Los Angeles Controller Ron Galperin’s office on Wednesday announced the launch of a new website to help people locate grocery stores, farmers markets, and meal distribution centers run by the Los Angeles Unified School District, which has canceled all classes through April in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The new website, which uses maps to visualize data aggregated by Galperin’s office from LAUSD and city agencies, is intended to ensure that when people venture outdoors during California’s statewide shelter-in-place order, they can be sure the store will be open when they arrive. (Though city officials are encouraging those who use the website to still call ahead to stores to make sure they’re open.)
“The last thing that people need at this time when maybe they’re feeling isolated [is an additional challenge], and they shouldn’t go out unless they are going out to meet their needs or for other purposes, and so the idea is to give people places to go definitively,” said Ian Thompson, Galperin’s communications manager.
The website features three maps — one showing locations of food pantries, another showing locations of LAUSD’s “Grab & Go” food centers, which through dozens of locations are distributing hundreds of thousands of meals to students who would usually receive them in school, and a third visualizes the proximity of low-income populations to supermarkets.
According to the Los Angeles Food Bank, 2 million Los Angeles County residents — about 20 percent of the population — are food insecure, meaning they lack reliable access to affordable, nutritious food.
“The coronavirus outbreak is impacting the lives and livelihoods of everyone in Los Angeles, especially working and low-income families,” Galperin said in a press release announcing the new website. “But even with schools and businesses shuttered, families can still access healthy and nutritious meals. This map connects people in need with neighborhood food resources that will help them get through this extremely difficult time.”
Thompson said Galperin’s office began building the maps earlier this month as concern with the virus outbreak began swelling in the United States. The office began compiling data from city websites and also repurposed maps already created by the geospatial software company Esri.
“There are lists of things, but none of which are easily downloadable so we had to pull all that ourselves,” Thompson said.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday deployed the California National Guard to assist a food bank distribution warehouse in Sacramento County and to assess the needs of other counties requesting assistance.
In a recent post on the LA Food Bank website, the organization’s CEO, Michael Flood, writes that demand for food assistance is up and that distribution has increased by 20 percent this month.