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First Baptist and Asian Youth Center Increase Capacity; More Local Food Resources

  • Daniel Arciniega separates eggs from a pallet that included crates of almond milk. Photo by Helen Arase.

  • The First Baptist Church of Alhambra sorts the donated foods into categories: assorted breads, eggs and milk, canned goods, fruits and vegetables, etc. When bagging begins, volunteers go down the line. Photo by Helen Arase.

  • Fresh Brussels sprouts are sorted on the banquet tables and await bagging at the First Baptist Church of Alhambra food distribution. Photo by Helen Arase.

  • Dozens of Olé fajita flour tortillas fill an entire banquet table before bagging at First Baptist Church's food distribution. Photo by Helen Arase.

  • Canned goods are not only separated from other types of foods at First Baptist, but separated by ingredient. Photo by Helen Arase.

  • The clipboard with the names of the deliveries by the First Baptist Church dictates the number of bags in the room that must be prepared. Photo by Helen Arase.

  • Boxes of red potatoes begin the line of produce at First Baptist. Photo by Helen Arase.

  • First Baptist Church of Alhambra brings food to a large table just before 1 p.m. for distribution. Photo by Helen Arase.

Location

Alhambra , CA

Food resources are becoming increasingly more important as the “Safer at Home” orders continue to impact many families’ incomes as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

Local and county resources have been increasing efforts to feed families. The Alhambra Source checked in again with the First Baptist Church of Alhambra and the Asian Youth Center. Both are reporting a dramatic increase in food distribution.

The First Baptist Church of Alhambra is still distributing food on Thursdays. At the end of March, the church was feeding between 75 and 150 families, including deliveries. Now, Pastor Matt Barnes says the church is feeding between 250-300 families each week.

Their main food contributors remain the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, Albertsons and Big Lots.

Barnes said the church has started to receive food from Albertsons on Tuesdays as well, but Thursday is the main pick-up day. The majority of the donations are delivered to the church around 9 a.m. and the team of volunteers begin sorting.

The sorting and bagging can’t be done indoors anymore because there is need for physical distancing and also there is much more food.

The operation has moved outside to the back of the church under pop-up tents, where a dozen folding banquet tables are lined with fresh vegetables, breads and tortillas, canned goods and snack foods. Interspersed in the line are pallets and stacks of eggs, almond milk and more foods for unpacking. In the fridges and freezers inside the church are perishables like milk and meat.

The spaced-out operation is pretty efficient. There’s a thought-out assembly-line structure to it. Rene Rosales, one of the coordinators and a First Baptist member, is still leading the charge, asking where the gloves went, telling people to maintain six-feet distances and wearing a UCLA Bruins face covering.

“Even after this I don’t think we’re going back to the way we were doing it,” Barnes said through face covering sewn from a red bandana.

Pre-COVID-19, the church would let each person peruse the available food and take what they want – this undoubtedly left the ones at the back of the line with the fewest options and least quantity. And, it took hours to serve less than 100 people.

With the bagged food, the church is able to feed hundreds in under an hour.

With food safety gloves, face coverings and social distancing measures being practiced as best as possible, the volunteers are organizing and packing until distribution, which starts at 1 p.m., though the first people arrive before noon to stake their place in line.

By 12:45 p.m. the line, which is also supposed to be practicing social distancing, and is mostly successful in doing so, stretches around the corner of the church located just below Main Street down the block to Commonwealth.

At 1 p.m. sharp, as the person approaches, Barnes places their bundle on a cart from a mountain of pre-packed food that has been placed within his reach by the volunteers.

After the in-line distribution, some of the volunteers will begin the drop-offs to the doors of those who are most vulnerable or cannot leave their homes.

In March when Alhambra Source first visited, the names of families that were receiving deliveries were scratched on a piece of paper. This month, there is a designated clipboard and pen to keep track of everyone.

Individual food or financial donations by both church and community members have been helping the church with their distribution too. Barnes said First Baptist received City Councilmembers Jeff Maloney and Adele Andrade-Stadler’s individual donations within the same week, for example.

The church is also working with other local faith groups and leaders to begin a network of food banks.

There are already a few regular food pantries, but nothing is solidified from these new talks, but Barnes is optimistic.

Some local pantries include the San Gabriel Mission, Holy Family Giving Bank in South Pasadena, Church of the Nazarene-Rosemead and All Saints Conference in El Sereno. Find hours and locations here.

The Asian Youth Center is one of these regular food distributors that has recently taken on more responsibility.

Besides serving a larger number of families in general, the organization has agreed to help take on Alhambra Unified School District’s needs for additional food for families.

The Dream Center teachers at Alhambra High, district, Alhambra Teachers Association and partners in the community began a donation drive in April but realized they didn’t have the infrastructure to distribute the food or manage the monetary donations, including money from the California Teachers Association.

