September is Hunger Action Month and Whole Foods Market officials have announced Nourishing our Neighborhoods, a food redistribution program will be partnering with Food Finders locally.
In Long Beach, the Food Finders food rescue organization connects donated perishable food to hundreds of nonprofit pantries and shelters to help fight food insecurity by stocking pantries like the ones at Cal State Long Beach, Wilson High School, senior centers, churches, the Veterans Administration, and the LGBTQ center.
According to Whole Foods officials, the chain has a long history of donating food to Food Finders. Food Finders is one of 17 groups selected nationwide to participate in the program that will provide refrigerated vans to community-based food rescue programs.
The van will be used to transport an estimated 10.4 million pounds of food over the expected 10-year use serving the Long Beach/Los Angeles area. The donated food usually includes produce, meat, and dairy items — and sometimes a few surprises.
Whole Foods spokesman Matthew Spohn shared that traditionally employees would wrap cakes in plastic wrap to prepare them for donation. One Whole Foods employee suggested the cakes be boxed, like they are for the store's customers. Spohn cited that change as typical of the type of employee-initiated ideas that help enhance the experience of those who receive the donated food.
Food Finders Executive Director Diana Lara chimed in, saying that often the hungry families who are served are surprised to receive a cake in the delivery — and the timing is almost serendipitous. One Long Beach woman who received one of the cakes in her food delivery was crying as she explained it was her daughter’s birthday and due to the family’s limited resources that there would not have been a birthday celebration otherwise.
Lara said in 2019 the Long Beach Whole Foods Market, both the location at 2ND&PCH that opened in October and the prior location on Marina Drive donated a total of 18,000 pounds of food — that translates into 98,000 meals. In 2020, donations through month-end July were a total of 15,000 pounds or 81,000 meals.
Food Finders officials said the increased volume of donations from Whole Foods is most welcome because the need has doubled over the last few months due to the coronavirus pandemic. Those receiving the food boxes are screened for need by the agencies distributing, and according to Feeding America, 1 in 9 adults and 1 in 6 children struggle with hunger in the U.S.
Spohn also offered some details about the donations. Whole Foods donates items that are well in advance of their expiration date and some items are received as part of an order that was shipped to the store in error or have not sold as quickly as expected in the store. As a result, during last year’s holiday season, some needy families received specialty coffees or chocolates.