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CNS - Los Angeles-area food pantry operators say demand for free groceries has reached its highest level in recent memory as the sagging economy has hit not only the poor, but also middle- and upper-class families, it was reported.
“This is probably the most people we’ve ever seen use emergency food assistance,” Darren Hoffman, communications director for the 35-year-old Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, told the Los Angeles Times.
“We’re seeing people who were making $70,000 a year coming into a food bank for the first time. They’ve used their retirement to pay their mortgage, and gone through their savings.”
The organization, which distributes groceries to about 670,000 people each year through a network of more than 900 religious entities and nonprofits, watched demand increase by 80 this spring, according to The Times. Steep job losses in the banking and entertainment industries, on top of the housing downturn, are reverberating particularly hard through the San Fernando Valley, leading to less work for janitors, waiters and others. The Valley has lost thousands of jobs in financial services, largely due to the failure last fall of Calabasas-based Countrywide Financial Corp.—the nation’s largest mortgage lender—which laid off more than 20 percent of its workforce.
“We’re seeing an increase in people who never would have asked for help in the past,” said Joan Mithers, a director at SOVA Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles, which operates three food pantries including its headquarters in Van Nuys.
The agency served 5,605 people in June, up 28 percent from a similar period in 2007 and 46 percent over June 2006.