant future, a Southern California where farms and gardens will once again take root amidst the concrete.

Top Image: An aerial view of orange groves near Covina shows how much agricultural acreage remained in Los Angeles County during the World War II era. 1941. | Courtesy of Angel City Press