We're well into our 15th year of serving food on Skid Row, in downtown Los Angeles and we've served over 730,000 meals! Thank you to all of our supporters!
This background covers Frontline and its' beginnings. For more current information please see some of the articles written about Frontline Foundation
Frontline Foundation was founded in December, 1987 by Ray Castellani when he served 111 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches off of the back of his truck on the corner of 5th and San Pedro, in downtown Los Angeles - the heart of Skid Row. An impulse by one individual became the community's most direct response to hunger in Los Angeles, serving well over a half a million meals on Skid Row, and additional meals in Hollywood and Pasadena.
Frontline's focus is serving dignified food, in a dignified way to the desperately hungry in the most sordid of areas. Providing fresh foods with care, dignity and integrity helps to restore dignity to those lost in our city.
Castellani focuses the totality of Frontline's efforts on serving food, because without food one cannot live. Without mere sustenance, rehabilitation, and job training are ineffective. Furthermore, the growing movement towards long-term planning to alleviate the conditions and causes of hunger has been done at the expense of immediate needs. Frontline serves food with the sole hope that a person may live in a bit less squalor. With this most urgent need met, other programs and groups can concentrate on long-term solutions.
In Los Angeles County people are becoming homeless each day. As the economy fluctuates, thousands lose their jobs, end up on the streets and cannot seem to re-enter the mainstream of life. These people include men, women and children. To quote Frontline's founder, "Hunger knows no boundaries". Downtown, service agencies are overcrowded and demands placed on individuals turn many away. Many groups only serve women and children. Those who cannot wait or submit to demands, most men, and those ineligible or unrehabilitative, have nowhere to turn. Frontline's food means life to these people.
The non-profit organization's program is innovatively simple. It begins when food is collected from various sources such as food drives in schools, in front of supermarkets, and from companies. Instead of securing food from manufacturers, which can be very time consuming, Castellani goes directly to the people, involving thousands in the entity of giving, and gaining new volunteers at the same time.
Once the food is secured, it is prepared in a Van Nuys kitchen facility where over 150 weekly volunteers participate. The Frontline kitchen was built completely through the donated labor and supplies of plumbers, electricians and carpenters. The volunteers prepare ready to eat meals, because those served on Skid Row have no kitchen facilities to prepare canned goods.
The food is distributed, freely and unconditionally, primarily on Skid Row, in downtown Los Angeles in a three square mile area, home to denizens of Los Angeles - the down and out, the hopeless, the helpless, the alcoholics, addicts, homeless, immigrants, abused women - all discards of our society, living in gutters, under bridges, in alleys and under trucks. They've truly no hope whatsoever of ever re-entering society, almost as if there is an imaginary brick wall surrounding "Skid Row" from which they cannot escape. Skid Row is a small place, yet they cannot take the block walk to get out of it, and the few that do cross over, unfortunately come back.
Frontline trucks deliver food throughout this heartbreaking. Responding to the need to eliminate long lines waiting for food, Frontline began delivering meals throughout Skid Row, ending lines and crowds, reaching more people and securing dignity for those seeking food.
What makes Frontline unique is that it serves food all year long, consistently, for the last seven and a half years. Furthermore, no other groups can claim to have as much respect and love as the Frontline volunteers and Frontline's founder, Ray Castellani. So many try to change those on Skid Row - try to rehabilitate them, job train them, shift them from place to place, ultimately pushing them away, when what draws them close to Frontline and its' volunteers is the feeling of acceptance, and simple love and care, with no demands and no conditions placed on them or the food.
Frontline's program involves thousands in the purity of giving - a remarkable transfer of love, passing directly from the person who donates the food, to the person who prepares it, to the person who distributes it, to the person who receives it. Frontline Foundation is about love and caring, about giving freely and unconditionally. It is about loving your fellow man and woman, and offering kind words and a smile to someone who needs them so. It is about a union formed between two groups of Gods kids. This, Frontline believes, is often times more rehabilitating than the food served.
Frontline's program is uniquely funded. While most funding comes from individuals, Frontline's program is run on a shoe-string budget. Frontline has basic monthly expenses such as utilities, kitchen rental, gasoline and vehicle maintenance. Frontline's program expenses average $3,500 per month, and through donations and various funding methods, Frontline secures around $3,500 monthly. The focus is not on money, but on securing and distributing food.
Each expense is countered with a fundraising technique. Frontline's program depends upon its trucks to deliver food, so gasoline and vehicle maintenance are vital expenses. Frontline's monthly gourmet Italian dinner or brunch fundraiser raises the funds for the gas and maintenance. Kitchen rental is $860 monthly, and a dedicated group of 80 individuals contribute $10 for the rent called the Frontline-80. While all the food is donated, certain perishables must be purchased to assure freshness.
