Opinion: Let’s Discuss How West Hollywood Can Deal with ‘Food Insecurity’

Dear Mayor D’Amico:

Thank you for your comments last evening at your swearing in.

I am particularly interested in the topic of food insecurity. When I walk down the aisles of any supermarket, with miles of shelves packed with food, the thought of people starving, particularly in wealthy communities such as West Hollywood, absolutely appalls me.

Here’s a shocking statistic or two: In America, 48.8 million people a year face hunger, while 70 BILLION pounds of food goes to waste. That affects one in five children (16.2 million children are included in that number.)

About eight years ago, as I am sure you will recall, we “lost” our only food bank due to high rent. That was right around the time the city had plans to spend $41.3 million on Plummer Park. Now the city is spending $200 million on West Hollywood Park. All well and good, EXCEPT some of our friends and neighbors are going without enough to eat, particularly seniors. We spend almost a million dollars on Halloween plus the million we spend on the Pride Festival.  Somehow it just seems wrong.

Maybe we could make a dent in the situation if everyone who comes to the Pride parade, for instance, gets a discount on parking if they bring a can of food. We could have a big truck from a food bank there and load it up. Isn’t it ABC-TV that has “stuff-a-bus with toys” every holiday?  Something along those lines.  If it is true that we have 400,000 people attending our big events (as is often touted,) that would be a heck of a lot of canned food and dry goods. 

There also must be a way to help people by taking the shame out of needing assistance. Maybe having them volunteer at the food bank in exchange for goods? Something that can make one feel like one is contributing and not just on the dole? If the developers want to “look good” perhaps they could house a new food bank somewhere for West Hollywood residents.

Ten years ago, according to the U. S. Census, there were about 5,000 people in WeHo living in poverty. We can do better, can’t we?

Let me know what the citizens can do to move along some kind of a food program in our city.

Stephanie Harker


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A Better WayGwenEric Jon SchmidtTom SmartVery Concerned Citizen Recent comment authors

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Gwen
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Gwen

This is a very thoughtful article. I hope at least one of these ideas will be used.

Very Concerned Citizen
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Very Concerned Citizen

THANK YOU Stephanie for shining a light on the fact that there are members of our community who may have to choose between paying their rent and eating 3 meals a day. Opening up this conversation is a beginning. The “how to’s” can come out of acknowledging that there is a problem. I appreciate your making us aware and I hope that those in need hear about this and will offer their thoughts too.

Eric Jon Schmidt
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Eric Jon Schmidt

I’m glad to see that people are becoming woke, I hope it stays that way. I can devote time to help with this project if it gets off the ground. It shouldn’t be too hard. Get people to procure food from stores, find a place to store (refrigerate) the food, a distribution center and a delivery network, and the message out to households who need it. We need to take care of each other, especially the most vulnerable of us. It shouldn’t take more than a few months to get it going. The city should also give earthquake survivor kits… Read more »

Manny
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Manny

Check out some of these excellent programs currently being offered by the City of West Hollywood:

SOVA Food & Resource Program:
https://www.weho.org/services/social-services/social-service-agency-profiles/sova-food-resource-program

Project Angel Food:
https://www.weho.org/services/social-services/social-service-agency-profiles/project-angel-food

Other Food Programs:
https://www.weho.org/home/showdocument?id=10612

Please pass this information along to those that may want to take advantage of these worthwhile services.

Eric Jon Schmidt
Guest
Eric Jon Schmidt

As a volunteer at PAF, I know this is not a service provided by the city of West Hollywood, nor are the other two. The city promotes them as they should, they are all admirable orgs. But there are some issues with becoming a Client such as proof of income level, proof of disability, etc. West Hollywood does not provide nutritional assistance to its Residents directly. It should be made very easy for people who are hungry to get food for themselves and those they care for without a lot of red tape or shame.

nate
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nate

The reason that Pavilions is filled with food, is that there’s 1000’s of people working hard to make it happen (farmers; distributors; bakers; food processors; supply chain; grocery store workers; etc.). We can’t just give away the kitchen sink. We need to stop acting like the issue is that people are down on their luck. We need to focus on the issue of addiction and mental illness, and get these people institutionalized so that they can get the help that they need. Handing out a free lunch to an addict is just putting a band aid on the larger issue.… Read more »

Randy
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Randy

She’s not just talking about people who are homeless. She referred to the 5K people living in poverty. Most of those people are not on the streets.

