Demand at food banks go up in L.A. County

PACOIMA, Calif. The Los Angeles Regional Foodbank has been distributing more food than ever to local food banks, like MEND in /*Pacoima*/.

Heading into the /*Labor Day*/ weekend, families are picking up fruit, canned goods, beans and oatmeal, items not for a holiday barbeque, but the basics they desperately need.

Maria Obando has six children, and she is one of many people turning to her local food bank for help.

"This is a lot of help in here for me. Everybody is really kind in here and they need more help. They're asking for donations too," said Obando.

MEND, which stands for Meet Each Need with Dignity, serves families that are at or below the federal poverty level, and organizers said the need has skyrocketed.

"From July 2009 to July 2010, the increase was 43 percent. If you go back two years, the increase is 128 percent. So it has just gone through the roof," said Marianne Haver Hill, executive director of MEND.

MEND is one of the 590 agencies that receive some of its food from the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank.

A new report shows that the demand for assistance is up 16 percent from last year countywide and up nearly 44 percent from two years ago.

Workers at the food bank said it is hard to keep up with the growing demand.

"We used to have a greater number of new applicants, but now we're seeing more and more repeat clients that come in once a month for food, because they're just not finding employment," said Hill.

Boxes at the /*food bank*/ are packed to feed a family of four. By not having to go to the grocery store, each family is saving about $150.

Andrea Walton, who is disabled, said the money saved is a heavy burden lifted off her back.

"I never expected to have to come to a food bank and stuff like that, but it helps. I try to only come when I need it because so many people are struggling," said Walton.

MEND receives about $6 million worth of food every year, and said that the challenge will be meeting the needs of the community and raising money to keep the operation going.

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