Lincoln Heights -- No one should have to choose between feeding Fifi or Fido or paying rent.
Born in 2020 during the pandemic, the L.A. Animal Services’ Pet Food Pantry helps residents experiencing financial hardships keep their animal companions at home – and out of overcrowded shelters.
“During COVID, we could see that people were struggling to keep their animals and identified the pantry as a resource we could provide,” explains Annette Ramirez, Interim General Manager of L.A. Animal Services.
The pantry currently feeds about 750 cats and 650 dogs a week and is entirely donation-based and volunteer-driven.
“We are a machine every Sunday!” says Andy Corrigan, a lead volunteer who coordinates pantry operations among three city shelters, including Lincoln Heights' North Central. Pantry recipients apply weekly (online or via phone, with walk-ups served based on availability) to request food – mainly for dogs and cats, but also small mammals, reptiles and fish.
Food and supplies are distributed at the shelter on Sunday afternoons. Still, a mighty troop of volunteers does a lot of heavy lifting beforehand. . “I tell people, we don’t have forklifts, FYI!” Corrigan says with a laugh. “When that semi rolls in, it’s a bunch of volunteers and staff who unload that massive truck by hand.”
Next come what Corrigan calls the “Uber shifts,” where volunteers drive the food between shelters to stock each pantry. “You’d be amazed how much dog food we can fit in your Prius!” she says. “And once in a while somebody comes in a pick-up truck, and it’s like, hallelujah!”
But Corrigan assures volunteers don’t need brawn or extreme hauling capacity to contribute. “There’s also a lot of sitting and bagging dry food,” she says, adding that high schoolers have been some of the pantry’s most valued human power. Older kids (accompanied by an adult) can also pitch in, and since pantry volunteers don’t handle animals, Corrigan was able to get the city to expedite the application process.
During Sunday distribution, recipients express gratitude, and some give back, like a woman who makes fabric catnip toys that she donates to other cat people in need. Volunteers offer information to recipients on low-cost spay/neuter, vaccination, vet care and, if asked, euthanasia.
In addition to receiving supplies from Greater Good Charities, which connects the pantry with large donors, community contributions truly help. Ramirez says people with unopened animal food or new or gently used supplies (crates, bedding, toys, etc.) can bring them directly to the shelter.
For monetary donations, Corrigan points to the pantry's Amazon Wish List, which she compiled to stretch donation dollars, as the best way to contribute.
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