Efforts to feed the hungry in Orange County still wage on even as more people begin to return to work following months of business closures forced by the Coronavirus pandemic.
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As businesses try to recover from their losses, the network of drive through pantries in the county that emerged to feed those in need as unemployment rates reached record numbers are continuing their mission to get food out to the community.
Andre Roberson, the executive director of the Power of One Foundation, a non-profit that aims to fight hunger and poverty through food assistance, said the need for food is still there and there are businesses that still can’t or won’t reopen.
“The demand, I don’t see it going away anytime soon. I think that we need to wait till we get around into August and September to really reassess it,” he said.
Roberson said while the demand for food is still there, the number of people volunteering is dropping as people return to work. Despite this they continue to hold food pantries.
The Power of One Foundation is now holding weekly distributions until August at the OC Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays where they can serve anywhere between 5,000 to 10,000 cars.
“The move to the fairgrounds was something that was in the works for a minute,” Roberson said. “It’s a landmark place everybody knows about it plus, it covers a circumference area, where a lot of people from different areas would come because they know about it. They go to the fair, they go to other events there.”
Roberson’s nonprofit has also held distributions at the MainPlace mall in Santa Ana but with the mall opening the hours of distribution have been cut down to 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. The distributions at the mall will continue every other week.
“We’ll still continue at the mall but I just know that the load will be a smaller load because they’re opening which is what you want the mall to do because you’re looking at so many people losing out on their income,” Roberson said.
The nonprofit depends on donations to run their distributions that cost from $10,000 to $30,000 a weekend as well as their partnerships with local police departments, Northgate supermarket, the Orange County Food Bank and others.
The United Across Border Foundation is another one of the many groups around the county that holds a distribution and is dependent on donations to get the food needed.
The foundation is a nonprofit organization that takes food, school and medical supplies across the border to families in need. Half of the community service efforts are held in the U.S. and the other half in Mexico.
But since the pandemic the organization has put trips across the border on hold and are focusing on feeding the northern part of Orange County through weekly food distributions at the St. Philip Benizi Church in Fullerton on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“The first distribution we did was about 1200 families,” said Olivia Casillas, Vice President of Operations of the United Across Borders Foundation. “And since then it ranges between, you 600 sometimes it’s 800 and it just varies.”
Casillas said that they have had to turn people away because their resources are not enough and that the organization is seeking out partnerships with other groups to get more food.
“We’re facing a little bit of problems because we don’t have enough food and I wish more resources were opened for nonprofits,” said Erika Robles, the founder and CEO of the United Across Borders Foundation.
Robles said she is unsure how people returning to work will affect the number of people going to the pantries to get free groceries.
Besides their weekly distribution, the organization has started the Feeding Heroes Project aimed at providing meals to medical workers at local hospitals. They also started the Feeding Field Workers projects intended to provide free groceries and lunches for farm workers in Irvine.
“Without them, we were not able to bring vegetables and fruits to our houses,” Robles said.
The Sikh Center of Orange County, a nonprofit religious organization in Santa Ana, has also been holding drive-through food distributions every other Saturday from about 9 a.m. to around 11 a.m. at the Gurdwara in Santa Ana.
“Our long term goal with this is to make it a sustainable food pantry so that we could support our local community and build relationships with them,” said Bandana Singh, a spokesperson for the Sikh Center’s food pantry.
This week the center plans to feed 650-700 families with boxes of food that can last a week all from donations of groceries or money. Singh said the need for food is still there in the community.
“As things open up, as people go back to work like eventually I do think the need will flatten out to a lower number I just don’t know when that’s gonna be,” Singh said.
For anybody in need of food there are pantries across the county handing it out for free.
The Power of One Foundation
Saturday 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. at OC Fairgrounds
88 Fair Dr, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
United Across Borders Foundation
Saturday June 13 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at the
235 S Pine Dr. Fullerton, CA 92833
Sikh Center of Orange County
Saturday June 13, 27 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Gurdwara
2514 W Warner Ave, Santa Ana, CA 92704
Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County
Every Saturday from 9 a.m to 12 p.m. at the Honda Center
2695 E Katella Ave, Anaheim, CA 92806
The Vineyard Anaheim Church
Every Wednesday and Thursday from 9-11 a.m. at the Church.
5340 E La Palma Ave, Anaheim, CA 92807
Thursday 3:00-4:00 p.m.
601 E Valencia Dr, Fullerton, CA 92832
Saturday 1:00-3:00 p.m. at the Brookhurst Community Center
2271 Crescent Ave, Anaheim, CA 92801
Laguna Food Pantry
Monday-Friday 8:00 am-10:30 am
20652 Laguna Canyon Road Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Yorba Linda Community Center
Every Thursday 8:30 a.m.-9:30 a.m.
4501 Casa Loma Avenue Yorba Linda, CA 92886
The Salvation Army Southern California
Monday, Thursday 2-4:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Friday 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
1515 West North Street Anaheim, CA 92801
Wednesday 1-3 p.m.
10200 Pioneer Road Tustin, CA 92782
For more food assistance options visit 211 OC.
If you operate a drive through food pantry in Orange County and would like our newsroom to be aware of your efforts, reach out to Hosam Elattar at [email protected] or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him @[email protected] or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.