STUDIO CITY (CBSLA) – In California, one in five families deals with food insecurity and those numbers are even higher in Los Angeles where food banks and the volunteers that staff them are struggling to keep up with demand.

On Thursday, many families were making a mad dash to pick up the last minute touches for Thanksgiving meals.

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For other families, though, Thanksgiving shopping looked a little different this year, as they lined up for free food all over the southland area.

“Times are really hard and this is a blessing and a help,” one woman, who was waiting in line at a food bank, told CBSLA.

The extra need means that everyone at the LA Regional Food Bank is working over time.

“LA depends on us right now, because we feed LA,” said Fernando Romo, who drives the forklift at the Vernon warehouse, a job he’s loved for 18 years.

Romo said he, and everyone he works with, have been working an extra eight to 10 hours a week for last several months.

“A lot of overtime and more agencies and more pounds of food donated to the agencies,” he said.

As the boxes get stacked higher and the pallets of food come in and out, at the warehouse, they know they are needed more than ever.

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“Last year, as soon as March hit, you know, our local unemployment rate went to 20% here in Los Angeles County and we just saw this tsunami of demand for food assistance,” Michael Flood, President and CEO of LA Regional Food Bank, said.

The pandemic amplified the need for those struggling, and despite the reopening of much of Los Angeles, the need is still alarmingly high.

“Our local unemployment rate, here in LA County, is 9.4%. So, we are higher than the state average, higher than the national average,” Flood said.

In the height of the pandemic, LA Regional Food Bank fed 1.5 million people every month. They are still feeding around 900,000 a month.

“We’re still running at more than double the 2019 levels. So, that gives us an indication of how high the demand for food assistance is throughout Los Angeles County,” Flood said.

Since the cost of groceries has jumped by more than 5% in the last year, the largest increase in two decades, it’s added even more of a burden for local families.

“People are juggling these bills, figuring out what they left for food,” Flood said.

The LA Regional Food Bank is always looking for volunteers or financial donations as they provide food for hundreds of local agencies, feeding those in need.

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