Abbey Rosenblum of Bell Canyon sorts through donated food in her garage.… (Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles…)
After learning that the shelves at the West Valley Food Pantry were going empty as demand for aid had risen, the residents of nearby Bell Canyon took some decisive action:
They dropped off plastic donation bags last week at mailboxes with a flier attached warning of the "extreme shortage" of food.
"The residents came through," said Abbey Rosenblum, who oversaw the neighborhood food drive.
The fliers "explained the desperation that the pantry was having this year," she said. "It was something you couldn't just throw away with a good heart."
Even as the food drive was ending Friday night, residents were still dropping off groceries at Rosenblum's home.
By Saturday the neighbors had collected more than 3,000 pounds of food and delivered it to the Woodland Hills food pantry.
Pantry officials said they have been helping more and more middle-class families as the recession has deepened. Many have lost jobs in the construction industry.
"Last year we were serving about 800 people a month, then in July [that year] we were serving close to 1,200 a month," said Margaret Shively, co-supervisor of the pantry.
The L.A. Regional Food Bank, which distributes groceries through a network of hundreds of religious organizations, said during its Thanksgiving food programs in November that demand at food pantries had increased about 40% over the last year.
The West Valley Food Pantry was founded in 1985 by a coalition of 11 congregations from the west San Fernando Valley, and serves the communities of Canoga Park, Topanga, West Hills, Reseda, Northridge and Calabasas.
In addition to accepting donated goods, the pantry buys food once a week, and receives food cases from the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank.
"This is wonderful, and the fact that the neighborhood came together to do it . . . it's wonderful," Shively said.