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FOOD BANK LEADERS FEAR SHORTAGES.

Byline: Dana Bartholomew Staff Writer

The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank larder, stripped early this winter by a soaring demand for emergency food, is much fatter because of corporate food giveaways, its officials said.

But unless the state restores the food bank's pre-2000 allotment of federally supplied food, reserve supplies could be depleted again, portending large-scale disaster for needy families, they warned.

``Things have improved greatly since December,'' said the food bank executive director, Michael Flood. ``(But) there are a lot of things going on that make us concerned.''

The food bank, which helps sustain 324,000 Los Angeles County residents a week through nearly 1,000 charities, was nearly crippled last Christmas when demand rose by one third and reserves dwindled 66 percent to 800,000 pounds.

Since then, an outpouring by food manufacturers, retailers and area residents has doubled reserves to 1.7 million pounds of frozen food, canned goods, cereals, juice and other groceries.

But Flood worries that the food bank may be unable to serve needy families as demand for emergency food continues to rise and the amount of federal food subsidies fails to keep pace.

Demand for emergency food has not subsided. According to a U.S. Conference of Mayors report last year, the number of families needing food rose 33 percent last year, while the need among senior citizens rose 17 percent.

What worries Regional Food Bank officials is their loss last year of 3 million pounds of food that the state Department of Social Services, which allocates U.S. Department of Agriculture food subsidies in California, has not committed itself to restore.

The state agency, which had provided the Regional Food Bank with nearly 13 million pounds of federal food in 1999, reduced that to 9.5 million pounds last year - a difference that can make or break the effort to feed the needy, officials said.

``It's ridiculous,'' Flood said. ``I still don't have a warm, fuzzy feeling the (shortfall) has been restored. They still haven't come up with any numbers.''

State Social Services Department officials, however, said the allocation system is being revamped to distribute food more fairly to all California communities, based on poverty, joblessness and food recipient rates.

They said the amount of federal food shipped to Los Angeles County has remained steady, but a greater portion of it was shipped to a Long Beach food bank in 2000. They didn't say how much food will be shipped to the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank in 2001, they promised a greater share than last year.

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

Azucena Arellano, left, unpacks bread at the West Valley Food Pantry in Woodland Hills, where volunteers and supervisors Margaret Shively, center, and Jeanne Bain also work.

Charlotte Schmid-Maybach/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:Feb 16, 2001
Words:459
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