Taste of Larchmont officially cancelled this year

| June 3, 2020 | 0 Comments

TASTE OF LARCHMONT is a tradition cancelled this year. Beneficiary of the annual event, usually held in late August, HopeNet, still needs financial support.

Taste of Larchmont (TOL) was canceled officially last month after a meeting of the HopeNet board of trustees, announced Levi Webb, executive director of HopeNet. The vote was unanimous, continued Webb, who said that, while not a surprise, the vote was a difficult decision.

“The board and I labored over this decision. We wanted to make sure it wasn’t a kneejerk reaction, that it was in the best interest of our TOL partners while promoting health and safety in the community.”

In a Zoom interview with the Larchmont Chronicle in April, with Webb and Brian Milder, who is on HopeNet’s board of trustees, Milder said that they were trying to come up with alternative ways to hold the event. TOL normally is held at the end of summer, and it allows locals to gather and sample wine and food from restaurants and coffee shops on Larchmont Boulevard for the price of a “passport ticket,” with all the proceeds supporting HopeNet.

In the interview, Milder pointed out that, even if there were not a pandemic, the changing restaurant scene on Larchmont has made holding TOL a challenge. Long-established restaurants have closed, and new eateries unfamiliar with the TOL tradition have moved in. The loss of income from the Safer at Home directive, on top of physical distancing, made soliciting participation from local restaurants along Larchmont Boulevard a “big ask,” says Milder. And although Los Angeles is slowly reopening now, there will be no large gatherings for some time to come.

Immediate impact

The impact of not being able to hold this event is immediate, says Webb. As with other charities, HopeNet depends on fundraising events to help fill its coffers. TOL provides HopeNet with around 40 percent of its annual operating budget.   

Typically, the proceeds raised from the event average $55,000 to $60,000, and they go almost exclusively — about 90 cents for every dollar donated — to grocery items for the 13 food pantries operated by HopeNet at 12 local churches and temples.

The average number of individuals helped in a typical year is about 15,000 per month. In March 2019, for example, 14,580 people received shelf-stable (packaged and canned) food, as well as fresh produce.

This year, however, those numbers have more than tripled because of increased demand. In March, 42,734 people came through HopeNet in need of groceries. In April, with just six out of 12 congregations reporting, there were 66,729 people who were in need of help.

In addition, “The demographics of those seeking assistance have changed and not only include the most needy and the working poor, but also families from lower- and middle-income households,” Webb said.

HopeNet also delivers groceries to seniors and shut-ins. When the volunteers (mostly seniors) had to self-quarantine mid-March, Webb became the sole delivery person for those clients. In a normal year, there are about 400 seniors who get groceries delivered. In March this year, that number increased to 800 seniors and shut-ins who received groceries. Webb and Milder pointed out that currently Webb is a “one-man-show” on the delivery end. After hearing about all that was going on with HopeNet, I was both surprised and more appreciative for the time they made available for our Zoom interview.

Webb has applied for a grant to the Eisner Foundation that may bring in $50,000 to partially help fill the need, but in the meantime, he said that “HopeNet will be reaching out via electronic and analog means to those who might have usually supported us. Letters will be sent to those entities who have sponsored us in the past in the hope of garnering support to continue our mission.”

How you can help

Jane Gilman and Dawne Goodwin, founders of the Larchmont Chronicle, began the Taste of Larchmont to support HopeNet in celebration of the Chronicle’s 30th anniversary (in 1993). It was a way to bring people together and give back to the community. If the spirit moves you, and if you have the means, consider how you can give back to an organization that has helped people in our neighborhood for more than three decades. Visit hopenetla.org.

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