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Providing a Pillar of Food Assistance Support

For more than 40 years, Westside Food Bank has served as the warehouse hub for social service agencies with food assistance programs on the Westside of Los Angeles County.

Since taking the helm as Westside Food Bank’s Executive Director in 1989, Bruce Rankin has built the organization from its origins as a scrappy grassroots operation to a key pillar—serving the capacities of central food distribution organization, nutrition provider, and advocate—within the Los Angeles community’s food assistance network. Today, the Westside Food Bank has grown to include over 55 nonprofit social service member agencies that together distribute 5 million pounds of the Food Bank’s food annually—critical health-sustaining nutrition—to over 200,000 individuals and their families living within western Los Angeles County.

With Rankin’s steadfast leadership, Westside Food Bank (WSFB) was primed and ready to respond effectively to the biggest increase in need for food assistance in four decades—double the need for food—all provoked by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic and public health reverberations. His advocacy and actions have helped Westside Food Bank feed generations of Angelenos, including tens of thousands of people who had never-before experienced food insecurity prior to COVID.

Now, the need for food assistance in Westside Food Bank’s service area remains high –- in fact, during March 2022 WSFB saw its highest average daily distribution in the organization’s history. Pre-COVID, WSFB was providing about 10,000 pounds of food each distribution day and now that figure has jumped to more than 23,000 pounds per day.

Westside Food Bank added several new member agencies and engaged in strategic partnerships to distribute food directly to communities in need through its new pop-up pantry program. WSFB now operates several weekly pop-up food pantries including at the West Los Angeles Veterans Administration, which is the largest VA campus in the United State.

Other collaborations include with the City of Santa Monica for a distribution at a city park, with the City of Los Angeles for a distribution at the West Los Angeles Civic Center, and with the Culver City Education Foundation on a weekly backpack program and pantry distribution for students and their families. The Food Bank also more than tripled their service to local college students through partnerships with Santa Monica College, UCLA, and Mount Saint Mary’s University.

Westside Food Bank purchases a large proportion of its food from wholesale distributors, and also obtains food from donated sources, most significantly, a statewide produce rescue program. More than half of the food that leaves WSFB’s warehouse is fresh produce. Pantry staples like rice and beans, eggs, potatoes, oats, pasta, cereal, hearty soups & stews, and shelf-stable milk round out its offerings.

Honoring the Progress and Positive Outcomes, Building for the Future

On the occasion of his retirement, WSFB wishes to honor Bruce Rankin for his 33 years of extraordinary leadership. Furthermore, WSFB is delighted to welcome Genevieve Riutort, its dedicated deputy director and chief development officer of 18 years, as she transitions into her new role as WSFB’s next leader, on May 20, 2022.

Over the past year, Rankin collaborated with key Westside Food Bank staff and board members to craft the organization’s new Strategic Plan. The Strategic Plan outlines goals and objectives across key functions—Community Engagement, Finances, Fund Development, and Operations—that will strengthen the Food Bank’s organizational capacity to meet ongoing hunger and nutrition needs for as long as they exist, while also sustaining the highest standards in nutritional balance, efficiency, public health, and safety.

In honor of Bruce Rankin’s legacy of service, WSFB established the Bruce Rankin Sustainability Fund to fuel the implementation of this timely Strategic Plan and the realization of its goals and vision. WSFB invites the support of new and renewing donors in helping it actualize this vision.

Learn more about the Bruce Rankin Sustainability Fund at wsfb.org/bruce.

 

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