One in five people in Los Angeles County experience food insecurity. As the pandemic lingered, the need for food grew exponentially. SSSIO – USA Southern California Region heard the call for a region-wide effort to address this urgent need in a safe and meaningful way by partnering with the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank.

Since 1973, the Los Angeles Food Bank has been working tirelessly to live up to its mission that “No one goes hungry in Los Angeles.” It relies on 15,000 volunteers to pack and distribute food to over 900,000 people each month. While the world came to a halt during COVID, the LA Food bank went into overdrive to serve the millions more who lost jobs.

Since March 2020, most activities by the Sri Sathya Sai Centers that involved preparing and delivering food to local shelters had been suspended due to COVID restrictions. It seemed that serving in a pandemic required protocols that may be better fulfilled by joining forces with a bigger service institution. The LA Food Bank had COVID precautions down to perfection. They had figured how to preserve the joy of cooperative teamwork with masks, vaccination cards, and social distancing.

The first service at the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank was on October 23rd 2021 as an offering for the birthday of Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Sai volunteers formed one of the several assembly lines in the cavernous warehouse. As boxes came down the motorized belt, each person added their box of spaghetti, cereal, canned vegetables, or one of the other dozen foods that make a few meals for families and seniors. Coordinators had instructed each volunteer on exactly how to place each item in the box so as to maximize the amount of food put in, without wasting an inch of space. The team worked fast yet with rhythmic harmony. Three and a half hours later, with a 15-minute break in the middle, volunteers had assembled 1,624 boxes. It was just the beginning. Before the group left, they decided that they wanted to make the LA Food Bank service project a recurring project. Another group of 20 volunteers returned on December 11th, 2022 and the region scheduled another service in February 2022.

The SSSIO USA-Southern California Regional Vice President, Seema Miller, commented, “this project slid into place effortlessly. The Regional Food Bank welcomed us with open arms, and, in turn, Sai volunteers have embraced this opportunity. We are fortunate to play a small role in critical food distribution in Los Angeles County.”