Can We Talk About Food?

Food Insecurity  – it is a fancy way for saying “I could go hungry or be unable to feed my family”.

Food is a main part of human budgets. Food is fuel, medicine, community, and comfort – but without food, a person will surely die. Almost 13% of Americans are “Food Insecure”.

  • Food insecurity: “Limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.” (Cook & Frank, 2008, p. 193)
    • Low food security: reduced quality and variety of diets
    • Very low food security: disruption of normal eating patterns and hunger
  • The risk of food insecurity extends to people living above the federal poverty level
    • Ineligible for assistance programs
    • Competing expenses (e.g. rent, utilities)

I try not to come  to you with a problem without showing you a solution.


This is my back yard. That is a 4×8 garden bed with soil that is a mix of mulch, exploded rock and soil.


It was assembled by volunteers from MEND. (This is my front yard and driveway. Yes, I helped too.) The green barrel is filled with the results of my attempt to clean up before they came.

MEND and other Food Banks give out boxes of food, and that is awesome. What could be better? Having a measure of self sufficiency is better. Being able to grow my own food, control the chemicals on the food, and teaching my child to garden . . . that is better!

Every Tuesday I am in a “Gardening Class” and I have learned all the parts of plants, how to recognize pests, ways to mix plants and how to water. I have seedlings sprouting on my kitchen window preparing to transplant.


Jackey of
Jackey of the VISTA program photographing how I topped the metal stakes.

Usually these go in soil, but my back yard is mostly pavement so the metal stakes stick up, and were hard to see so I topped them with Rubber Ducks. Yep, I am a mommy and the urge to baby proof doesn’t fade.

Chef Adam and a volunteer shaking hands after a job well done. 

MEND and the California Master Gardeners are building these and teaching classes to the owners. I am excited to see how well this works and will keep you updated.

I can’t always control my income, but I can control some part of the access to food my family has so we won’t be insecure.

The Importance of Food to Health

Food is a necessary ingredient to sustaining human life. It is also culturally defined the community experience, a family gathering point, personal history, exercise and activity, a component of wellness, a social event, currency, crafts, and employment. (Paraphrased from Chef Richard Weinroth)

Food is expensive – even with coupons and food stamps. It is even more expensive if you don’t ave a lot of money and do not qualify for this type of assistance.  I was at MEND (I know, you are not shocked) asking the staff how they address this for their clients.

  1. The Food Bank
  2. The Food Pantry (where other food banks come for food)
  3. The Hot Lunch Program
  4. Homeless Food Bags
  5. Diabetic Food Boxes
  6. Home Gardening Program
  7. La Collectiva
  8. Kid’s Food Education
  9. Cooking Classes

It seems they have already given this some thought.

I am a terrible gardener. This is just another painful reminder that I am adopted because my parents and grandparents and great grandparents all have had meaningful and fruitful (see what I did there?) relationships with plants. With that in mind, and because I feel comfortable at MEND, I gave #6 a hard look and decided to try the Home Gardening Program.

Created with Microsoft Fresh Paint
Hibiscus flower organs up close. It has boy and girl parts . I am glad it doesn’t shop at Target. 


I took notes in the most Sonya way ever, I drew.

I have to say that they take this seriously and I already planted 4 different types of seeds. NExt I have to schedule a home site visit to see if I have room for a 4×8 garden plus soil delivery . I have 3 more weeks of classes.

Tell me why you this this might be a good or bad idea.

MEND Gala Wrap Up

Every well run fundraiser is well planned. Sometime in September the lights stay on for late Wednesday evening meetings at the MEND center on San Fernando.


I have never been a “lady who lunches”, instead I am a “lady who grabs my kid from daycare, zooms through McDonald’s and rushes up a flight of stairs to kiss 25 faces before sitting down and starting kindergarten homework while the meeting starts”. It is not glamorous, or well executed, but it is how I roll.

How the Committee works

Despite how I perform as a Gala member, everyone else comes with pens and notepads and ideas. We have been doing this for seven years and tiny factions have formed. People gravitate to tasks like solicitation, public relations, auction items and volunteer recruitment the ways that bees pollinate their favorite flowers.

