UCLA Dining plans and prepares ready-to-eat meals while nonprofit community health center raises funds and distributes food to patients
Venice Family Clinic and UCLA Dining have announced a unique partnership this week that is providing nearly 13,000 nutritious free meals per week to patients and families in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.
With fewer students on campus to feed and more people facing food insecurity, UCLA has called on the skills of its dining staff to help serve the community. Five days a week, UCLA Dining plans, prepares and delivers healthful, ready-to-eat meals to Venice Family Clinic sites in Venice, Santa Monica, Mar Vista and Hawthorne. Venice Family Clinic staff and volunteers distribute the free meals to the low-income patients the Clinic serves.
The prepared meals are in addition to free fresh fruits and vegetables the Clinic has been distributing over the past year to its patients.
Even before COVID-19, food insecurity affected an estimated 2 million people in Los Angeles County, meaning one in five people may not know where their next meal is coming from. More than 35 million Americans – 10.5% of all U.S. households – experienced food insecurity at some point during 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“We know our patients, who have lost income and are dealing with the effects of the pandemic, are struggling to feed their families,” Venice Family Clinic CEO Elizabeth Benson Forer said. “This innovative collaboration with UCLA means that we can ease our patients’ worries and ensure they have the food they need to stay healthy.”
Generous donations to Venice Family Clinic cover the cost of the food, and UCLA’s commitment to keeping staff employed provides the labor to prepare and deliver the meals for the Emergency Food Partnership, using no tuition funds. The partnership provides four nutritious meals per week to each family member or individual, and each meal consists of about a pound of healthy food. UCLA Dining’s executive chef has worked with Venice Family Clinic to design special menus that address the health needs of the patients and give them options like blackened fish with pineapple salsa or leg of lamb with roasted potatoes.
“We’re proud to serve families in the community through a partnership that helps keep people healthy and fed during the pandemic,” said Joey Martin, senior executive chef of UCLA Housing and Hospitality. “Working with the Venice Family Clinic magnifies the good both organizations can do. UCLA’s commitment to its staff and to the community is part of who we are as an institution. Working together, we can help many more people than we could alone.”