A member of the community is given a box of rationed food at UCC’s bi-weekly distribution. Photo by Sophinarath Cheang.
As early as 5:30 AM, about a hundred people line up in front of United Cambodian Community’s (UCC) office on the corner of Dawson and Anaheim. Hunger brings these people out for UCC’s bimonthly food distribution program. Sponsored by the Long Beach Food Bank of Southern California, the program has served the community for four years in a row. Raymond Chavarria, who worked at the Long Beach Food Bank for over 20 years, brought this program to our community. “When we count the whole year, we probably serve about 16 thousand people and 4 to 5 thousand families,” Raymond says.
UCC’s food distribution program serves more than the Cambodian community and it is open to people from all over Los Angeles County. Chad Sammeth, UCC’s Project Coordinator and Community Organizer, says, “UCC is not just for Cambodians only. We are here to help everyone.” People who come must be qualified for low-income subsidy. “No registration is needed, it’s first-come, first-served, and since most of the people that we serve are of low income, we don’t turn anyone away,” he added.
To Samantha Green, a newcomer to the program, the food distribution is very important. “As you know times are hard right now, so this definitely helps. I’m blessed,” she says.
People stand in line waiting for food. Photo by Sophinarath Cheang.
On Saturday, September 24, UCC served about 250 people, most of whom were from Long Beach. These people are offered a variety of food. “Sometimes we have fresh produce, canned food, fresh fruits and vegetables, beans, rice, milk and soy milk, noodles, and much more. Sometimes we get five items, sometimes even 20 items, depending on how much the Food Bank offers,” Raymond says.
Patricia Gipps lives in central Long Beach and came here for the fourth time on that day. She says, “We get government assistance but we run low on food through the month, so programs like this is a good source of nutrition for me and my children.”
Volunteering to come and help distribute the food is always welcome. Toni Hang, who has volunteered over a year now, says, “It makes me feel good to actually provide myself. . . to be here. It is really working out for the best.” Volunteers need to arrive at UCC around 8 AM for orientation and preparation. “When we have many volunteers, the line speeds up fast,” Raymond says. Kole Ouk, a first-time volunteer, found out about the food distribution via Facebook. “I encourage people to come and help out. We always talk about change [but] if we don’t do anything about it, there [will] be no change,” Kole said.
United Cambodian Community is located at 2201 E. Anaheim Street, Suite 200, Long Beach, CA 90804. Besides food distribution, UCC offers other programs and services such as translation and interpretation services to government and nonprofit agencies, weekly instruction in the Khmer and English language, citizenship classes and applications, and advocacy and case-management assistance.