IRVINE, Calif. — South County Outreach President and CEO LaVal Brewer supports fathers all over south Orange County this Father’s Day and empowers them through food.
“It’s important for us to make sure fathers, who often see themselves as the provider for homes to feel as though they have the power to provide, even if they don’t have the funds to make that possible,” Brewer said.
LaVal has been working in nonprofit management since 1991 and had his first executive role in 1998 at the Mission Viejo YMCA. He knows what it means to be a father because he has three daughters. Jenna, Kacey and Sydney Brewer have all helped out at the food pantry, which provides emergency, perishable, non-perishable and fresh food to those facing food insecurity.
South County Outreach has seen a 40% rise in services since the pandemic began, and Kacey said that creating awareness around hunger is more important now than ever.
“I think we all just know the community is struggling, and we need to be there for everyone. We need to do our part to make sure that while the unemployment rate goes down, we’re here helping people who need the extra help,” Kacey said.
And while that unemployment rate in Orange County has decreased, initial claims for unemployment benefits actually increased in June in California.
LaVal said the reality for many can be stark.
“People are saying they’re going back to normal. And normal for a majority of families who are low-income is not so great. It’s not so awesome. So when you’re seeing families or people saying, ‘Oh, they’re getting more checks. They’re getting more money,’ that’s true. But at some point in time, it still isn’t enough,” LaVal said.
According to SCO, 2020 data shows that one in five children do not have enough to eat in Orange County. A minimum-wage worker makes less than $25,000 a year, and the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in south Orange County is more than $2400.
The pantry distributes to as many as 3,000 people a month. LaVal hopes that providing food will, in turn, help fathers and families be able to provide more for their kids.
“It’s really money for them to invest in opportunities as a family and to grow stronger as a family unit so that they provide the best opportunities for their families to be successful,” LaVal said.
South County Outreach also has housing programs that provide subsidized housing and professional case management services to local families with minor children who are homeless or on the verge of imminent homelessness.