Shortly after the Long Beach Center for Economic Inclusion (LBCEI) formed last March, it found itself in the middle of efforts to help those suffering in the coronavirus pandemic.
One of LBCEI’s primary efforts was support of food pantries, particularly in the central, west and north parts of Long Beach. Building on those efforts, LBCEI last week announced creation of the Food Support Network.
Since April 2020, LBCEI and its food pantry and neighborhood partners have served more than 1,500 households each week by providing food staples, according to a release. The distribution system gradually evolved through grant funding for equipment and creation of a Food Hub at Vice Mayor and Ninth District Councilman Rex Richardson’s field office at 6509 Gundry Ave.
Rather than try to reinvent a distribution system, LBCEI reached out to area churches and nonprofits already serving those in need, according to Julie Lie, LBCEI food network manager. Partnerships with Long Beach Food Finders (the food recovery nonprofit) and the LA Regional Food Bank significantly increased the amount and variety of food available.
In addition to the Food Hub, a grant from the Long Beach Community Foundation was used to buy refrigerators and freezers to increase storage capacity. That in turn allowed LBCEI to buy 20,000 pounds of frozen chicken to distribute over time, according to the release.
“LBCEI’s Food Hub has allowed us to be more intentional and increase the efficiency of available food resources,” Lie said in a release. “This centralized approach has really improved the operations of the food pantries to better meet the needs in their communities.”
Today, the Food Hub receives, repackages and coordinates delivery of 15,000 pounds of food boxes every other week.
The newly formalized Food Support Network includes nine churches and nonprofits as well as two neighborhood associations — AOC7 and the Collins Neighborhood Association. The neighborhood associations coordinate one-day food distribution events and the nine pantry partners get LBCEI food deliveries on a staggered schedule. A multilingual flyer letting people know when and where food is available is distributed in neighborhoods, as well.
Another plus of the network, Lie said, is the ability to distribute other needed material and information. For example, the network was used to give out more than 250 laptops and hot spots from the city. Hygiene kits and other non-food items (think toilet paper) have been given out as well.
After a successful partnership with Leadership Long Beach during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, LBCEI has set up a weekly donation collection — go to lbcei.org/help-food-support-network/ for more.
LBCEI is funded by the city of Long Beach and Wells Fargo Bank, along with grants from multiple sources, including CARES Act grants through the city. For more information about donating or volunteering, go to lbcei.org.