ATA and AYC partnered and the district is sending families to AYC for weekly food and asking that donations be directly sent to AYC.

At the end of March, the Asian Youth Center said it was serving under 100 families through their Emergency Food Program. Their numbers have been consistently growing, and as of last week they’re distributing food to over 300 families per week, according to AYC’s Community Relations Manager Florence Lin.

The Emergency Food Program is one of two food programs from AYC. The emergency program is eligibility-based, requiring verification of local SGV residency, and income-eligibility. Lin reports many more families from the City of Alhambra have benefitted from this feeding program since the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders have impacted their finances.

Food pick-up at AYC requires an appointment. Call 626-537-0954 between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. to schedule an appointment – the last appointment available is 4:30 p.m., on Monday through Friday. Wednesday pick-ups begin in the afternoon because the center gets their food shipment in the morning.

Like the First Baptist Church, AYC’s food varies. Each week’s pick-up is different and depends on the donations from the food banks and individual donors. Canned foods, grains and other non-perishables are most common, but meat, vegetables and other fresh foods are also donated.

One person at a time is allowed in the building, so each family must send a representative inside to pick up the food.

Through the end of the school year AUSD’s feeding schedule will continue to supplement families’ food shortages but when the summer hits these local programs and county locations might see an uptick in numbers.

To help the First Baptist Church’s efforts, Barnes suggests donating plastic shopping bags, non-perishable food items and large-sized food safety gloves. The First Baptist Church’s address is 101 S. Atlantic Blvd in Alhambra or call 626-570-1511.

The Asian Youth Center also relies on donations. Their address is 100 Clary Ave in San Gabriel or call 626-309-0622.

Alhambra Teachers Association, AUSD and other district groups have asked that financial or food donations now be made directly to the Asian Youth Center, where AUSD is directing some district families.

Resources:

The City of Alhambra’s Joslyn Senior Center’s Senior Nutritional Program has been modified during this pandemic. It is serviced through Intervale Senior Services at the YWCA San Gabriel Valley. The City of Alhambra lists the number to call for scheduling as 626-458-4455, and the WYCA’s Senior Menu site says to call 626-214-9443 with questions.

The American Legion Post 397 Monterey Park has a food bank delivery that prioritizes veterans, elderly and disabled. Call or text 626-692-4918 to schedule a delivery or volunteer. They are also taking financial donations.

Via Care Community Health Center is hosting two “farmers’ market on wheels” with the L.A. Regional Food Bank. The distribution will include fresh fruits and vegetables, canned meats, beans, soups, rice, pasta, sauces, grains and other perishable items. You can expect 25 to 40 pounds of food, according to the flyer. Distribution is every fourth Friday of the month: May 22 and June 26 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at 4755 East Cesar E. Chavez Ave. Los Angeles. Call 323-268-9191.

Tzu Chi USA is preparing 1,000 bags of fresh produce and pantry staples to share with the community at their Grocery Giveaway on Sunday, May 10. The distribution is at 8 a.m. at the Tzu Chi Education Campus at 1920 S. Brea Canyon Cutoff Road in Walnut. Face masks or coverings are required.

Let’s Feed L.A. is the county’s food resource hub for COVID-19 related meal assistance, volunteering and connecting food producers with distributors.

The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank has a pantry locator for those looking to acquire food in their area. You can also see information about donating and volunteering.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services has many programs and services for county residents, including temporary financial and employment services, the cash assistance program for immigrants, general relief aid and CalFresh – the “food stamps” nutrition program.

The electronic benefit transfer – EBT – is the state-issued “debit card” for public assistance benefits from the state and county social services, like CalFresh and cash aid. You can now use CalFresh benefits to buy groceries online at Amazon and Walmart.

The Ecology Center has a database of farmers’ markets and whether or not some merchants accept EBT and Market Match – though at the moment they do not track which are closed due to COVID-19. Look up markets’ websites, addresses and contact information here.

Market Match uses benefits – usually EBT – and will match your money so you get double your dollars of fresh farmers’ market foods.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture tracks retailers who accept SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) EBT, including liquor stores, big box companies and mom-and-pop shops. Find them in your neighborhood.

The Women, Infants & Children program is a supplemental nutrition program “available to all eligible families affected by COVID-19,” according to their site. Go to the state’s WIC page or text APPLY to 91997.

Seniors from L.A. City and County can call 800-510-2020 for information on meal services.

The county’s Work Development, Aging & Community Services is providing temporary delivery services of necessities for older adults or those with temporary or permanent disabilities. Deliveries are available 24/7 and Monday through Friday – but must be arranged during business hours – prepaid and ready for pick-up. Call the Critical Delivery Service at 888-863-7411 for the details.

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