Brooksiders join hundreds to help, one sandwich at a time

| October 28, 2020 | 0 Comments

SEVENTH GRADER Manan Gupta runs the Brown Bag Lunch Drive in Brookside.

Every Sunday morning, Brookside resident Nanci Leonard spreads peanut butter and jelly on slices of bread. She makes 10 sandwiches, and she places each one in a bag with a snack, a drink and a note.

Leonard likes to include inspirational quotes by Charlie Brown or Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, among others.

Some of the sandwich-makers write jokes or add a small gift; others make cards or decorate the bags with colorful stars or rainbows and messages of hope.

“We are serving extremely poor people who often don’t have wonderful lives. The notes show, ‘We care about you,’” said Sherry Bonanno, executive director of the Hollywood Food Coalition (HoFoCo).

More than 4,000 lunch bags are picked up each Sunday from 11 locations countywide and are given to 29 nonprofits, including Alexandria House, a transitional home for women and children; My Friend’s Place, a center for youth in Hollywood; and LA on Cloud 9, which servces unhoused people and their pets in South Los Angeles and MacArthur Park.

These groups in turn pass out some of the colorful bags with sandwiches to people living on the streetsand in encampments, Bonanno said.


COLORFUL designs decorate the lunch bags.

In Brookside, the sandwich movement is orchestrated by seventh grader Manan Gupta.

Early on, Manan’s family prepared vegetarian, gourmet, and ham and cheese sandwiches and rallied their neighbors to join them.

“We got such a great response — 120 meals that week — that we decided to do it every week since then,” said Manan, who convinced his Boy Scout Troop 10, and school, Citizens of the World Charter Middle School, Silver Lake, to join him.

Each week, he collects the neighborhood sandwiches and helps his parents take them to a collection area on Norton Ave.


BIG DONORS Nancy Horton and husband Craig.

The citywide Brown Bag Lunch Drive was founded in mid-March in Hancock Park by Hang Out Do Good (HODG). The activist group founded by Hancock Park locals Jennifer Levin and Helen Eigenberg already had organized a pre-pandemic homeless food program which evolved into the lunch bag drive. In early March, 19 families signed up to make sandwiches; today there are 655 families, said Andrea Rothschild of HODG.

Because of the shutdown, many people were at home — like Manan’s mom, Puneet Singh Gupta, a yoga teacher, and his dad, who runs a start-up to replace single-use plastics with fallen palm leaves for the food industry.

“The feedback we get is it’s really appreciated,” said Puneet. “Everybody feels like they’re able to do something… Nancy Horton and husband Craig have been donating every single week since April, bringing us 40 bagged lunches every Sunday. We love them,” Puneet says.

Many of the sandwich makers also liked being able to get their kids involved and teaching them about homelessness. A combination of factors fell into place, and “the word just spread,” HODG’s Rothschild said.

HoFoCo stepped up its distribution process to help deal with the surplus sandwiches.

“When the pandemic hit, HODG contacted us to ask if we wanted sandwich kits on a Sunday,” said Bonanno, expecting about 200 sandwich kits. She got closer to 500.

Guest chefs

The program is so popular that guest chefs prepare a carrot ginger, gazpacho or other soup to serve with the sandwiches at HoFoCo’s regular Sunday meal — renamed “Soup and A Sandwich Sundays.”

The pandemic lunch program “ties in with our bigger picture,” says Bonanno, also a Brookside resident.

To deal with the growing need for food during the pandemic, HoFoCo created the Community Exchange to help smaller organizations get by. Launched in May, the program borrows spaces from Hollywood United Methodist Church and the Roosevelt Hotel. The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and Cedars-Sinai Community Benefit Giving Foundation have also joined the effort.

33 years

HoFoCo has been serving those most in need in the community seven nights a week for 33 years.

“We rescue all the food we use and repurpose it to make a complete dinner, with vegan, vegetarian and non-vegetarian options,” said Bonanno.

The food is sourced from grocers, farmers markets and restaurants, prepared in a kitchen on the campus of its partner, the Salvation Army, and served on the street “to anybody who is hungry.”

With its new partnerships the Community Exchange has “rescued” 279,000 pounds of food in its first four months.

“The Hollywood Food Coalition is so grateful for all the new partnerships and friendships that have emerged during this difficult time, and … how different parts of the community have come together in such a kind and productive way,” Bonanno said.

To donate food — including canned goods, vegetables, fruit, prepared foods and eggs — and/ or face masks and hygiene and cleaning supplies to the Hollywood Food Coalition Community Exchange, text or call 323-347-7907 or visit

To join in the Brown Bag Lunch Drive, visit

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Category: People

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *