The woman who earned a reputation as the mother of food banks by transforming the Los Angeles Food Bank into the second-largest in the U.S., finds her success bittersweet on retirement, the Los Angeles Times reports.
When Doris Bloch accepted a $28,000-a-year position at the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank in 1983, she and 10 others distributed food out of an old machine shop, the Times says.
Today, with 100 staff and volunteers, the Food Bank distributes 40 million pounds of food a year to 965 charities.
Bloch says she was as bottom-line oriented as a corporate executive in her work – perhaps even more so because banks were less likely to demonstrate faith in her work.
The nonprofit spirit was as important to her success as her business acumen: A major strength of her food bank system is the grass-roots nature of food distribution through local charities, the Times says.
Many of her volunteers are only one step away from poverty themselves, she says.
Even as she coordinated the Food Bank’s explosive growth, Bloch became disheartened by the need for it.
“I can remember when Los Angeles wasn’t a third-world city, by which I mean I can remember when there wasn’t this huge pool of abysmally poor people and a huge pool of incredibly rich people, with middle-class people just hanging on by their fingernails,” Bloch told the Times.
Doug O’Brien, director of public policy and research at Second Harvest, national network of food banks, concurs.
“L.A. is a region that has suffered the paradox of pervasive hunger in spite of a buoyant economy,” he told the Times.
Larry Brown, director of the National Center on Hunger and Poverty at Tufts University, says that the worst aspect of hunger in America is that it strikes working people.
“Nearly half of those served by Doris’ food bank are working or have an adult in the household who is working,” he told the Times. “There is something grotesquely unfair about a parent working full time and still not having enough to feed their children.”
Bloch hopes to see the food bank, and the hunger driving it, shrink as a result of social change. Until that time, she told the Times, she sees no alternative to bigger and better charity to serve hungry Americans.