Pride Should Embrace Altruism
Guest
Pride Should Embrace Altruism

Next time at Pavilions, please order several servings of compassion.

Alison
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Alison

Stephanie is talking about people like seniors and others that live here, not necessarily about the homeless. Would you talk like this about your Grandmother is she was food insecure? Would you talk about institutionalizing her?

Stephanie Harker
Guest
Stephanie Harker

Nate, thank you for your comment. But the issue is not solely about people who are “down on their luck” or about the mentally ill or drug addicted. There are 5,000 people, some are your friends and neighbors, who can no longer make ends meet. Many seniors worked their whole lives, thinking that Social Security, which they had taken out of their checks every week was going to support them as they aged. But when your rent, utilities, medications and everything else one needs just to get by, increases, sometimes the reality has to be to cut back on food…which… Read more »

Tom Smart
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Tom Smart

Until the city and country solve the problem (Hint: never), why can’t we just be compassionate HUMAN beings and help those in need, especially with the basics (food, shelter, healthcare)

A Better Way
Guest
A Better Way

Not in my face?!? Hardline for a West Hollywood Human Services Commissioner.

Thank You
Guest
Thank You

Thank you for this! These are excellent suggestions and I hope our City Council builds upon them.

Ham
Guest
Ham

food insecurity????? you can’t be serious. solve the root problem…….jobs and mental health.

Stephanie Harker
Guest
Stephanie Harker

Ham, Thanks, for your comment. I am not referring strictly to the homeless issues, nor to the mentally ill or unemployed. Those are adjunct issues. Hunger does not occur singularly to people on the streets. WeHo certainly doesn’t have 5,000 people on the streets and yet they live below the poverty line. Many are seniors living on Social Security that barely covers their rent, (which increases annually) their utilities and any other basic living expenses. Some would happily work if anyone would employ them, but many establishments will NOT even consider hiring seniors and even if they were employable, I… Read more »

Tom Smart
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Tom Smart

Thank you Stephanie. This is a good resource for food donation:
http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/eh/docs/WhatsNew/FoodDonations.pdf

Stephanie Harker
Guest
Stephanie Harker

Thanks, Tom. I am in hopes it can be more of a local WeHo issue.

Larry Block
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Larry Block

WE can do better and thank you for this beautiful letter. I often wonder what happens to the extra food at the end of each day at Gelson’s or Pavillion’s, or the very many restaurants in our city. Perhaps the city council can take some action that might include an ordinance that certain foods must be donated. Food items with short ‘use by’ dates are often placed on sale or sent back to the manufacturer for credit and disposed. Perhaps those channels can be explored to create a win-win for the community and local business. We can improve this situation… Read more »

Pride Should Embrace Altruism
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Pride Should Embrace Altruism

City Council action will take forever. Seems like a direct approach to the stores that do business in WH would be easier. Trader Joes (3), Whole Foods (1). Sprouts/Tender Greens (?). Pavilions(1). Work out a simple system. USPS recently distributed FILL A BAG, HELP FEED FAMILIES paper bags to fill w non-perishable food to be left by the mailbox/mailroom for letter carrier to pick up on May 11 and deliver to local food banks. Incredulous that not one resident in this high profile building left a can of beans or anything else. Sponsors for this event were National Assoc. of… Read more »

Pride Should Embrace Altruism
Guest
Pride Should Embrace Altruism

Thank you Stephanie, for putting focus on this issue which escapes most in West Hollywood. The expenditures that the city endorses for fun and entertainment seem unconscionable but draw attention to the fact that the city is actually feeding the homeless disaster and its exponential elements through inaction. A “Triage” approach, sooner than later would be effective starting with food. The other elements are trial and error yet no one person, city or organization effectively moves forward. This food bank is an excellent idea and shouldn’t require a discount on parking when it means putting food on the table of… Read more »

Joshua88
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Joshua88

Thank you for your fine commentary. We can and we should.

5000 people in a city of 36,000 is a large amount of people, but slightly less than the national average. (Ten years ago, so I estimated.)

I know it’s probably not practical, but when I think about donating canned goods, I clearly remember how I eat fresh foods at almost every meal. We have farmers” markets. We have recent startups who collect leftover foods and distribute them (from grocery stores, I believe).
There doesn’t seem to be an excuse to waste food anymore.

mike mccoy
Guest
mike mccoy

A meal on wheels type of service for those on a fixed income would be beneficial. Set up offices in Weho. I’d love to be apart of this. Too many Angelino’s go Hungry.