Tag Archives: Los Angeles

Fed Up With Hunger: Blueprint to End Hunger in Los Angeles


MAZON Board Member Neil Salowitz shows Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack we're Fed Up With Hunger! (Courtesy http://givelifemeaning.org)

The USDA reports that 49 million Americans – 1 in 7 – went hungry in 2008. Nearly a million in Los Angeles face hunger every day. Fed Up? You’re not the only one.

Everyone deserves the right to eat healthy and live free of hunger. On a national level, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and the Obama administration strive to improve school nutrition programs, increase access to nutritious foods and eliminate childhood hunger. Here in Los Angeles, Fed Up With Hunger works to end hunger in one of the nation’s largest cities. Both share the same goal – 2015 – and Fed Up With Hunger already has an ambitious, yet attainable, Blueprint to End Hunger in Los Angeles.

Fed Up With Hunger launches the Blueprint this Monday, November 23rd, at 8:30 a.m. at The Jewish Federation’s Goldsmith Headquarters at 6505 Wilshire Blvd. The comprehensive Blueprint is a collaboration between anti-hunger organizations across Los Angeles, and aims to bring the community together to address this hunger crisis. We hope that the success of the Blueprint to End Hunger and Fed Up With Hunger program can provide a model for other communities as well.

A core recommendation of the Blueprint is that Los Angeles County, City and LAUSD focus additional energy on hunger issues and increase coordination of services. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, City Councilmember Paul Koretz and School Board Member Steve Zimmer are already on board for the Blueprint’s launch, and will continue to support its vision of a city free of hunger by introducing motions in their respective branches of government. Immediately following the launch is an Anti-Hunger and Food Advocates Roundtable discussion at 9:00AM. Community leaders will discuss ideas on how to best implement the Blueprint’s anti-hunger and sustainable food goals and objectives.

RSVP to David Lee at DLee@JewishLA.org or (323) 761-8165. Download & read the Blueprint to End Hunger in Los Angeles from Fed Up With Hunger.

Fed Up with Hunger is the Jewish Federation-led partnership to end hunger in Los Angeles. The core partners in the initiative are MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger and SOVA, The Community Food and Resource Program of Jewish Family Service. Learn more & get involved at http://givelifemeaning.org.


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Project Elijah: Open The Door & Feed The Hungry

1257361190127_665e8It wasn’t even Passover, yet on Sunday, October 18th at West Hills, California’s Milken Jewish Community Campus, an innovative program called  “Feeding the Hungry Project” opened the doors and Project Elijah, a MAZON-funded hunger response nonprofit, walked through it.

Project Elijah’s Executive Director, Julie Kaufman and its founder, Alan Zuckert flew into town from Des Moines, Iowa, with crates of supplies and packaging equipment. With local organizers, they set up assembly lines and bag-sealing stations in the auditorium and proceeded to set the stage for a transformative experience for the hundreds of volunteers that would soon arrive.

From 10am and 2pm, two shifts of volunteers, mostly from Temple Ahavat Shalom in Northridge, California, donned bright orange t-shirts, aprons, gloves and hairnets and began to scoop, measure, package and seal a nutritious blend of grains into 4-serving bags.  Rabbi Barry Lutz blew a shofar to launch the event and as each 5000-meal milestone was achieved, he blew the shofar again to the cheers and applause of the volunteers.

The “Feeding the Hungry” project came together because Temple Ahavat Shalom member Stephanie Howard believed it was possible. It became reality with guidance from MAZON and grants from the Los Angeles Jewish Federation’s Valley Alliance and other funders.  It generated over 35,000 meals for beneficiaries of the SOVA Community Food and Resource Program, a long-time MAZON grantee, because more than 1,000,000 men, women and children in Los Angeles are at risk of hunger and SOVA’s three food pantries are among the premiere front line responders to the hunger crisis in Los Angeles.

Here are Ms. Howard’s reflections on the event:

Wow!  Four hundred volunteers + four hours = 35,000 meals for SOVA!  That’s what we can accomplish with some long-range planning, a passion to feed the hungry and a little Chutzpah.

We did it!  And we didn’t have to “reinvent the wheel.”  All we had to do was “roll in” a high-protein, vitamin-packed food product and assembly line system developed by Project Elijah in Des Moines, Iowa.  Temple Ahavat Shalom started dreaming about this one-day event years ago.  Thanks to grants from the Los Angeles Federation Valley Alliance and the Ted and Sarah Seldin Family Fund we were able to pay for the food and shipping of the equipment to package the meals.

