Los Alamitos is dishing out another round of funds this holiday season – this time, to nonprofits focused on fighting hunger.

One such organization, Casa Youth Shelter, picked up its check Dec. 7.

“Financial support is always the biggest need for nonprofits, in my experience,” said Amy Lakin, executive director of the shelter.

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City Council unanimously approved the program in a Nov. 15 meeting, allocating $70,000 in grant funds to local nonprofits to support the purchase and distribution of food to families in need.

Casa Youth Shelter – an emergency shelter based in Los Alamitos providing mental health resources and basic necessities for people ages 12-17 all over Southern California – is just one of eight nonprofits that have been approved to receive the funds.

Others include: the Youth Center, Food Finders, Summer Harvest, Grateful Hearts, Lestonnac Free Clinic, Transitions in Motherhood, and We Care of Los Alamitos.

Lakin said all hands are on deck at Casa Youth Shelter to get that money out to families.

“Everybody is experiencing a higher need for mental health support right now, as well as food insecurity and housing insecurity,” Lakin told Voice of OC. “It’s pretty prevalent no matter where you live.”

According to Emeline Noda, Los Alamitos’ director of recreation and community services, local nonprofits had until Nov. 29 to apply for the grant through Los Alamitos. All organizations that applied received the grant.

Qualifying organizations include nonprofits and churches who are focused on food distribution and are a part of the city’s Serve Los Al committee, an initiative to connect government bodies, community organizations, and volunteers for city improvement projects.

The money comes from a $10 million allotment by Orange County Board of Supervisors for food accessibility initiatives, with Los Alamitos’ share being $70,000, according to a city staff report. About $62,400 will go directly towards local nonprofits in the form of $7,800 grants.

Casa Youth Shelter has an annual operating budget of $1.6 million. According to Lakin, “The grant is incredibly helpful to allow us to provide direct support to the youth and the families that we serve… truly every amount helps.”

Of the $70,000 total awarded to Los Alamitos, a separate $7,600 will be set aside for two other initiatives: the Bob Hope USO holiday assistance program will receive one half, and the city’s Senior Grocer Program will receive the other half. The money will go towards 160 gift cards—80 in each program—valued at $50 each.

Vons also took part in the season of giving, discounting the city’s purchase of the gift cards by about $400, according to Noda.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, nonprofit organizations have been working overtime to distribute food to millions of people in need.

According to Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County, more than 400,000 people experience food insecurities throughout the county. These include seniors, veterans, people with disabilities, working families, and those experiencing homelessness.

At least one in seven children is at risk of going hungry.

The holidays bring their own set of challenges.

Last December, some organizations around Orange County reported a drop in donations and funding, and faced difficulties as to how they could safely distribute goods to people in need during the pandemic.

This year, food insecurity continues to be a concern throughout the county. The Orange County Board of Supervisors approved a $3 million grant late September to OC Hunger Alliance in order to combat pandemic-related food insecurities.

According to Lakin, there’s “no question” that the holiday season is a difficult time for people.

“There’s always a struggle to make the holidays special, and that’s hard when you’re living paycheck to paycheck,” said Lakin.

According to Finance Director Craig Koehler, the $70,000 grant is not a part of the $2.7 million Los Alamitos received from the American Rescue Plan Act, a federal COVID-19 relief program signed in by President Joe Biden earlier this year.

Unlike the American Rescue Plan Act funds, which do not have to be spent until the end of 2024, the $70,000 received from the county must be distributed by Dec. 31 of this year.

Los Alamitos’ nonprofit grant program comes just weeks after the city approved “Los Al Bucks,” a voucher promotion to support small businesses during the holiday shopping season as they continue to recover from the ongoing pandemic.

The program, which will continue to run through Dec. 19, made use of $227,000 of the city’s total $2.7 million share of the American Rescue Plan Act, a benefit after the city found itself strapped for cash last year.

Lakin said that though Los Alamitos hasn’t always had the opportunity to provide direct financial aid, “They provide a lot of manpower and encouragement and support.”

“The community has been incredibly supportive of the organization,” added Lakin. “We’re very, very fortunate to be a part of that community that supports each other.”

Here is a list of food pantries in Los Alamitos distributing resources during the holiday season:

  • Food Finders – 10539 Humbolt Street
  • Grateful Hearts – 5420 Katella Ave.
  • We Care of Los Alamitos – 3788 Cerritos Ave.

Click here for a list of other food pantries in Orange County.

Recipients of Los Alamitos’ grant program. CREDIT: Emeline Noda, Los Alamitos recreation director.

Los Alamitos city staff hosted their annual Toy Drive earlier this month for the Youth Shelter. CREDIT: Emeline Noda, Los Alamitos recreation director.

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