In the three years that Playa del Rey’s Grass Roots Neighbors (GRN) has been operating, the nonprofit has distributed more than 20,000 bags of groceries to families facing food insecurities and built a powerful network of volunteers to help with sorting, packing and deliveries.
Now, the all volunteer-run nonprofit will be able to expand the number of families they help feed, thanks to a new partnership with the Westchester Family YMCA.
The news couldn’t come at a better time, according to volunteer lead Stephanie Popescu, who says GRN has a waitlist of people for their grocery program. With inflation and soaring food costs—which the U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasts will increase eight percent this year—means that the need for organizations like GRN and the services they provide will only continue to grow as well.
Grass Roots Neighbors currently supports 60 local families with grocery deliveries of everyday staples, fresh produce, meat and dairy, as well as baby and household products every two weeks. The funding to purchase these items comes from local donors and corporate sponsors, like Legado Co., who also donates a suite at 200 Culver Blvd. for the nonprofit to use as its headquarters.
Providing an average family of four with $400 to $500 in monthly groceries is a huge relief for the program’s recipients who are often faced with the all too common dilemma of having to choose between items in their pantry, or falling behind on rent or another critical need.
“I just learned about a beloved Westchester community member who is making $300 a month too much to qualify for food stamps. However, after paying for rent and other necessary expenses there is no money left to keep food on the table for her and her daughter,” said Popescu. “These are the stories we hear far too frequently. By being able to provide food and offset some of those costs, we can help these families be more resilient in the face of economic hardships and prevent homelessness. Grass Roots Neighbors is so excited to work with the Westchester YMCA to help our community members who are facing impossible choices and struggling to feed their kids.”
Thanks to their volunteer network and community supporters, GRN also receives regular donations from food drives held for their benefit. A special relationship with “Quarantine Cooking–Westchester & Silicon Beach,” a Facebook group made up of people who love to cook, means that anytime GRN receives a large donation of fruit or vegetables that need to be used quickly, they can put out a call for chefs, and in a day or two, the Grass Roots Neighbor’s headquarters is filled with casseroles, blueberry muffins, banana bread or homemade jam.
With the partnership that was launched in February with the Westchester Family YMCA, both organizations will now share weekly donations from the Westside Regional Food Bank, which has doubled its delivery. The Y will use its portion of what they receive (a typical drop-off might contain a pallet of ramen, freeze-dried fruit snacks, canned pasta and soy milk) to replenish its food bank that has been open to the community for the last two years. During the Y’s operating hours, anyone in need is welcome to peruse their shelves for grab-and-go items, canned food and other kitchen staples.
“At the YMCA, we are committed to supporting our neighbors to ensure their health and well-being. It’s an honor to expand our collective impact in serving those struggling with food insecurity through partnering with our friends at Westside Food Bank and Grass Roots Neighbors,” said YMCA Executive Director John Loussararian.
Want to learn more? Community members interested in volunteering with GRN or joining their grocery program waitlist can visit grassrootsneighbors.org. To make a donation to the Y’s food program or help with restocking, please email email@example.com.