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LA County leads nation in hunger at 1.7 million people

March 25, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Los Angeles County now leads the nation in the number of people who need help getting enough food. That word comes from a group that works to fill the hunger gap.

At 95 years old, Antonio Landa can still cut a rug. But the retired window installer was having a hard time putting food on his table. So last year he turned to a Burbank food bank for help.

"It's a lot of help on my food bill," said Landa. "With the economy right now, it's very tough to make ends meet."

It's no surprise that Landa is not alone in these tough economic times. But what may surprise people is just how bad L.A. County's hunger problem is, which is measured in a lack of individual meals.

"About 260 million meals are needed in order to close that gap," said L.A. Regional Food Bank President Michael Flood.

Walk the aisles of the charity's huge warehouse packed with food and you may be thinking, what hunger?

"We're collecting and distributing 1.3 million pounds of food every week," said Flood. "We do run out of it at agency sites, and people have to try to find some other place where they can get assistance or get help."

The charity Feeding America is a network of 200 food banks across the country. It released a study this week that highlights L.A. County's growing hunger problem, finding that more than 1.7 million people in the county need some sort of food assistance.

People like Landa.

"Basics like macaroni," said Landa. "A lot of stuff that I cannot afford to buy."

Charity officials said the hunger crisis is especially bad in Southern California because of our high cost of living. They said by the time we pay our rent and utility bills, there is little money left over to buy food.

In fact the food bank, Burbank Temporary Aids Center, said they are seeing donors now asking for food assistance.