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California

Hunger Around the Corner

$25 buys a week's worth of food

This new fundraising drive is welcome news for financially strapped agencies struggling to meet growing food needs amid government cutbacks and declining donations.

"For the first time in our history, we have had to create a wait list of about 80 agencies that need food," said Carole D. Tremblay, Los Angeles Regional Food Bank chief development officer. "We just can't supply enough."

Tonjia Barnes, Pasadena Senior Center director of client services and outreach, said that it does not currently receive funding to serve those with the greatest need — people ages 50 to 59 — because the funding is earmarked for those 60 and older. She hopes this new effort might provide funds so they can expand their services to those under 60.

Older Californians also can receive food assistance from CalFresh, the state's version of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps. But only 17 percent of eligible older Californians receive this aid, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. One reason may be the state's burdensome application process, said Kerry Birnbach, of California Food Policy Advocates.

AARP's Pacheco sums it up this way: "We know there's a huge hunger problem in California, and that's why the state office is engaging in the Around the Corner Hunger project to solicit donations for local food banks in the L.A. area, where the need is particularly acute. We are committed to involving our staff, volunteers, members and the public in this very important effort."

Also of interest: AARP resources on hunger and food insecurity. >>

Laura Mecoy is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.

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