ALHAMBRA (CBSLA) — Whether it’s produce, meat, or non-perishables, the First Baptist Church of Alhambra has provided for those in need every Thursday for the past eight years.

But, the COVID-19 pandemic has turned this food distribution site into a blessing for many more.

“Before, the biggest week we’d have, 75 people or so. Now we serve on average over 1,000 families a week. It’s incredible,” said Sr. Pastor Matt Barnes.

A new study by USC Dornsife’s Public Exchange found that more than one in four L.A. County low-income households experienced food insecurity at least once from April to July.

Barnes said he has seen this play out weekly at the church’s food distribution.

Marisol Herrera, 46, said she knows what that’s like these days, after she was laid off from her sales job in May because of the pandemic. She said she’s glad she found out about this food distribution site.

“It’s alleviates me trying to save as much money as I can, where I can, so this definitely helps a lot,” she said.

The USC study also reveals that higher income groups are also now struggling to afford food because of unemployment. Almost 14% had incomes between $60,000 and $100,000 per year.

“When you lug groceries into the back of a car that’s more expensive than the car I drive, ok wow, so the need has changed,” Barnes said.

The two-hour food distribution starts at 1 p.m. But, Barnes said the need is so great that people start lining up at 9 a.m.

On Thursday, the line wrapped around the building and extended down the street.

“So we know that the need is real and people are willing to wait in the sun all this time,” Barnes said.

The First Baptist Church gets most of their food from the LA Regional Food Bank, who said that since the pandemic began, their food distribution has gone up 125%. Before the pandemic, they served 300,000 people per month. Now, that number is up to 900,000.

“It’s a nice amount that they give so I’m very grateful for this that they do the food banks that are around certain places,” Herrera said.

For Pastor Barnes and the volunteers here, they say they’ll keep packing and distributing food as long as they need to.

“It’s a blessing to serve our neighbors,” Barnes said.
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