LOS ANGELES – No one should go to bed hungry, regardless of their immigration status, Los Angeles County officials said Wednesday as they shared some of the resources available to those in need in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
An estimated 2 million people — including immigrants — in Los Angeles County live with food insecurity, meaning that one in five residents may not know where their next meal is coming from, said Rigo Reyes, executive director for the Office of Immigrant Affairs at the Department of Consumer and Business Affairs.
“As you can imagine, the pandemic has made matters much worse,” Reyes said about the growing need, particularly among the most vulnerable populations such as fixed-income seniors, people with disabilities and low- income families.
He and other community leaders, including county Supervisor Hilda Solis, told reporters the coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately impacted immigrants who are often reluctant to receive public assistance due to fear that doing so will affect their immigration status.
“We’re here if you need food,” Solis assured immigrant families. “With the current economic fallout due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so many families are struggling to put food on the table. The need is sure to continue and possibly increase in the coming months due to an increase in job losses.”
She emphasized that immigrants qualify for food assistance provided by Los Angeles County, and anyone struggling to feed themselves or their family should call 2-1-1 to be connected to available resources.
“The county is committed to fighting hunger, and we are here to support you during these trying times,” she said.
Department of Public Social Services Director Antonia Jimenez called her department’s work “the safety net” for millions in Los Angeles County, especially now that the pandemic is impacting so many lives.
Jimenez reminded residents that “no one needs to go to bed hungry” because the CalFresh program is available to help eligible families purchase food. The nutrition assistance program has seen a 179% spike in applications this spring, she noted.
“We believe that due to the extensive economic impact of COVID-19, there may still be some families and individuals who may be eligible to receive CalFresh,” she said, noting that CalFresh and other program applications can be found on the DPSS website or people can call the DPSS customer service line at 866-613-3777.
Another resource for residents is the Great Plates Delivered program, providing meals for seniors with support from local restaurants and agricultural workers who otherwise might be out of a job due to closures caused by coronavirus stay-at-home rules.
Otto Solorzano, acting director for the Department of Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services, said the Great Plates program is now being coordinated with the county, state and FEMA and information can be found by calling 2-1-1 or by visiting wdacs.lacounty.gov.
“Over the past few weeks, we’ve distributed already over 25,000 meals to about 1,500 participants,” he said.
Also addressing the growing need is the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, where President and CEO Michael Flood said the organization has seen a 70% increase in demand.
“The food bank and our partner agencies serve anyone in need,” Flood said. “One advantage we have as a nonprofit organization is that we can ensure that all residents of Los Angeles County are served and get the help they need, regardless of their immigration status.”
He encouraged anyone struggling to put food on the table to call 2-1-1 and apply for every program for which they might be eligible, including CalFresh, school meals, WIC (a supplemental nutrition program for Women, Infants and Children) and older adult programs, as well as relying on the food bank and other nonprofits.