Nonprofit spreads love to thousands of Ventura locals through food distribution

From helping those affected by California wildfires to helping families put food on the table during the pandemic, a local nonprofit is working hard to ease the hardships of many Ventura County families.
VENTURA COUNTY, Calif. (KABC) -- As the saying goes, the worst of mother nature brings out the best in human nature.

"When somebody needs your help you don't, you can't, ignore it," said Kat Merrick, CEO and co-founder of the Local Love Project.

When ABC7 talked to Kat Merrick back in 2017, she and her family had just lost their home in the devastating Thomas Fire. Three years later, she is the co-founder of Local Love Project, a nonprofit working to assist her Ventura community in disaster relief.

At a recent event, volunteers packed hundreds of produce boxes and loading bags with paper towels, toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

MORE: Ventura County nonprofit distributing food to community at historic levels
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FOOD GIVEAWAY: Food Share Ventura County's CEO says the nonprofit has seen its monthly expense of about $50,000 a month skyrocket to about $300,000 for food distribution purposes.

"This is not our first time. Through the Thomas Fire, the Woolsey Hills fires, this community stands together. They come together and work together and that truly is what Local Love is all about and that's how the Local Love Project was founded," said Merrick.

Local Love Project is partnering with restaurant owners and local farmers to provide a weekly food distribution to bar and restaurant industry employees, who have suffered lay offs or reduced hours due to this pandemic.

"I wasn't paycheck to paycheck, but I wasn't living real high on the hog. Still have yet to receive my stimulus paycheck or unemployment. So it's tight, it's tight," said Jared Krupp, general manager of a local bar.

Every Saturday at 3 p.m., industry workers can head to Winchester's Grill in downtown Ventura for the food pop-up.

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A popular San Fernando Valley restaurant is stepping up to help families in need during the coronavirus pandemic.

With four small kids, Greg Schultz says the free meals are a huge help.

"I've been every week since the first week. We're always getting a box of fresh vegetables, fruit, sometimes it's already prepared meals," said Schultz.

Each Saturday an average of 200 families are fed through this effort.

Local Love Project has supplied food to 17,000 households since the safer-at-home orders went into place. It is a service organizers hope to continue as long as there's a need.

"COVID-19 has devastated everyone and certainly the restaurant business has been hurt as bad as any. So we're just trying to do a little something to get our people back feeling loved," said Jr Ford, owner of Winchesters Grill & Saloon.

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COVID RELIEF: The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, with help from actor Danny Trejo and Los Angeles City Councilman Herb Wesson, helped feed about 2,000 families at a food drive held at East Rancho Dominguez Park in Compton.

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