The Khalsa Care Foundation Pantry in Pacoima serves 900 families every Friday.
LOS ANGELES, CA – Pacoima has the highest COVID-19 case rates in the San Fernando Valley and many families struggling through the pandemic can get help from a local food pantry. Every Friday the Khalsa Care Foundation gives needy families a week’s worth of food.
More than 900 families lined up at the Khalsa Care Foundation for the drive-thru food pantry Friday afternoons. Although the drive-thru food pantry officially opens its doors for two hours starting at 4pm, cars begin lining about 2pm. To accommodate those who are unable to drive-up Khalsa has a walk-up system in place to help those who are unable to access a car.
Khalsa’s pantry organizer, Preet Singh said since the pandemic hit the need for food amongst residents in Pacoima has increased six hundred percent.
Singh said “Covid-19 was absolutely devastating to this community. This community is hard working, we are blue collar workers, and we are able to see that this community needs it the absolute most.”
According to LA Times Pacoima is made up mostly of Latino’s and African Americans. Latinos make up 85.6% of the population and African American make up 7.2%. Furthermore, the median household income in Pacoima on average is $49,066, a low income when compared to other cities in the county.
Prior to the pandemic only eighty families were served every Friday. Now the number of families in need has skyrocketed.
The public health webpage for Los Angeles County has Pacoima with the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the valley.
As a result of the increase in help for families in the community the Khalsa Care Foundation has partnered with the Los Angeles Food Bank and Council Woman Monica Rodriguez to help fulfill the food demand in the community.
Singh said, “Without the help of Council Woman Monica Rodriguez and the Los Angeles food bank we wouldn’t have the necessary supplies to be able to distribute to all the people we serve.”
The foundation has also partnered with other local organizations and businesses to make sure any left-over food is not thrown away, but donated if possible.
Fifty volunteers come out every Friday to help open and fill trunks. They also gather more information from the families being served in order to better understand their needs. Most volunteers are under 25-years old and say they are proud to be helping families in a local economically challenged community.
Kirit Singh, 22, has been a volunteer for more than six-years and she said helping makes her happy.
Singh said” ‘I’ve been coming here for over six years and we are a family here, there is nothing better than I can think about doing on a Friday afternoon than to be here helping others because that is a big part of who I am and what I believe in.”
There are strict guidelines in place to avoid any Covid-19 exposure for both the volunteer and the families getting food at the drive-thru pantry. Volunteers must wear masks and gloves at all times. Families in the drive-thru or in the walk-up line must wear a mask at all times as well, and they must open their trunk when arriving at the front of the line. The trunk opening system is set in place to avoid contact between volunteers and others.
One of the many in line waiting their turn was Juan Avelart, 56. Avelart is unemployed because of the pandemic and he said he relies on what he is able to get from pantries like this.
Avelart told the volunteers, “Thank you for everything with this virus everything has gone up. This helps a lot of people including myself”
The Khalsa Care Foundation says it want to build community through education and service. Khalsa was first established in 2013 with a mission to provide a space for guidance, education, and seva (selfless service) for all. The foundation is dedicated to creating a positive environment that encourages youth and sangat to participate in community outreach through various programs, like the Khalsa Food Pantry.
In December Khalsa organizes a free winter carnival as an outreach to low-income families in the area. During Thanksgiving gurdwara Khalsa provides food for the elderly and toy bags for children.
Video, Liseth Ceja
By Liseth Ceja
Contributions from LA Times and Los Angeles Public Health.
Photo, Liseth Ceja
Video, Liseth Ceja