By Mary O’KEEFE
The Gold Award is the pinnacle of a girl’s career in Girl Scouts. For Girl Scout Jennifer Gorman, the project that would earn her Gold Award was a way for her to continue her commitment to making the world a better place.
Gorman chose the Jewish Family Service’s Metro SOVA Food Pantry to focus on with a project titled “Beyond Subsistence.” SOVA is a Hebrew word that means, “Eat and be satisfied.”
“I chose the Metro SOVA as my community partner because of the organization’s mission to help get food to insecure individuals and families in Los Angeles,” Gorman said.
“Food insecurity is defined by the federal government as ‘limited or uncertain access to nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways,’” according to the Metro SOVA website.
The statistics given by Metro SOVA about hunger in Los Angeles County played a major role in Gorman’s decision to choose this as her project.
“The severe economic downturn of the past few years has made the [hunger] problem much more severe. Data from the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank shows a 30% increase in clients seeking food assistance in 2008 followed by a 40% increase in 2009! Current estimates are that one in six residents of Los Angeles County are food insecure,” stated the Metro SOVA website.
The organization’s food pantry has a wide variety of staples for those in need.
“I had worked as a volunteer sorting, bagging and distributing food items to the SOVA [for individuals and families],” Gorman said. “After volunteering at SOVA, I realized that there were many individuals and families within my community who do not have the food they need.”
She found that many who come to Metro SOVA want a variety of food resources, not just staples like canned goods but supplies to bake for special occasions, and to care for their pets.
“I designed my Gold Award project to address these unmet needs,” she said.
Gorman also hoped that by increasing pet food supplies in the food pantry those in need would be able to keep their pets. The result was the “Jennifer’s Pet Pantry” that has been created within the food pantry.
The broader purpose of “Beyond Subsistence” is to create a program to increase the number and types of items at the pantry with items not normally available. The goals are to expand awareness of the SOVA clients’ non-subsistence needs and to gather food to fill the shelves with items not found in the typical food pantry, she said.
To do this project Gorman worked closely with the SOVA administration to look at statistics comparing needed items to those not included in the pantry. This included asking those participants at the food bank to fill out request forms and talking to those who work daily with those in need.
Gorman raised money through a bake sale and reaching out to businesses like independent pet stores that donated food. She also partnered with two organizations at Occidental College – Las Hermanas Aliadas and Beauty Beyond Color. In addition, Swork Coffee in Eagle Rock and Ralphs market in La Crescenta helped support her efforts.
“I hope that my project will positively impact the lives of the individuals and families who rely on SOVA by adding to the diversity of the items on the pantry shelves,” she said.
Metro SOVA Community Food and Resource Program is sponsored by the Jewish Family Services of L.A. and is located at 1140 N. La Brea Ave., West Hollywood. For more information or to donate, visit www.jfsla.org or call (877) 275-4537.