Concerned that people with disabilities were going hungry due to shutdowns, officials at the Los Angeles Department on Disability and in Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office are working with private partners and multiple city departments to prepare and deliver 3,000 meals a day to homes across Los Angeles. It is the first-ever meals delivery program targeted specifically to people with physical and mental challenges, said Stephen D. Simon, general manager of the Los Angeles Department on Disability.
Private dollars pay for the operation and hundreds of city workers and community volunteers make it happen five days a week. Fox Studios, Khalsa Care Foundation, and Citi Community Development Foundation have contributed to the effort. “No meal service for people with disabilities existed at this scale prior to the pandemic,’’ Simon said. “All of this got put together in a matter of weeks.” The program started in April with 2,000 meals a day but this week scaled up to serve an additional 1,000 Angelenos with doorstep delivery. Meals will go out five days a week for another month at least, officials said.
With the recent spike in COVID-19 cases, the need will continue well beyond the current time frame, Department of Disability officials say, and they are looking for additional funding to keep it going. Bertha Suazo, 62 of Echo Park, says she is thankful for the meal deliveries because it’s hard to get out to shop for her autistic son and an elderly neighbor who she looks out for. “We used to go to the store together but that’s really hard now,’’ she said. “Thank you for helping me.”
State-mandated shutdowns put the disabled community at a disadvantage because they often cannot drive and for months have been unable to visit shuttered regional service centers. Even as services reopen, many disabled people will opt to stay indoors because they’re at higher risk of developing a serious illness as a result of a COVID-19 infection. Contact the Department on Disability officials listed below to learn more or to set up a site visit to the meal preparation center at the Khalsa Care Foundation in Pacoima or the distribution hub at the Los Angeles Zoo.