By Cynthia Gibson, Contributing Writer
Culver City — The staff at Venice Family Clinic realized the need for a second food distribution program after noticing a spike in people attending their Santa Monica food drive, when the COVID-19 pandemic began in March.
This prompted the non-profit community health center to open another food distribution location at their Culver City clinic, the Irma Colen Health Center. “We’re committed to providing fresh and healthy food to our patients,” said Rigoberto A. Garcia II, Venice Family Clinic’s director of health education.
Expanding to Culver City allows Venice Family Clinic to respond to an increased need for food from residents who have lost their jobs because of COVID-19 or have had their income reduced because their hours were cut.
The clinic started this event Aug. 13 and will continue to distribute free bags of food from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the second and fourth Thursday of the month.
Fifty-four million people in the U.S. are facing food insecurity because of the coronavirus, including more than 18 million children, according to a report from Feeding America. Many organizations not normally associated with food distribution have stepped in to provide sustenance to families and individuals in need during the pandemic.
Clinic employees noticed a huge spike in people seeking food at their Santa Monica location, beginning in March, Garcia said. The clinic went from distributing 225 bags of food per event in February to 1,700 bags two months later. In May, the clinic decided to expand their food distribution from bi-weekly to weekly at their Santa Monica location.
After noticing 60% of the people receiving food in Santa Monica were new patients and 25% were not patients, but rather families from the surrounding communities, the decision was made to open a second food distribution location in Culver City.
Seventeen-pound bags of fresh fruits and vegetables are available to everyone, regardless of whether the recipients are Venice Family Clinic patients. No identification is required to receive food bags.
The clinic has distributed nearly 170,000 pounds of food since the start of the pandemic in March.
Food Forward, Southern California’s largest urban gleaning program, supplies Venice Family Clinic with over 13,000 pounds of food each week. The organization rescues over 500,000 pounds of surplus produce each week from fruit trees, farmers markets and the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce markets and donates it to hunger relief agencies in the area.
Venice Family Clinic distributes food to the public every second and fourth Thursday of the month from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Irma Colen Health Center, 4700 Inglewood Blvd., Suite 102.