This morning was no different than any other recent Friday morning at the back of the Cathedral Center of St. Paul in Echo Park. More than a hundred people waiting for bags and boxes of free food held white laminated cards as they stood in a line that stretched up Laguna Avenue behind the church. The cards are numbered in red ink from 1 to 500 – the maximum number of people who can receive food. Last Friday, about 475 of the white cards were handed out, said food distribution organizer Francisco Torrero. On one Friday last February, the church handed out a record number of cards: 486.
“When the economy started to stall, that’s when I saw it [demand] start to spike,” said Torrero. He estimates that the number of people seeking food on Fridays has risen at least 30% in the past 18 months. This morning, the food, provided by the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank and other sources, included fresh squash, chunks of mozzarella cheese, boxes of Yoplait yogurt, croissants and bread, cans of pork, sliced peaches and peas. Old Asian women, homeless men and young Latina moms with kids walked away from the church near Echo Park Lake with bright yellow plastic bags and cardboard boxes filled with food.
The distribution begins at 10 AM but people have been lined up as early as 6 AM, Torrero said. “Every week I worry about us … having provisions for them.”