Another unique program is The General Store, a store within the kitchen facility, stocked with a variety of items, condiments, cleansing items, and foods Frontline uses on a regular basis. People shop in the General Store, purchase items that go directly into the food pantry, with their names upon it, to be used to feed the hungry. This has revolutionized Frontline's method of securing items, because the store stocks everything Frontline needs, including items people don't think about regularly, helping to provide the pantry with items not regularly donated, but nevertheless very needed.
Frontline's program has remained so stable and cost-efficient that it has already expanded it's program. After six years of serving on Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles, through the vision and action of volunteers, Frontline began serving food one day each week in Hollywood. Then again, in mid-1994, a small group extended the meal distribution program by serving one day each week in Pasadena, and also one more day in Hollywood. The Hollywood and Pasadena groups were phased out in 1995 and 1996, so that the focus could remain on Skid row, which is where Castellani was directed to serve the food.
In the face of missions and organizations with enormous operating expenses, Frontline stands tall as it successfully combats hunger each day on a minuscule operating budget. This success has not come easy. In a city that's been propagandized by claims that the hunger problem is unsolvable and even unapproachable, in the face of missions and rehab groups falsely claiming those on Skid Row can be rehabilitated, in light of misleading claims of how much money is necessary to combat hunger, Frontline serves as an example to people that the best way to address a problem is directly. The most direct response to hunger is to serve food. The minuscule budget, the innovative ways of securing food, and the grass roots feeling within the organization, have countered the obstacles and enable Frontline to successfully continue to alleviate hunger.
The current obstacle facing Frontline is a funding need. Frontline has the capacity to increase its' meal output three times what it presently serves within six months of securing funds to hire a Program Director initially, then later another staff person along with a secretary. Founder and Executive Director Ray Castellani will continue to serve full time and unpaid, always refusing compensation for his endless hours of devotion. Castellani, due to his health, cannot alone initiate Frontline's evolution. Upon securing the necessary funds to hire the person, Frontline will immediately increase the meals served to twice daily, and then within six months three times daily, taking an even larger role in alleviating hunger. Because 95% of all food is donated, the added expense of hiring an individual is the only substantial expense increase Frontline would face.
Frontline Foundation has become the community's resource of action against hunger. The unique meal distribution program of serving food daily from Van Nuys to all parts of Skid Row, coupled with the dignity, love and friendship given freely by our volunteers, has made Frontline the most consistent outside organization to service the needs of the hungry on Skid Row, in downtown Los Angeles.
Ray Castellani and Frontline Foundation were the recipients of the 1995 President's Service Award, the most prestigious award given for community service. The award, co-sponsored by The Points Of Light Foundation and The Corporation for National Service, brought much needed publicity and recognition to Frontline's simplistic approach of combating hunger with food.
Founder Ray Castellani has received letters of recognition from both President Clinton and President Bush for his efforts, and was the recipient of J.C. Penney's National Golden Rule Award in 1992. Ray and Frontline were featured on A Current Affair twice in 1992, and have been topics for many newspaper articles bringing awareness to Frontline's meal services on Skid Row, bringing both funding sources and new volunteers. Castellani was also the recipient of the First Lady of California Volunteer Award in 1993.
Frontline has been supported by many Rotary Clubs and Chamber of Commerce's' and also receives support from other local organizations, religious groups, companies and clubs. Schools have played a vital role in securing specific food items.
While the majority of its funds are donated by individuals, it has secured some foundation funding, such as from The Felice Foundation, and The Crosby Fund, with corporate support from J.C. Penney Co., Inc., Mozark Productions, Safeco Insurance, Warner Bros. Records, and others. Frontline also holds many fundraisers annually which help secure funding to continue serving food downtown, including a monthly benefit dinner.
The long term plan of Frontline Foundation is to be a part of the elimination of hunger in the specific area of Skid Row, in downtown Los Angeles, through serving three meals each day to those whose emergency nutritional needs are not being met The group plans to involve as many people as possible in the effort to eliminate hunger in the Skid Row area of downtown Los Angeles, and in other poverty-stricken areas.
Frontline is not a pilot program. It has been successful since the very first time Ray Castellani took action. Human success stories abound - every day a few hundred people who don't have to dig through garbage cans for food, or resort to violence. Over 500,000 stories prove that love and food are the best combatants of hunger. These are the exact weapons Frontline is armed with when it ventures into the depths of Skid Row, in downtown Los Angeles.