Bigger issues such as ticket prices, Board Member engagement, entertainment, production features and suggestions for growth are openly and freely debated.  There are laughs and sometimes there is wine.

Starting in December the meetings go from monthly to weekly.  We say MEND’s mission statement, discuss dollars, order favors (thanks Aimee who hated me in highschool but comes through for MEND and me every year at AB_Unlimited), bond over our love of Mr. Urbano from Universal Studios and get ready for the big event.

The day before the Gala we load up a large truck with supplies and I pretend that I know how to create lovely silent auction baskets while my daughter plays with the COO’s kid. MEND is a family friendly affair for staff and volunteers alike on the weekends.

Family affair  – Mr Kelly, and Carrie’s son and his dancing lady friend. (I borrowed this photo from Facebook)

By 11 am on Gala day the committee is assembling table decorations, setting everything up, wandering around in curlers and eventually laughing in the ladies room as we fix zippers, share lipstick and discuss slips and shoes. (I gave my shoes to my friend Tarry who used to be a MEND employee and now volunteers.)  We are our  own special sorority. Sometimes silly, always serious about our goal.

Where does the money go?

This is the only big fundraiser MEND has all year.  MEND’S budget has two great needs: homeless services and Medical Dispensing.  MEND has a great Diabetic program with specialized food boxes, nursing, education and blood testing & Insulin. Insulin saves lives and it is hard for us to put a price-tag on it – but the manufacturers have managed to do that and MEND pays so that we can give the medication to clients in need.

Thank you Heritage Provider Network and other generous donors.

The funds raised at the GALA are the operations budget, the orphaned program funds for homeless services, showers, the Diabetic program and all the wonderful and needed programs that are not glamorous enough to attract other directed donations. Sure, there is food and music, and a great show on television combined with an awesome MC from ABC7 each year (This year we had Sid Garcia; in previous  years Danny Romero served) .

As committee members we are COMMITTED members to supporting this oasis of help in a desert of need.

How do we know if we have done our job well?

This is what happens when an Analyst is your Committee Chairperson.

Robin, Victoria,Steve and Susan watching the analysis
Every well run fundraiser is well planned. This is what happens when an Analysist is your Committee Chairperson.
Yasmin Serrato explains the success and areas of improvement to Pablo and Rita

If you look in the window you can see a reflection of a computer spreadsheet that is being projected from the television. Yasmin is walking us through comparisons to previous years and taking notes. We are always giving feedback.

There is always magic in giving. Victoria gave Darla a wand from Universal Studios where our gala is held.

My youngest daughter has been on the committee for the past six years, and she has made some lifelong (6 years that is) friendships and connections that only enforce my love for MEND. The people behind the scenes are as passionately in love with the goals as the staff and day to day volunteers. Now we go through the long hiatus of waiting for Fall to begin again.

While we wait, think about joining us. We have food, and the occasional cookie, and so much fuzzy fun. If there is something you want to donate to our auctions, let me know because it is tax deductible.

Karsplus Warehouse – just, no.

Oops. In an earlier post if I spelled the name wrong of the car store. I know that the story is true because it happened to a friend of mine who then posted a review on Yelp. The car store has harassed her for posting her story.

People who are low-income have a hard time finding traditional loans. This leaves customers at the mercy of other smaller private lenders. When these smaller lenders act in an orthodox and Austin illegal ways, the low income client has few ways to retaliate. They already have poor credit and can end up on the hook for payment that they can’t possibly make at a rate which is impossible. However the car sales person seems like a man of authority as so they believe them when they originally strikes a deal.

Examples like this are what I mean.

You cannot run credit on somebody’s  first and last name alone, you need a Social Security number or more identifying information. I know this, and now you know this. Gus, the salesclerk who spoke with my friend over the telephone was hoping that she did would not know this. 

She called once about the car and gave A name. – She called again to ask a question and was told that her credit had been run and she would have to take financing from the Karsplus location if she wanted to buy a car.

No. People, just no.

A low income person may not be business savvy and may not understand that they are being lied to.

