Food pantries and distribution centers struggle to meet demands due to pandemic

Alma Campos and her husband Aroldo are the founders of New Generations, the program offering food distribution in Long Beach. The program was founded in 2007 and helps at-risk youth.

Alma Campos doesn’t just have to worry about feeding her family during a national pandemic, she is also responsible for a couple dozen other fresh meals.

Campos is the co-founder of New Generations, a program designed to keep at-risk youth involved in mentorship and sports.

For years, the program has also included food distribution, and in the last couple of weeks, demand has risen due to issues related to the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Feeding America, a national nonprofit organization and network of more than 200 food banks, the number of food insecure children could reach 18 million due to COVID-19.

A 2019 report by the United States Department of Agriculture stated that 37 million people faced hunger nationally before the threat of COVID-19 became known, a number that will rise.

According to Campos, in the last couple of weeks as many as 80 families benefited from New Generations’ food distribution in a single day in less than 45 minutes.

“How we know that is because the time we open [is] 9:30am, and by 10am we didn’t have anymore [food],” Campos said. “That’s when we saw we need[ed] more food.”

This became a point of concern for Campos.

“Numbers went up and we weren’t members of any food bank […] we went to different food banks in Los Angeles and Orange County, they said they didn’t have food for new members. That was a difficulty for us [in order] to have more food,” she said.

As a result, their Saturday and Wednesday food distribution schedule was scaled back to just Wednesday morning.

Similarly to New Generations, food pantries and distribution centers around the county and nationally have seen a surge in demand for food, but there’s also a decline in donations.

A Feeding America survey found that in its national network 98% of its food banks reported an increase in demand for food assistance while 59% reported having less food inventory since the beginning of the pandemic.

Furthermore, an additional survey conducted by the same nonprofit found that within a week of the CDC’s announcement on social distancing guidelines, 41% food banks in the network began reporting “critical funding shortfalls.”

Feeding America saw a $100 million donation from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the largest in the organization’s history, at the heel of an announcement that Feeding America would need 1.4 billion in “additional resources” over the next six months to continue feeding those in need.

Still, more donations are needed to meet the needs of Feeding America.

Other food delivery services, such as Long Beach’s Beacon For Him, can’t accept food donations for the time being to ensure food deliveries are fresh. However, their search for drivers to meet the delivery demand is ongoing.

And then there’s Campos, who ultimately received help from a church to keep the food distribution going.

“Every Wednesday, I pick the food up in the morning, at 9am the food is loaded in the van, [and] we just go to our location and distribute at 10:30am,” she said.

Campos wants this effort to grow and is planning on reaching out to 7th District Councilmember Roberto Uranga in the near future.

“We were thinking of speaking to our councilman […] we need a big distribution like other counties have done,” Campos said. “We want to do that here in Long Beach.”

For now, folks can find Campos on Santa Fe. Ave every Wednesday morning handing out every last bag of food, until it runs out.

New Generations is accepting monetary and food donations at 2426 Santa Fe Ave Long Beach, Ca. 90810 or contact them at: (562) 363-6457


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