Hunger in Los Angeles

Who Hunger Impacts

Hunger affects many more people in Los Angeles than most of us realize. A study in 2007 by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research estimated that 957,000 adults in L. A. County experience food insecurity. (Food insecurity is defined by the federal government as "limited or uncertain access to nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways").

Click for UCLA report

The severe economic downturn of the past few years has made the problem much more severe. Data from the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank shows a 30% increase in clients seeking food assistance in 2008 followed by a 40% increase in 2009! Current estimates are that 1 in 6 residents of Los Angeles County are food insecure.

But even this startling figure of far more than one million people drastically understates the problem since it does not count children or those adults without telephones. Adding the estimated 300,000 food insecure children and the nearly 100,000 homeless residents of L.A. County yields a truly staggering number of people who cannot reliably satisfy their need for food.

While children, seniors, homeless individuals and people with disabilities are the most visible examples of people with food insecurity and hunger, the problem does not stop there. Due to the very high cost of housing and transportation in Southern California, working people – even families with two wage earners – often find their budget does not allow for an adequate supply of food.

  • Over 30% of adults seeking food assistance are currently employed
  • More than 50% of those work full-time jobs
  • 20% have held managerial or professional positions in the past
  • 30% have had to choose between paying for food and paying for rent or mortgage
  • 28% have had to choose between paying for food and paying for medicine or medical care

And each year the need just gets greater.

Client Food Visits by Year

How SOVA Works to Meet the Need

For nearly 30 years, SOVA has been committed to helping alleviate hunger and food insecurity in the Los Angeles area. Our two pantries currently supply free needed groceries to over 9,000 individuals each month. Each family visiting our pantry will typically leave with over 18 pounds of groceries per member of the household – fresh and packaged fruits and vegetables, eggs, bread, rice, milk and dairy products, canned meats and fish, and more – enough to satisfy their needs for several days. Last year, SOVA distributed 2.6 million pounds of food to those in need—over 100 tons each month.

Grocery orders are packaged according to the specific dietary needs and desires of the client. Each grocery order is “custom packed” based on selections made by the client from our list of available products. SOVA stocks food for those with special dietary requirements including low-sodium, low-sugar, and Kosher foods along with liquid nutritional supplements to ensure a healthy diet for our clients.

To reach our annual food distribution requirements, we rely on a variety of sources.

  • One of our largest shares comes from our seasonal and ongoing food drives – businesses, schools, places of worship, community organizations and individuals that participate with SOVA in collecting food to feed the hungry. We received support from over 200 different organizations last year.
  • Another important source is product made available by the U.S. Department of Agriculture through its Emergency Food and Assistance Program. This free-of-charge food is locally administered by the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, whose assistance we gratefully appreciate. It is important to note, however, that in spite of recent increases, the proportion from this source remains only a fraction of what it was five years ago.
  • A smaller but important share comes from commercial vendors – manufacturers, distributors, bakeries, and grocers who generously donate excess food to support our program.
  • Lastly, we purchase products from various wholesalers and area food banks when needed to fill in the gaps left over from the other sources. SOVA tries to minimize this costly method but all too often it is necessary to insure a wholesome, well-balanced diet for our clients.


Distributing 2.5 million pounds of food in a year requires a massive effort. Our small staff of employees could not possibly do this by themselves. The 20 full- and part-time employees are supported by almost 300 active “Core” volunteers who commit at least 4 hours each week to getting the food to those who need it most. SOVA also enjoys the support of literally hundreds of intermittent and occasional volunteers including students seeking community service credits and groups large and small that participate in our distribution activities.

Who SOVA Helps

SOVA’s mission is clear: to reduce hunger and poverty in Los Angeles. Nobody should ever have to worry about food. Not now. Not ever. We are here to serve every person who finds him or herself in need of sustenance. We serve without regard to age, sex, ethnicity, religion, or geographic boundary. We eagerly support:

  • Families with children
  • Seniors and the frail elderly
  • People with physical or mental disabilities
  • Individuals struggling with chronic illness
  • People without jobs or without homes
  • The working poor
  • Anyone who needs our help!

How YOU can help us "Meet the Need"

There are so many ways, large and small, that you can become part of the solution to the misery of hunger in Los Angeles. And by supporting SOVA in whatever way your heart leads you, you will enjoy the satisfaction of helping to make the world a better place. You can help by:

A Blueprint to End Hunger in Los Angeles

More ways you can get involved in fighting hunger in our local community can be found by checking out "Hungry No More: A Blueprint to End Hunger in Los Angeles" . This document, the result of a year-long collaboration between The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, and many of the largest hunger-relief programs in Los Angeles (including JFS/SOVA) is an excellent source of information on practical ways to help address the issues of hunger and poverty in Los Angeles. Click here to access the Blueprint to End Hunger.

The need is right now. Please help today.

SOVA Community Food & Resource Program  - Click For Locations & Hours
Main Office: 16439 Vanowen Street Van Nuys, CA 91406   818-988-7682

©2009 JFS. All rights reserved. Register or Login  |  Contact  |  Privacy  |  SOVA HOME