LOS ANGELES — The COVID-19 pandemic has forced local nonprofits to change how they assist the most vulnerable communities.
One positive advancement is a pilot program in partnership with LA Metro and the micro-transit rideshare company Via that is revolutionizing the food bank system by bringing essential goods right to the people. But how long can it last?
What You Need To Know
- The pandemic has forced local nonprofits to change how they assist the most vulnerable communities
- One positive advancement is a pilot program in partnership with LA Metro and the company Via
- Through extra funding, the nonprofit Para Los Niños partnered with LA Metro and Via to revolutionize the food bank system
- LA Metro also plans to monitor the environmental impact of having one car make multiple deliveries
As local resident Maria Gutierrez opens a box of donated basic essentials such as tortillas and milk, she is grateful to now be able to feed her grandchildren, husband and kids who all live together. The pandemic gravely impacted the family.
“What else can I ask for?” she said.
It was not only financially difficult to get the food the family needed, but also physically challenging. Gutierrez doesn’t have a car and was afraid to travel on public transportation during the pandemic. That's why she says having the box delivered right to her home from nonprofit Para Los Niños is a blessing.
"Yes, it helps me a lot because of my age and also because of my grandkids," she said."I really feel nervous to use public transportation. This way, we can take care of ourselves and protect ourselves, so we haven’t gotten sick."
A food distribution program was a direct outcome of the pandemic for Para Los Niños. Brenda Aguilera, director of community transformation, noticed many families who were most impacted by COVID-19 needed food and other necessities just to survive. So the nonprofit created boxes of essential food for pickup to lend a helping hand.
"We are talking about losing lives and folks that we know," Aguilera said. "They were at the front of this. They were the ones who pushed us to continue to do this. Even when things got hard and we had to shut down, they continued to encourage us to keep seeking other alternatives."
While many continue to come in person, Aguilera explained that it risks their health to take public transportation. Through extra funding, Para Los Niños partnered with LA Metro and Via to revolutionize the food bank system by employing drivers to bring the items directly to homes like Gutierrez’s.
"I want to believe that families were safer by having this method of support," Aguilera said. "It’s already a proven design that’s working. It’s helping a handful of residents in this area we work with, but we are not meeting all of them."
It may not be perfect, but participants say this program is necessary. However, it may have to end in February due to a lack of resources and funding. Joshua Schank, chief innovation officer for LA Metro, noted that the pilot program became a small positive of the pandemic and hopes there will be a way for it to continue to serve not only more families, but also more cities.
"I haven’t heard anyone object to the program in principal," he said. "Everyone loves it from the elected officials to the consumers who use it. The question is: where do we find the resources to keep this going and expand it throughout the region?"
LA Metro also plans to monitor the environmental impact of having one car make multiple deliveries. They say it could take more cars off the road, which could reduce emissions and congestion.
Gutierrez said that if this delivery program goes away, she won’t know how she will feed her family safely.
"I would be really sad. I would have to look for alternatives."