AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE11 theater productions to see in Southern California this week, Dec. 27-Jan. 2Events held across the country today will draw attention to the plight of people dodging hunger and show how others can help. Crawford saw more people each week during May than before. The pantry distributed 1,000 pounds of food a day in 2005. In the first quarter of 2006, the volume rose to 1,600 pounds a day, a 60 percent rise. About 800 families, including 1,200 children, actively rely on the pantry, whose food is given free. A recent food drive by mail carriers netted about 32 tons of food, but that will last only about 2 1/2 months, Crawford said. Food bank activists use the term “food insecure” for people with limited or iffy access to healthy food, even if they might not be experiencing immediate pain from hunger. In Los Angeles County, 957,000 people are food insecure, said Darren Hoffman, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. He said that is one-third of the 2.9 million statewide who cannot reliably afford food. He said Santa Clarita’s population of families that can’t afford food mirrors the 8 percent in the county, the hunger capital of the nation. SANTA CLARITA – Local food-giveaway groups, helping even more people this year than last, do not need reminding that today is National Hunger Awareness Day. One group attributes a higher demand for its services to the bite that gasoline takes from budgets, although gas prices are down a bit from the recent peak. “I think people get to a certain level of frustration before they act on it, and gas prices are hurting if they have $10 in their pocket that’s supposed to last the next two weeks,” said Belinda Crawford, executive director of the Santa Clarita Valley Food Pantry. “If they don’t have money to buy gasoline, they can’t get to work.” The average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gas in Santa Clarita is about $3.33, up 44 cents from April and up $1 from a year ago, said Marie Montgomery, a spokeswoman for the Automobile Club of Southern California. Other local charity groups are feeling the pinch. School-based food drives help stock the Hunger Defense Fund’s shelves, but donations are fewer when students hit the beach in summer. The outlet distributes about 2,000 pounds of food during its four open hours weekly, and 25 percent more families – 40 a day in 2006, up from 30 in 2005, are being served, a spokeswoman said. “The week of Thanksgiving (is the busiest), but May 27 was our second-highest day ever since the food pantry opened,” said Wendi Lancy, an administrative assistant for the group. Sixty-one families visited in two hours. Last year, about 2,400 people registered for help. People are asked to donate $2 a box. More people are applying for food stamps and social services, said Lupe Lopez, director of the local office of the Los Angeles County Department of Community and Senior Services. Twenty-eight percent more visited the agency’s emergency food pantry in May than in April, she said. “We’re starting to see more people who were making it on their own without using any public services – the low-income and low-middle-income person who was just eking by,” she said. “Some families – to keep a roof over their heads – are starting to go without food.” The agency’s pantry offers fresh bread and pastries every day, and there is no charge for food. Volunteers have begun dispensing up to six loaves at a time – and recipes for bread pudding, bread crumbs, croutons and stuffing – to save on waste or gasoline for more trips. The pantries coordinate their schedules to better meet the demand. Income guidelines for the SCV Food Pantry and the county’s food bank are the same: annual income cannot exceed 150 percent of the federal poverty level, so a family of four must earn less than $28,275 a year. A 2002 study found 16 percent of households in Santa Clarita earn less than $29,999 a year. Food donations peak during the holidays, but the need swells in summer when donations drop and children who receive free school lunches spend more time at home. More than 6,800 children participate in elementary-school meal programs. About 5,200 are given free meals, and 1,650 receive reduced-price meals. In the Castaic School District, more than one-third of children – 1,250 students – receive meal assistance, said Pavel Matustik, chief administrator of the Santa Clarita Valley School Food Services Agency. A summer feeding program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture provides daily free lunches for about 1,300 children whose families have low incomes. About 7 percent of the 22,000 students in the William S. Hart Union High School District qualify for meal assistance. Free bag lunches are provided for qualifying students at six summer-school sites. The city shares federal funds with these groups. A 2005 grant given to the SCV Food Pantry helped buy a new freezer, and $5,000 granted in 2006 helped fund a children’s milk-money program. The city gave Single Mothers Outreach $10,000 last year and has promised another $10,000 this year. email@example.com (661) 257-5255 LOCAL FOOD BANKS The Santa Clarita Valley Food Pantry 24133 Railroad Ave., Newhall (661) 255-9078 Food distributed from 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Thursday. Special hours: for those who work, 10 a.m. to noon the first Saturday of the month; for seniors, 9 a.m. to noon the third Friday of the month. For Acton residents, the pantry is open at the Acton Presbyterian Church from 10 to 11:30 a.m., on the second Thursday of the month. Hunger Defense Fund 26450 Ruether Ave. Suite 208 Canyon Country (661) 299-9273 Food distributed from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Saturdays. Arrangements can be made to drop off food at other times. Los Angeles County Department of Community and Senior Services 24271 San Fernando Road, Newhall (661) 254-0070 The food pantry is open from 1 to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday. Proof of income and picture identification or self-certification required. Single Mothers Outreach 18333 Dolan Way, Suite 208 Canyon Country (661) 298-9593 Food pantry open to those in the group’s database from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Thursday. Santa Clarita Valley School Food Services Agency For information on eligibility and programs, call (661) 295-1574.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!