Rouda pitches in at Laguna Food Pantry

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Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Laguna Beach) loads groceries into a car on May 12 at the Laguna Food Pantry. Photo by Daniel Langhorne

Like many Laguna Beach residents displaced from their offices by the pandemic, Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Laguna Beach) left his home Tuesday to volunteer at a local nonprofit.

The 58-year-old Emerald Bay resident helped load boxes of groceries into idling cars Tuesday at the Laguna Food Pantry.

“It’s incredible, the gift your giving at such a critical time,” Rouda told volunteers. “You’re literally making sure people aren’t going hungry.”

On May 7, the Pantry saw 210 cars visit its drive-thru, Executive Director Anne Belyea said. Before the coronavirus outbreak, 100 to 120 cars visited on a typical day.

The number of shoppers serviced by the Pantry in April tripled compared to February, Belyea said. Some shoppers are driving from an hour away to visit the drive-thru at 20652 Laguna Canyon Rd.

Besides a couple of short visits to Washington, D.C., Rouda said he’s been home since February. He misses the two- to three-minute conversations he has with both Democrats and Republicans in Congress to swap stories about challenges in their districts.

Recently he’s focused on food insecurity, mental health, and veterans affairs. He’s also concerned about the spikes in domestic violence and child abuse.

With a stack of fliers in-hand, Rouda started his conversations with drivers by asking, “how are you doing?”

Most were happy to share their story with the freshman congressman who is up for reelection in November. His Republican challenger is Michelle Steel, chairwoman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Laguna Beach) and Susan Thomas, board chair of the Laguna Food Pantry, talk to a visitor picking up groceries on May 12 at the Laguna Food Pantry. Photo by Daniel Langhorne
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