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Long Beach Aware feeding familes and filling gaps

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Long Beach AWARE, a local organization dedicated to preventing substance abuse among young people, has pivoted to start feeding hungry children and families during the pandemic. But with dwindling funds, the organization may have to put the program on hold, beginning this Friday.

Under the leadership of Judi Vining, executive director of LB AWARE, the organization has collected about $6,000 in donations to help feed families over the weekends, when many food distributions are off.

The organization repurposed a grant from the Silvian Foundation, which was originally for LB AWARE’s annual Teen Nite Out and Tween Nite Out event, to start buying food for families during the weekends. The $15,000 grant and donations have made it possible for 15 weeks of food deliveries.

LB Aware, along with the Long Beach School District and many volunteers, have added these meals to their Grab and Go programs, where they are delivered at sites like St. Mary of the Isle Roman Catholic, at 315 E. Walnut St., on Friday evenings.

“This shows that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, Vining said. “You just have to fill in the gaps.”

Vining said she tries to purchase items that will last families throughout the week, such as peanut butter, pasta and other non-perishable items. Vining praised Trader Joe’s in Oceanside, which has helped with donations and pickups. The supermarket also helps package the items and separate them to be delivered.

Vining said that due to lack of funds Friday, July 24 will be the last day the organization will be able to provide food for hungry families, but added that they are “absolutely willing” to continue the service if more donations are provided.”

“This project demonstrates what a coalition is, “Vining said. “We had to pivot and go where the help was needed.” She added that a $20 donation can help feed a family through the weekend, but said any donations would help the cause.

The organization is accepting donations on its website at wwwlongbeachaware.org.