PASADENA - When clients of the Friends in Deed food pantry line up for their weekly groceries this morning, the Rev. Pat O'Reilly hopes there will be enough to go around.
"We have 200 families, and this is it," she said Monday, gesturing at the nearly bare shelves in the small, supermarket-style pantry in Northwest Pasadena.
There's a couple dozen boxes of cereal, a few cans of Vienna sausage, ham and tuna stacked in the meat section, one jar of jelly, some packages of rice, spaghetti and beans, and lots of canned spinach.
"And we have cans of corn, green beans and peas - you can't live on that," she said. "There's nothing else to put out. There's just not enough."
Summer is usually the leanest time for
"It hit home," she said. "We'd been using it up, and now the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank has so little, we are all feeling it."
Both the regional bank's and the pantry's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding, usually received in mid-January, has been delayed because the budget wasn't passed until April, she said.
And when they do get it, O'Reilly said, they expect 40 percent less, reflecting the 40 percent cut in the federal government grant.
The L.A. Food Bank serves 600 area food pantries, according to its policy brief, and reaches 330,000 people a month; the demand -
It's not the first time the Friends in Deed pantry's resources have been taxed. O'Reilly said things were tight when demand surged two years ago in the depth of the Great Recession.
This time, she said, it's tougher.
For O'Reilly and the volunteers at Friends in Deed - a program of the Ecumenical Council of Pasadena Area Congregations - the need to make up the short-fall has become critical.
Until fall, when O'Reilly said school and Boy Scout food drives gear up, the agency will be more reliant on individuals, service clubs and local grocery stores, including Vons, Ralphs, Trader Joe's and Whole Foods, for donations of foods nearing their sell-by date.
"Certain stores set aside food on a weekly basis and that saves us so much," O'Reilly said. "Every week the Kiwanis pick up the food ... it's a thankless job that really makes a difference to us."
The weekly food distributions, every Tuesday and Wednesday, are for very low-income people and families; to be eligible, a single person's monthly income cannot exceed $1,361, up to $5,659 for families of 10.
"They never have that much," O'Reilly said, leafing through the application forms. "Here's one with $219 a month in general relief, who pays $175 a month in rent, for a single room ... Here's two people with $471 and month and rent of $350," she said. "How do you feed yourself on that?"
Joan Whitenack, executive director of Monrovia-based Foothill Unity Center, said the agency provides food to 1,000 families a month in 11 local cities - including at their pantry, 191 N. Oak Avenue in Northeast Pasadena.
Although they too aren't getting as much from the L.A. Food Bank, Whitenack said, they have been able to maintain inventory - and they've got creative.
"Lately some restaurants have been freezing their food so we can hand out family-sized packs," she said. "Even when the food bank is lower, we drop (allocations) a little so it's almost the same amount, and families hardly notice the difference."
Whitenack said she also expects the agency's federal funding to be "cut badly," by 30 to 40 percent.
"That's a big chunk - a huge chunk" of their $1.3 million annual budget for a variety of programs, she said.
"We're looking to local businesses, foundations and such to keep the money coming." she said. "If the food supplies continue to be very low, we would be in a world of hurt. But hopefully, between us all, we'll keep people fed."
Cutting the numbers of Friends in Deed clients would be hard, O'Reilly said.
"To figure this out, we looked through these (forms) to see who's the neediest, "she said. "They're all the neediest."
Donations, including fresh fruit and vegetables, are welcome at the pantry at 444 E. Washington Blvd., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., O'Reilly said. The only thing they don't accept is "expired" food.
For more information, or to donate or volunteer, call 626-797-2402 or visit firstname.lastname@example.org.
626-578-6300, ext. 4482