VAL VERDE — A Los Angeles County food pantry to provide emergency supplies to the poor, the second in the Santa Clarita Valley, has officially opened.
Volunteers and county workers Friday distributed shopping bags of food containing items ranging from government surplus macaroni to cake mix.
Carrying home two bags filled with bread donated by a local supermarket and canned goods collected in food drives, Lupe Ayala-Ramirez, 36, said she was very grateful that the county's Department of Community and Social Services established the second emergency pantry.
Previously, Ayala-Ramirez said, to receive food for her family of four, she had wait up to an hour for a bus to Castaic, then transfer to another bus to Newhall, where the Santa Clarita Valley Service Center is located.
Ayala-Ramirez's situation was growing all too widespread, said Lupe Lopez, executive director of the service center. Lopez helped set up the weekly pantry to feed the poor of Val Verde, a low- to moderate-income community made up mostly of Latinos.
"This is not a free food giveaway" for just anyone who wants the food, Lopez said. There must be evidence of emergency need, she added. "This is for people who can't pay rent, and your car broke down and your kid is sick and there is no more money."
Another worker, Rosalie Waskoviak, said the pantry has been doing test runs for the past two weeks and in that time she saw evidence of a need for its services. "A lot of the people have 14 people living in a home and have no income," Waskoviak said.
One of the first to show up Friday was Juana Trujillo, 46, who heads an extended family of 15 that lives in a three-bedroom house. After service workers pulled up a file that showed that she had already received her monthly share of government surplus foods--rice, beans and macaroni--she was given three bags of freeze-dried chicken and eggs, several loaves of bread and canned goods. Trujillo said she can make the two food allotments last for at least a week.
A few dozen applicants showed up Friday, but Sanjuana Guzman, a county employee, said she expects the number to grow. "These are proud people. They are very hard-working. But they'll come once they are comfortable," Guzman said.
To aid county workers like Waskoviak and Guzman, Lopez has enlisted the aid of other local agencies, including the employees and residents of Camp Scudder, a probation facility for boys.
"They are the ones with the muscles, and they are the ones with the truck," Lopez said. Every week, the boys from Camp Scudder help the pantry by picking up heavy sacks of foodstuffs from an East Los Angeles food bank to bring to the service center.