Thousands of workers left struggling by the collapse of air travel lined up in cars for a food bank in the latest sign of the brutal impact of the coronavirus shutdown.
Workers from Los Angeles’ LAX airport, the second busiest in the country, were invited to a nearby concert venue if they needed food to survive.
The initiative, organized by the Los Angeles Federation of Labor and the LA Food Bank for workers usually employed at nearby LAX airport, is one of thousands of food banks around the country now buckling under the weight of demand.
It was organized as tens of thousands of people whose work centers on LAX – from taxi drivers to air crew – feel the impact of the shutdown.
Food banks across the United States have seen an increase in demand from America’s facing financial hardships amid the COVID-19 outbreak
Pictured: Workers with the LA Food Bank gave out boxes to residents in Inglewood that contain enough for 40 meals
The airport’s most recent figures show just 7,966 passengers flew or landed on March 31; the average number of travelers in January was more than 215,000 a day.
LAX says the airport – until now – had 59,000 workers on site and in the immediate area around it; the City of Los Angeles estimated that 100,000 more jobs directly depend on it.
At the emergency food bank on Friday LA Food Bank President and CEO Michael Flood told DailyMail.com that at least 5,000 cars were expected, with boxes distributed by 200 volunteers.
Affected and out-of-work workers have turned to local food banks, like LA Food Bank (pictured), to get groceries while they wait for unemployment checks
He said his organization has seen a huge spike in demand as the economic impact of the Covid-19 crisis starts to bite and distributed three million pounds of food this week – a 120 percent increase on the same week last year.
He said: ‘This is like the Great Recession happening in three weeks. Based on that stat alone, no we’re not shocked by the size of this.
‘We’re seeing it hitting so many families, furloughs, lay-offs for workers and the like. The distributions are massive so that’s a little bit wow.
‘The numbers are massive but when we look at the information out there, no, it’s not surprising so many people have been impacted so quickly.’
Unemployment claims in California have now reached more than 2.3m, according to the latest figures – which amounts to more claims received in the past three weeks than in the whole of 2019. The figure, equivalent to 13% unemployment, is higher than the national average, of 10%, but the state started its lockdown earlier.
Approximately 900,000 of those claims came from Los Angeles County, where lockdown rules that shut restaurants, bars and theme parks have hit hard. Federal figures say that the Los Angeles County workforce was last calculated in 2017 as 3.82 million workers, which would suggest unemployment as high as 23.6%.
In the United States, unemployment made a record-breaking jump of nearly 17 million in just three weeks as businesses shuttered to slow the virus’s spread.
The overwhelming demand has also resulted in a backlog in processing, which means many laid-off workers have been unable to get their hands on the $340-a-week unemployment check.
Pictured: a volunteer wears protective gloves and face masks while helping residents navigate the LA Food Bank at the Forum
Unemployment claims in California have now reached more than 2.3million, eclipsing the number of claims made in 2019
A California resident dons a Oakland Raiders face mask while picking up groceries from LA Food Bank
On Thursday, Governor Gavin Newsom said he would try to get the checks out as fast as possible, as well as relief money from the federal government.
In a statement, he said: ‘Many Californians are feeling the effects of this pandemic, and this added benefit is very important to our workers so they have needed resources during this difficult time.’
But for many, the wait is too long – forcing many families to turn to food distribution drives and grocery handouts.
Flood: ‘The news plays out day by day regarding COVID-19 but the economic impact has already been felt by so many and our feeling is this is going to be weeks and months of this kind of work’ Pictured: Cars lined up at the LA Food Bank
Flood said the boxes given out in Inglewood contain enough for 40 meals. ‘They’re getting fresh produce. Today it’s oranges. Frozen chicken is the protein item.
‘Then there’s a 36lb meal kit box that is shelf stable items. That’s rice and bean products, some fruit and vegetables and some cereal.
‘That’s the shelf stable portion of the product. It’s enough for about 40 plus meals.’
Flood: ‘This is like the Great Recession happening in three weeks … We’re seeing it hitting so many families, furloughs, lay-offs for workers and the like’
Pictured: a long line of cars wait in an Inglewood, California, parking lot to pic up groceries from the LA Food Bank
His organization has distributed the equivalent of 1.6m meals in the last week alone while March set a record in demand.
Figures provided by LA Food Bank show it handed out over seven million pounds of groceries last month, enough for 5.8m meals.
But like Orange County Food Bank, which has also seen demand skyrocket, the organization is struggling with a shortfall in donations and volunteers.
Flood says he hopes to see more people signing up to volunteer as the drive through distributions continue.
He said: ‘Go to lafoodbank.org and if people are in a position to volunteer, we need volunteers.
‘We need funds right now, that’s hugely important because our operating costs are increasing.
‘But help your neighbor too. We’re hearing this messaging here in California – seniors need help and the like so people can pick up groceries, pick up medication from the pharmacies for their neighbors.
‘We’re a formal effort to help but this is really a time when we’re calling on the community to come together and help one another.’
Figures provided by LA Food Bank show it handed out over seven million pounds of groceries last month, enough for 5.8m meals
COVID-19 cases have now passed 20,000 in California and there is still no sign that the end of the state lockdown will come anytime soon.
As a result, Flood says he expects the LA Food Bank will have to continue putting on mass distributions for many weeks to come.
He said: ‘Our feeling is unfortunately we’re going to be in this situation for some time. It’s hard for me to estimate today but we are looking at least weeks if not months.
‘The news plays out day by day regarding COVID-19 but the economic impact has already been felt by so many and our feeling is this is going to be weeks and months of this kind of work.’