Food Finders Helps Nonprofits Feed the People
By Dianne Anderson
Food prices are keeping pace with the soaring cost of rent, making dinner out of reach for many families as they turn to nonprofits for help.
But nonprofits are also searching for ways to feed the people, and they turn to Food Finders, which in 2019 rescued 12 million pounds, and in 2020, rescued 17 million pounds of food.
Diana Lara said the pandemic required their organization to pull out all of their resources to the front lines.
‘Obviously, COVID was the time to put your money where your mouth is. We did not shut our doors, it was the busiest time we’ve had,” said Lara, executive director of Food Finders.
In the food rescue process, nothing goes to waste. Volunteers go out to pick up food from major chains and establishments. They give food to the Long Beach school district, but also receive some from the school district, then redistributed to community nonprofits.
All donated food from grocery stores, manufacturers, and distributors goes back to local nonprofits.
“We’re working with Honda Center, Anaheim Convention Center. We have a program with a few school districts, we recover food from the schools. We’re working with all Kaiser hospitals to recover surplus food. Anybody that has food available and restaurants can donate to Food Finders.
As she serves, she thinks about the huge impact the average family is facing even since before COVID-19. Just last week, she bought a dozen eggs for $8.
“Low income are in line at the pantries, they’re definitely taking a hit with inflation. Prices have doubled in some cases,” she said.
Coming up on October 15, their fundraiser, “Food For The Soul: Farm To Tableaux,” is being held for the first time in two years. The outdoor event features artisan cocktails, appetizers, light music, a sit-down dinner and a silent auction. It will be held from 5-9:00 p.m. at California State University Long Beach campus.
Funds raised will continue to support their nonstop efforts. Food Finders reports that over 96% of the monetary donations received go directly back into their organization programs.
Lara said the nonprofit relies heavily on volunteers that pick up food seven days a week, 365 days each year, to redistribute directly to nonprofits across L.A. County, Orange County, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.
Currently, they’re distributing a million pounds a month between all locations.
Many nonprofits they serve saw food demand double or triple during COVID. She said Food Finders participated in USDA Farm to Family program during COVID-19, and at one point, were moving 160 pallets of food a week.
In addition to their food rescue program, the USDA boxes provide a week’s worth of meals to families in need.
“Quite a few of our nonprofits because of COVID ended up having to close their doors. Since then, we have increased the number of nonprofits that we serve,” she said.
The good news is that Food Finders rolled out over 100 new donors in 2022 alone, and are very busy thanks to a new volunteer downloadable app that streamlines the process with easy tracking for donations and distributions to nonprofits.
She said more young people stepped up since the pandemic, when about 70% of their volunteers were seniors that had to sequester in place.
Last year, they also launched the Food for Kids program, supplying food bags to 15 schools in the Long Beach area. When schools reopened in the fall of 2021, that programming resumed, they were providing up to 800 bags a week to 22 schools. They now serve about 385 bags weekly to ensure that the families have enough to at over the weekend so the kids will be ready for Monday.
This year, she said they also kicked off their West Long Beach food hub refrigerated shipping container.
The unit is placed at Admiral Kidd Park, providing perishable food to Westside nonprofits that don’t have access to refrigeration. Through that program, nonprofits pick perishables, including meat, dairy, produce, also canned food, and take what they need.
“We’re going to put a second unit in North Long Beach, both of these areas are considered food deserts, meaning they don’t have access to a grocery store in their neighborhoods or access to this type of product,” she said.
Eventually, Lara wants to see the project expand with similar units in different communities.
“We don’t do direct distribution to individuals. But the agencies we do serve, in many cases we’re the only source of food throughout all the counties. The more they learn about what we do, it brings people to the organization. We’re in all four counties,” she said.
For more information to support the fundraiser, see https://farmtotableaux.com/foodfinders