Of course, the best part of the equation is the volunteers.  There was so much enthusiasm for Feeding the Hungry that we had to close down the sign ups weeks ahead of time when we reached our maximum of 400 volunteers. People brought their patience, passion and willingness to do a great mitzvah so we could meet our goal to help the needy.

Thanks, MAZON, for co-sponsoring Feeding the Hungry and for fighting the battle every day to draw down hunger.

She also has event photos available on Flickr.

Anyone can open the door and end hunger.  Start by opening the door to MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger at www.mazon.org.

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Filed under Guest Blog, Hunger Advocacy, MAZON Grantees, Site Visits

This Thursday: Learn About LA’s New Food Policy Task Force

We have a wonderful problem at MAZON… we’ve had so many donations in honor of the High Holy Days that we’re completely swamped just trying to process them all.

These funds allow us to support organizations like Hunger Action Los Angeles, who sent us the following regarding their monthly meeting this Thursday. These meetings are a great place to brainstorm ideas & learn about steps and events by various organizations and individuals to end hunger in Los Angeles and statewide (through collaboration with the California Hunger Action Coalition).

If you can’t make the meeting or live outside of Los Angeles, there are some fantastic snippets about food waste & conservation in a major metropolis and increased food stamp access in California towards the end. Frank Tamborello of Hunger Action Los Angeles also runs a weekly e-newsletter, “To All Those Interested In Food and Justice” chock full of hunger information & news articles. Check out this week’s issue, and learn of even more ways you can help hungry Angelenos & Californians!

Take it away, Frank…

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MAZON-Funded SOVA Food Pantry Sees Record Numbers In July

Image courtesy SOVA Community Food & Resource Program

Image courtesy SOVA Community Food & Resource Program

The following was written by Leslie Friedman, MAZON’s Vice President. She can be reached at lfriedman@mazon.org.

My first official blog as Vice President of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger is prompted by recent news from Fred, my friend and former colleague at the SOVA Community Food and Resource Program in Los Angeles.  In 2002, when I became SOVA director, our three food pantries were providing free groceries for about 2500 people a month.  A couple of weeks ago, Fred, now SOVA Director of Operations, emailed a simple and jarring message: “8,239 (That’s the preliminary client count for July.  40% above July ‘08.  93% above July ’07).”

The news was staggering.  8,239 people a month are now relying on SOVA for food assistance.  Unbelievable.  I don’t need to know their names to know who they are.  You may not realize it, but regardless of where you live, you know who they are, too.  You see them waiting for the bus as you drive by, or standing in front of you in the grocery store line or clearing the tables at your neighborhood restaurant.  It’s the man who cleans your office after hours, the clerk at the drugstore and the single mother with two teenagers whose car is their home.  It’s the elderly couple who live in the apartment at the end of the hall. They are people who are homeless, people with disabilities, people who followed all the rules and still got sideswiped by life, people who worked their whole lives only to see their savings evaporate and people who fell through the cracks of the “safety net” because they weren’t poor enough.  They are people who don’t know when or whether they will have another meal.

The people behind the statistics are the reason I work to end hunger, not only in my community, but in yours, too.

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Heroes For Haiti: Hollywood United & You

Courtesy Friends of the Children of Lascahobas, Haiti

Courtesy Friends of the Children of Lascahobas, Haiti

Haiti remains one of the poorest countries in the world: 80% of Haitians live under the poverty line, with 70% unemployed. Hurricanes flood the streets, while deforestation devastates the soil & eliminates key sources of fuel. Last year’s food riots have ceased (after bringing down the government), but shortages & malnutrition still plague Haiti.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that there are many ways to become a hero for Haiti.


This Saturday, August 8, Hollywood Unites For Haiti, InkTip & the HollyShorts Film Festival unite for a fundraiser reception at The Kress in Hollywood. Hosted by Hollywood Unites For Haiti founder & president Jimmy Jean-Louis (“Heroes”), the event features a gallery auction of portraits by pop artist Nicolosi, a raffle of Haitian art & special screening of the finalists for HollyShorts Film Festival’s Webisode category. All proceeds benefit Hollywood Unites For Haiti, and donations are also accepted at the door. For more information, or to RSVP, please email rsvp@hollyshorts.com.

