Valley Park Church food drive sees an increase in demand since COVID-19

Samantha Bravo, Contributor

Families waited in line to fill their shopping bags with fresh and non-perishable food items at the weekly food distribution at Valley Park Church in North Hills on Wednesday.

Valley Park Church Pastor Kevyn Jones said there has been a spike in families attending the distribution since the COVID-19 pandemic began. He said the number of households they served each week increased from 80 to nearly 200.

This food drive is not alone, as millions of Americans have turned to food banks for the first time according to the Associated Press. Furthermore,  AP looked at 181 Feeding America food banks and found the organization has distributed nearly 57% more food in the third quarter of the year, compared with the same period in 2019.

Luckily, Valley Park Church has been able to keep their supply up to the demand.

“The [Valley Park Church] food pantry takes all our numbers, and they’ll distribute food to us based on the numbers of families coming,” Jones said.

The amount of food given to families is measured by how much food is given to the church. Jones said that if they have more of one item, they give families extra items. The food options vary between vegetables, canned goods, fruit plates and macaroni and cheese.

“We’ve always got enough food for everyone … some people take extra to give to their neighbors,” Jones said.

Cindy Marsden, an organizer for the Valley Park Church food bank said they usually have more volunteers — some of whom are CSUN students — but due to the COVID-19 restrictions, there haven’t been as many lately.

“We couldn’t do it without the help of the volunteers,” said Steve, an organizer. Steve donates what is left over to the Meet Each Need with Dignity food pantry, also known as MEND, the next day.

Steve said they also provided 20 families with turkeys for Thanksgiving.

“I’ve been coming here for probably over 10 years,” said a guest named Brian. “I live in the neighborhood and it’s convenient for me.”

Jones said the volunteers and visitors began to create a community.

“We get to know everybody after a while, so this is really more like a community,” Jones said. “Some people come and wait in line all day and they’ll sit in the grass and talk to friends. Especially if they’re apartment dwellers, the church is a great place for them to spend the day.”

Valley Park Church live streams its services every Sunday. The weekly distribution takes place every Wednesday afternoon, usually between 3p.m. and 5:30 p.m.

Jaime Buzo, left, and Pastor Kevyn Jones, main organizer of the Valley Park Church food bank, do a special handshake during the food distribution in North Hills, Calif., on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. Jones said he has known Buzo since she was a young girl and is a regular volunteer at the weekly food pantry. (Chris Torres)