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LAX Food Pantry Helps Hundreds of Families


Carlette Hall might know hard times, but she doesn't wear them.

There is no slump in her shoulders, no glaze in her eyes as she tells the story of what brought her to the LAX Food Pantry for help feeding her five children, ages 5 to 16.

"I made a bad decision," she said. "It was a downfall for me. But with God's help, I'll do better for myself and my children."

From the sound of it, she's doing that already. Hall said she and her children wound up homeless for a time after she left an abusive relationship. The 35-year-old woman is now working part-time and going to school to study health management and Spanish. She's getting back on her feet. But she is the first to admit that she needs help to do it.

"Things are better because I'm working and going to school," she said. "But I still don't make quite enough to feed five kids."

That is where the food pantry fits in. For three years, Hall, who lives in South-Central Los Angeles, has been coming to the pantry near Los Angeles International Airport for food packages that help her stretch a modest budget--augmented by food stamps--to cover her family's needs.

The pantry is one of the beneficiaries of the Holiday Campaign of the Los Angeles Times Family Fund, which gave money this year to programs that serve needy families in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties. Among them was the Westside Food Bank, from which the LAX Food Pantry purchases about one-third of its food. The rest is donated by a variety of companies and individuals.

Demand at the food pantry had been rising steadily, manager Jennifer Wyche said, but shot up dramatically after Sept. 11. In particular, she said, the pantry has been affected by the number of workers who lost jobs in and around the airport after the terrorist attacks, which have badly hurt the travel and tourism industry.

At the same time, contributions have declined, as Americans turned their attention to those who lost loved ones in the attacks. "The national situation has affected us locally, but we're not getting those contributions," Wyche said.

Hall can testify to how important the food pantry has become to the hundreds of people who rely on it each month. Every two weeks, she gets several grocery bags packed with staples: bread, rice, beans, onions, potatoes, powdered milk, canned tuna, fresh fruits and vegetables, and occasional goodies such as cookies and pastries. (The ecumenical charity, supported by a variety of churches and temples, also offers Bibles to anyone who asks.)

The Holiday Campaign was established last year after the Los Angeles Times merged with Tribune Co. It is a part of the Los Angeles Times Family Fund, which includes The Times' long-running Summer Camp Program.

The McCormick Tribune Foundation will match the first $500,000 in donations at 50 cents on the dollar, and the Los Angeles Times will absorb all administrative costs.


Donations (checks or money orders) supporting the Los Angeles Times Holiday Campaign should be sent to: LA Times Holiday Campaign, File #56491, Los Angeles, CA, 90074-6491. Please do not send cash. Credit card donations can be made at All donations are tax deductible. Contributions of $25 or more will be acknowledged in the Los Angeles Times unless a donor requests otherwise. For more information about the Holiday Campaign call 1(800) LA TIMES, Ext. 75480.

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