Monday, July 28, 2008

WEST COAST FOOD BANK SEES DEMAND RISE 80% THIS SPRING

Jennifer Oldham, Los Angeles Times - Food pantry operators throughout the Los Angeles region report that demand for free groceries has surged to the highest level in recent memory this summer as the sagging economy has hit not only the poor, but also middle- and upper-class families. "This is probably the most people we've ever seen use emergency food assistance," said Darren Hoffman, communications director for the 35-year-old Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. "We're seeing people who were making $70,000 a year coming into a food bank for the first time. . . . They've used their retirement to pay their mortgage, and gone through their savings."

The organization, which distributes groceries to about 670,000 people each year through a network of more than 900 religious entities and nonprofits, watched demand increase by 80% this spring.

Steep job losses in the banking and entertainment industries, on top of the housing downturn, are reverberating particularly hard through the San Fernando Valley, leading to less work for janitors, waiters and others. The Valley has lost thousands of jobs in financial services, largely due to the failure last fall of Calabasas-based Countrywide Financial Corp. -- the nation's largest mortgage lender -- which laid off more than 20% of its workforce.

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