A car can mean survival – it is a way to get to a job, to earn a paycheck, and pay the bills to keep a home.

It is just mean to take advantage of these folks. Just because you CAN, does not make it the correct thing to do.

Gustavo, or Gus at KarsPlus – I am looking at you.

Pacoima Food Pantries

Note: Pantry distribution dates and times are subject to change. Please call the pantry to verify that this information is current. Most pantries serve according to geographical service area. Food pantry clients should bring photo identification with them to the pantry. The identification should show client’s current residential address. Some pantries have an application process and ask clients for documents supporting income. However, all clients will be served the first time regardless of completion of application and service area.
Total 4 pantries found.
1. Cornerstone Christian Ministry
11449 Sproule Avenue
Pacoima,  91331
Distribution Time: Thursday 9:00:00 AM 10:00:00 AM
2. Eliza Shanks Homes, Inc.
13055 Weidner Street
Pacoima,  91331
Distribution Time: Monday 9:00:00 AM 5:00:00 PM By Appointment
Tuesday 9:00:00 AM 5:00:00 PM By Appointment
Wednesday 9:00:00 AM 5:00:00 PM By Appointment
Thursday 9:00:00 AM 5:00:00 PM By Appointment
Friday 9:00:00 AM 5:00:00 PM By Appointment
Friday 9:00:00 AM 5:00:00 PM 4th
3. Meet Each Need with Dignity – MEND
10641 San Fernando Road
Pacoima,  91331
Distribution Time: Tuesday 8:00:00 AM 2:00:00 PM
Thursday 8:00:00 AM 2:00:00 PM
Friday 8:00:00 AM 2:00:00 PM
Saturday 9:00:00 AM 12:00:00 PM
4. Valley Crossroads SDA Church
11350 Glenoaks Blvd.
Pacoima,  91331
Distribution Time: Saturday 2:30:00 PM 4:00:00 PM 2nd & 4th

This week out of the Welfare office

In the welfare office things are as predicated …

  • The super large former gang banger is collecting toys for his side charity work.
  • My boss snickers when I mention that some individual recognition for my quality of work would be both shocking and appreciated.
  • Administration remains oblivious that actual people work and create the number in their reports.
  • Our Company Holiday Party isn’t allowing children and will probably be held in a non handicapped friendly location (again)

Outside of the Welfare office I’ve been reading the attacks on poor people by other “not as poor” people. Most of this is in Facebook.

It seems too slippery a thought to hold that Social Security, Disability, Medi-Care and In Home Supportive Services are “Welfare Programs” as much as cash assistance to low income families is.

People also don’t seem to understand that people in poverty work and pay taxes and live in strict income and time limit guidelines.

I think it is true that the lower income folks are encouraged to fight among themselves rather than band together against the Uber rich who no longer pay the taxes that once kept our economy flowing and people employed. This is a screen shot form my Verizon Samsung Galaxyphone of a graphic put up in “Pacoima Represent!” – a community page for my low income portion of Los Angeles.

Also, clearly they have never done the fun research on the first lady to file for Social Security – she didn’t earn that money either.

Local activism


Dear @fuentds4la, I love Pacoima and bought a home here but now there is talk of gentrification what are the plans to keep the low income families in their homes and what’s the plan to boost mom and pop businesses and reduce crime.

Let’s work together to make Pacoima a place of universal pride so no one would want to harm it…because it is home.

Pacoima , Facebook, and a man on the streets


Homelessness is real  a nd affects everyone. Here, in Pacoima, this man is a fixture on a local street. The Facebook group for the neighborhood is learning the worst of all truths about homelessness: there is no easy cure.

There are no available shelter beds.
We can’t find a place for him to sleep
MEND doesn’t open for Homeless services until Tuesday.

211 has been called.
LAHSA has been called.
Foothill Police Division has been called.

He us still on the street.

The wonderful people here have brought him food and clothes and kept him company.

But even with a whole city behind him :we can’t cure his homelessness.

His name is Jose. I want to know what Jose wants to do. Does he want to be housed? If so, where?