Increasing food insecurity has been a byproduct of the coronavirus pandemic, and Food Finders of Long Beach has expanded its efforts over the last year to help alleviate that need.
Last week, Food Finders officials announced another expansion — this time adding refrigerated food hubs to provide healthier, but perishable, food. The first refrigerated storage container will be installed this weekend at Crossroads Church in North Long Beach.
The hubs are converted shipping containers capable of safely storing produce, dairy and other perishables along with other food and personal hygiene items. Partners include Long Beach Fresh, Long Beach Center for Economic Inclusion (LBCEI), Dignity Health-St. Mary Medical Center, Good Shepherd Presbyterian in Los Alamitos, and Service Titan.
“The idea of the hubs grew out of a need provide better access to nutritious food in communities where fewer pantries and shelters exist," Diana Lara, executive director of Food Finders, said in a release. "Having the support of the district and city officials is an important step in addressing food insecurity in these areas.”
Crossroads Church was picked as the site for the first hub both because of the congregation's experience in food distribution and because of its location — across the intersection of South Street and Cherry Avenue from the Food 4 Less store being closed in response to the city of Long Beach's requiring grocery store chains to pay an extra $4 an hour in Hero pay for the next three months.
Crossroads has been providing food for the needy since before the pandemic hit in March 2020, senior Pastor Paul Montano said. As the need grew, the distribution grew, he said.
"We were able to reach out to the community, the food markets, once COVID started," Montano said. "The next thing you know, we were getting pallets of food. We invested in some refrigeration, but it just kept expanding… We set distribution for 9 to 11 a.m. (Saturdays), and people started lining up at 6:30."
Montano said he ultimately had five refrigerators and freezers, but that still wasn't enough. He said he wasn't sure what to do. Then Food Finders came knocking.
"I'm a longshoreman, and I was looking for a shipping container," Montano said, "but no luck. Then Food Finders approached us, and it worked out perfectly."
A shipping container is 20 feet long, 8.5 feet tall and 8 feet wide. Refrigerating that space requires a dedicated source of electricity, which is being installed this week, he said.
While the container will store food for the Crossroads distribution, it will serve organizations in the surrounding area as well. Fo example, LBCEI will be able to get perishables at Crossroads for its distribution center at the Ninth City Council District field office.
Crossroads is on the edge of the Eighth District, and Al Austin, the council member there, was supportive of the addition. He said he was aware of many residents who currently suffer from food insecurity.
There are plans for more food hubs, Lara said. A specific site hasn't been chosen, but the next storage container will land in West Long Beach, she added.
To donate food or get more information about Food Finders, call 562-283-1400, ext. 105 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.