Free food services and resources are available to college students throughout LA County.
By Lexie Macias, Valley Life Editor
The sudden and swift invasion of COVID-19 has shut down community colleges and universities across Los Angeles County, leaving college students scrambling to find alternate food resources for the services that they would have had on campus.
The closure of Valley College has left many students who rely on the Helping Hands Food Pantry, a free food pantry for all students and faculty that happens twice a week, without a way to get fresh foods, vegetables and canned goods for meals. The Helping Hands Food Pantry web page on the Valley College website directs students to links for local food pantries and “Grab & Go Centers” near them, as well as a phone number that can be called to help find other local food resources which now could be more helpful than ever.
The Los Angeles Unified School District is offering free meals to students, families with children and surrounding community members in Grab & Go Food Centers. Sixty schools have centers open Monday through Friday from 8-11, with either curbside pickup or signs on campus pointing to the designated meal-pick up location.
Panorama High School, just 4.4 miles away from Valley College, is a Grab & Go Center that has altered its curbside pickup numerous times since opening to make it as efficient and safe as possible for the volunteers and recipients.
Originally, recipients would drive through the curbside pick up area in front of the school, tell volunteers how many children and adults they need meals for, then the volunteers would hand over the food to the driver. This method was not used for very long and was changed when coming into direct contact with other people was discovered as a way to contract the coronavirus. Instead, volunteers began placing meals on a tray for drivers to grab, reducing the possibility of somebody infecting another person. But with the new “six feet apart” rule, the Grab & Go Center has had to completely change its curbside pickup.
Recipients now have to drive to the parking structure located at the back of the school to receive meals. The ground level has four pickup stations that are six feet away from each other and manned with two to three volunteers each. Cars drive up to each station and tell volunteers how many meals they would like to pick up, then drivers must exit their cars and grab the meals from the table. This new process keeps the line constantly moving and is the safest method so far for all involved.
Along with Grab & Go Centers, Valley students can call 211, the LA County hotline for information about local food resources and other free services that are available. Operators will ask callers a few questions that help find resources that can better accommodate their specific situation. Some resources that callers are advised to go to include the Rescue Mission Alliance Valley Food Bank - Rock of the Valley, Catholic Charities of Los Angeles - Loaves and Fishes, Khalsa Care Foundation and many others.
Valley students, and other college students as well, should not hesitate to reach out for help as there are many free services and resources out there that are determined to offer aid to all who need it in these difficult times.