Mosques, synagogues, churches, Gurudwaras and other religious institutions are all finding ways to feed communities across the country and many are among the distribution sites in Orange County getting food to the people who need it.
A network of drive-through food pantries started popping up in Orange County in March to help feed people devastated financially by the pandemic and stay at home orders.
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Several of the pantries are run by houses of worship.
“This is already a place where the community gathers. It’s a place where the community feels comfortable. These churches are located and dotted throughout the county and the communities that they serve. They are at natural distribution points,” said Harald Herrmann, the chief executive officer of Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County.
Institutions like the Catholic Church are among those getting food to people regardless of their religious beliefs. There is a drive through food pantry at Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove every Thursday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the first Saturday of every month 10 a.m. to noon. However, no food distribution will occur on July 4 and will instead be held on July 11.
“As Catholics, we believe in the fundamental dignity of the human person because we believe that we’re all created in the image of God,” said Rev. Christopher Smith of the Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove. “The distribution of food is what we believe is part of our social responsibility because a human being has the right to be able to sustain him or herself physically and food makes that possible.”
Mariners Church, a nondenominational church in Irvine, holds a walk-in food pantry from Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. where people can wait in line six feet apart to get food.
Since the church started its pantry in mid-March it has handed out over 42,000 bags of food, said Jonah Haase, resource center director at the church.
“It’s biblical that we need to share with everyone who is in need especially during times where people are in extreme need like right now,” Haase said. “That’s who we are.”
Muslims are also part of the effort to help feed those in need.
The Islamic Center of Yorba Linda has been dropping off and delivering bags of groceries to senior citizens and others since shortly after the pandemic started.
The grocery delivery is part of a partnership with Uplift Charity, a Muslim non-profit based in Anaheim that works to help those in need become self sufficient, and ICNA relief, a charity that provides social services to underprivileged people. Those interested in a grocery drop off can contact the mosque in Yorba Linda.
“The idea was if there’s a senior having difficulty getting groceries, or is impacted in any way financially, let’s deliver to them and then we expanded to open it up to anybody that had a food issue because we started to learn that this was becoming a deeper issue. People were losing their jobs,” said Owaiz Dadabhoy, a board member at the mosque.
He added it is important to have a strong institution set up to support the community.
“If they are set up and they’re financially strong and they’re run well, then when a calamity happens, they can spring into action better than individuals,” Dadabhoy said.
Dadabhoy said that in Islam there is a responsibility to help feed the hungry and it is ingrained in believers of the faith to feed those in need.
A similar responsibility, known as langar and seva, is also part of Sikhism.
“In Sikhism, the concept of seva, which is selfless service, in conjunction with the concept of langar, which is a free community kitchen, are very, very fundamental pillars of the faith and for us, it’s our duty to help people and it’s our duty to step up when we see a need,” said Bandana Singh, a spokesperson for the Sikh Center of Orange County’s food pantry.
The center, a nonprofit religious organization in Santa Ana, has been holding drive-through food distributions during the pandemic at the Gurudwara or Sikh temple in the city.
Singh said Gurudwaras all over the country and the world are among those who have stepped up to serve during the pandemic.
“Nobody’s ever gone through anything like this in any of our lifetimes, my parents, me or my kids’ generation,” Singh said. “It goes back to the concept of seva in Sikhism that you need to do selfless service and you need to do it when you see a need and the need is greater now than I can ever remember in my lifetime. That’s why right now, it’s the most important thing.”
Since 2010, Temple Beth Sholom in Santa Ana has been providing and cooking meals for the homeless on Sundays as part of a program called Mitzvah Meals but since the pandemic the synagogue has had to put the cooking on pause.
Instead the synagogue continues to collect food donations from Trader Joe’s in Irvine and provides them to Western Service Workers Association, a private member association in Santa Ana, which distributes the food to low income service workers.
Cheryl Escoe, the volunteer chairperson for Mitzvah Meals, said it’s important in Judaism to help make sure the hungry are fed to repair the world or as it is known in Hebrew, Tikkun Olam.
“It’s kind of embedded in us. It’s our DNA,” Escoe said. “I think it’s the same for all denominations, that we want to help repair the world and this is one way we can do it.”
The Jain Center of Southern California holds a food distribution on Sundays from 2-3:30 p.m. at its temple in Buena Park. The center has raised over $120,000 from donations as part of a coronavirus relief fund and is using it to help the community not just with food.
Dr. Jayesh Shah the president of the Jain Center, said the three basic principles of Jainism — ahimsa or nonviolence, aparigraha or non possessiveness and anekantvad or multiplicity — illustrate why it is important to give back to the community.
“Compassion – help people as much as you can, whomever you can help, whichever way you can help. That’s our principles,” he said.
The center donated $35,000 to Second Harvest to help feed people in need, Shah said.
Herrmann, the Second Harvest CEO, said it is no surprise that mosques, churches, temples and religious institutions are a big part of the effort to tackle food insecurity during the pandemic.
“Let’s face it, most faith based organizations are focused on providing for their community and not just spiritually but also in this case sustenance,” he said.
For anybody in need of food pantries across Orange County are handing it out for free.
Jain Center of Southern California
Sunday 2 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
8072 Commonwealth Ave., Buena Park, CA 90621
Christ Cathedral (No Distribution on July 4)
Thursday 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
First Saturday of every month 10 a.m. – noon (July 11 this month)
13280 Chapman Ave., Garden Grove, CA 92840
Monday through Friday at 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
5001 Newport Coast Drive, Irvine, CA 92603
Sikh Center of Orange County (No Distribution on July 4)
Every Saturday in July starting the 11th from 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Gurudwara
2530 Warner Ave., Santa Ana, CA 92704
The Vineyard Anaheim Church (No Distribution on July 4)
Every Wednesday and Thursday from 9-11 a.m. at the church.
5340 E La Palma Ave., Anaheim, CA 92807
Thursday 3-4 p.m. (Cancelled on July 2 for July 4 weekend and resumes July 9)
601 E Valencia Drive, 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 a.m.-10:30 a.m.
20652 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
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@example.com or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him @firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.