The experience of the pandemic has brought home how important it is for each of us to look beyond ourselves to support those in need. That need exists all year, but for many of us, the holidays are an additional reminder to be as generous as we can with our money and time. KCRW listeners have a history of supporting the Los Angeles and Santa Barbara Food Banks during our pledge drives. Over the years, together we’ve provided 1.94 million meals!
But this holiday season, I thought we could focus on smaller organizations that need help providing meals and other support to people who are struggling. This year many organizations continue to keep COVID at bay by asking for donations instead of in-person helpers.
You can also do your own outreach by preparing lunch bags to pass out to folks in your neighborhood who could use a lift. I do this a couple times a year, sometimes just making a few bags to take in the car and give out randomly. It’s incredibly gratifying. Get together with a couple of friends to put the bags together, then get in your cars and fan out. I include a sandwich, water and something sweet, and always add a pair of thick gym socks and body wipes.
Santa Monica College is KCRW’s home. Even before the pandemic, 50% of students faced critical food insecurity. The College Foundation started a meal project to assist these students so hunger doesn’t jeopardize their education. There are donation packages available from healthy meals delivery to a complete restock of the weekly drive-up food pantry.
Alexandria House is a transitional residence and house of hospitality. They provide safe and supportive housing for women and children in the process of moving from an emergency shelter to economic stability and permanent housing.They have many suggestions on how to help, from participating in a food drive to purchasing gift cards, fulfilling wish lists, or buying the children a toy. They have an extensive list of suggestions for appropriate toys for the children living there.
Their mission is to build sustainable food systems and promote social and cultural activities that benefit both low-to-moderate income residents of Los Angeles, while also supporting California small- and mid-sized farms and local small businesses. To that end, they run the Hollywood Farmers Market but also Crenshaw, Central Avenue, MLK, Atwater, and Echo Park. They also run nutrition programs, an entrepreneurship accelerator, and during COVID, a produce box give-away program. They have a range of volunteer programs, including helping at drive-through food giveaways. For the holidays, they are focusing on their produce box donations to Polo’s Pantry, a mobile food pantry that services unhoused people.
Miry’s List provides refugee families with what they need to first survive, then thrive. They are in the midst of responding to the influx of Afghan families and individuals to the U.S. So far this year they have directly helped 213 families, representing 1,063 individuals with all kinds of support. Of course donations are needed to fund the organization, but there are also many volunteer opportunities to work directly with families. Their New Arrival Supper Club is a fantastic way to meet our new neighbors while giving them the support they need. The supper club is doing a Friendsgiving event with Chef Minh Phan of Phenakite. It’s on December 5 and is a pick-up of a classic Afghan family dinner, made by chefs Aqila Asghary and Minh Phan. Each dinner for two includes a three-tiered Bento box of traditional Afghan dishes.
This is a Santa Ana-based nonprofit that “partners with communities to bring health, equity and sustainable change through education, services, consciousness-raising and civic participation.” They use the promotores’ door-to-door model of community health care with a group of 40 who provide real-time information and help to marginalized community members.
APCH services South Central Los Angeles, bringing programs to support the development of healthy, self-reliant, motivated, community-minded young adults and healthy family systems. They do this through a broad range of programming that includes 5,000 healthy meals a month and hundreds of bags of groceries distributed to community members.
Sova is an initiative of Jewish Family Service LA. They have food pantries throughout the region, as well as run several Senior Nutrition Dining Centers and home food delivery for those who can’t get out.
Southern California’s largest food gleaning organization is on track this year to recover and distribute 60 million pounds of surplus produce, food that was headed for the dump but went to people instead. They now reach people across eight Southern California counties and seven neighboring states, as well as tribal lands. It’s an extraordinary organization that has been a model of volunteer power.