If you can’t make Hollywood Unites For Haiti’s reception, the group also accepts donations of sports equipment, toiletries & computers for Haitian children’s programs. Several MAZON grantees also do important work in the region. The Lambi Fund of Haiti has a number of sustainable agriculture projects, including reforestation, goat & pig breeding, and training impoverished farmers on techniques and technologies appropriate to the region. Many of our synagogue partners & donors in Florida have collected funds specifically for The Lambi Fund. For over 30 years, Friends of the Children of Lascahobas, Haiti has brought medical services & screening to the border town of Lascahobas, where half the children under 5 are malnourished and only 25% of the population has access to clean drinking water. They have also set up a cooperative in Lascahobas so that Haitian mothers can work together to manage precious resources and create sustainable economics for their families.

Donations to MAZON ensure the continuation of work to end hunger in Haiti. With our combined efforts, we can all be heroes for Haiti.

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St. Joseph Center: Helping Hands in Venice, CA

It’s always sad to see a colleague go. But that sadness quickly turns to joy when you see them back at work for tikkun olam, social good.

Such is the case with Jacob Donnelly, an alumni of UCLA and MAZON’s Donor Services. He recently volunteered for The Venice Chronic Homeless Intervention Project, a major survey project benefiting Venice, CA’s homeless population. Here’s a short description of the project from the L.A. Times:

Throughout Venice, scores of [homeless people] sprawl in alleyways, on blankets under palm trees and near the canals in cardboard boxes. Many are addled by mental illness, drugs or alcohol. Some have life-threatening ailments.

And St. Joseph Center, a Venice-based social service agency that has served poor and homeless individuals for more than 30 years, wants to find them before it’s too late.

Between 3 and 6 a.m. on May 18, 19 and 20, teams of staff members from local nonprofit groups and government agencies, along with community volunteers, visited areas where long-term homeless people tend to sleep. In the most dangerous spots, Los Angeles police officers accompanied the teams.

Using a questionnaire developed by a Boston doctor with expertise in treating homeless people, the volunteers surveyed and photographed more than 200 men and women, asking how long people had been homeless and whether they had been diagnosed with physical or mental illnesses.

For more information on the project, its participants & the difficulties of treating some of the most vulnerable populations, read the full article at L.A. Times.

The project’s sponsoring agency, St. Joseph Center, also has a food pantry for working poor families, and a unique program: the Bread and Roses Café. The Bread and Roses Café serves meals to 150 homeless men, women & children daily in a small sit-down restaurant rather than a traditional soup line. Volunteers act as waiters, serving delicious dishes prepared by an in-house Culinary Training Program. It’s a great way to meet basic needs with dignity & respect, and build a community together. Like any other restaurant, it can get hectic during rushes, but above all it’s very efficient, very satisfying and lots of fun (I speak from experience; MAZON’s staff volunteered for a day at the Café last year).

We’ve also learned that St. Joseph Center has brought on Jacob as a crisis counselor & mental health specialist. Mazel Tov, Jacob, on your graduation from UCLA, your new position and your commitment to social justice!


Filed under Hunger Advocacy, MAZON Grantees, MAZON News

How can I help the multitudes of people in need?

Los Angeles is full of wealth & opportunity, yet I see people in need everyday. A shoeless man walks the Sunset Strip; a teenage runaway sits with his dog on Santa Monica’s Promenade; a veteran asks for money and food on the median in front of the gates of Bel Air; and countless faces push shopping carts on the outskirts of Downtown’s Skid Row.

These are the faces I don’t forget as I navigate our city’s congested streets. Their untold story lingers in my mind for miles and miles. I wonder where their family is and how they’ve ended up in their current situation. My mind always circles back to the same question:

How can I, one person, help the multitudes of people in need?

Last night I found part of the answer in a grocery store parking lot.  A mother and daughter (not dissimilar to any other pair walking in and out of the store) asked for help and I offered to buy them food. They didn’t ask for much, just bread and milk. I’m lucky to have extra money in my grocery budget so that I was able to help them in this small way.

I went home feeling as if I could have done more, and I will do more by donating to a cause that helps the people in my community. This is where MAZON and local organizations come into play- they have the expertise, resources and scope to help people beyond a few meals.

Reena Rexrode, Donor Services Coordinator at MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger

This blog post is part of Zemanta’s “Blogging For a Cause” campaign to raise awareness and funds for worthy causes that bloggers care about.

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