By Juan Calvillo
The 21st Annual Film Freak Thanksgiving Food Drive is gathering food for the hungry Nov. 16-18 at Smart & Final, 11221 Pico Blvd in Los Angeles. Leo Quinones, a Los Angeles radio personality known as “The Film Freak,” has partnered up with the Foodbank of Southern California to feed the hungry just in time for Thanksgiving. In an effort to feed as many people as possible the motto this year has become, “feeding with forklifts,” said Quinones.
Quinones said that if people were planning to donate that they should look for large #10 cans of items. Quinones also talked about how large bags of vegetables were also key. Adding that there are items that are always sought after by food banks.
“The things that are important for the food drive are: tuna fish, that’s high in protein; peanut butter, that’s high in protein. Rice… believe it or not, coffee,” said Quinones. He also mentioned that at the location for the event he would be putting fliers with a list of items that were great for purchase and donation. One of the big companies that donates to the cause is the same one that hosts the event, Smart and Final.
Kimberly Wade at Smart and Final is helping coordinate the event alongside Quinones and the team from the Foodbank of Southern California. When it comes to donations, Smart and Final is a big supporter of the food drive. Wade said, “Smart & Final is donating $10,000.00 to the Foodbank of Southern California.” Not only are they donating the money but they are also reaching out to the loyal shoppers they have gathered over the years.
“Smart & Final is running a canned-food fundraiser in store that started Monday Nov. 5 and runs through Sunday Nov. 18. Each customer coming through the cashier will be asked if they would like to donate $5 or $10 to the Foodbank. When the customer agrees, the charge is added to their receipt as a “Donation.” At the end of our promotion, we will count how much money was raised and then use that sum to purchase canned food from the store to give to the Food Bank,” said Wade. Quinones specified more what exactly the food bank plans on doing with money donation from Smart and Final.
Quinones said that after getting the money from Smart and Final he would follow the motto of “feeding with forklifts.” “Instead of buying canned foods, I just take that $10,000 and buy fresh. Fresh potatoes, fresh onions, fresh carrots, because usually at most food banks they’ll have a 50 pound bag of potatoes given to them as a donation–but 46 pounds of it is rotten. That’s just the saddest part of it all,” said Quinones.
“When we donate a 50 pound bag of potatoes it’s fresh,” said Quinones. He emphasized that freshness and large bulk quantities is what’s needed for this food drive. Quinones said that this same idea of freshness was why he partnered with the Foodbank of Southern California. He talked about how as soon as the food arrives at the food bank that the turn over is quite quick.
“The Foodbank of Southern California, they’re a small unit. They service 300 agencies pantries, churches. They won’t store the food until after thanksgiving. It goes in and it goes out. The Foodbank gets it all out,” said Quinones.
The food drive was originally started by Rick Dees and KIIS FM in Los Angeles under the name, KIIS Hunger Goodbye Quinones would later take the idea to what was once 97.1 The FM Talk station. CBS Radio, now known as Entercom, ran the event as the Stuff a Truck Food Drive.
The idea was simple. Set up a broadcasting booth and have talk personalities like Quinones, and shows like “The John and Jeff Show” broadcast live from the event site to drum up people’s interest and gather food. In the beginning it was very much listener-driven.
In the beginning, the food drive was not as successful as those involved wished it would have been. However, the drive to help those in need energized Quinones and the staff involved to find innovative ways to raise money and food for the event each subsequent year. That led Quinones to look at the situation and decide that buying in bulk was the key. So each year after that realization Quinones would focus the food drive into buying bulk items of food.
After doing this for a few years, until about 2008, and having various on-air talent donate time and energy to the cause, 97.1 was phased out as being a talk station. With the strength of the broadcasting company and much of the radio personalities disappearing as well, the event’s future was left in the air.
Quinones then took up the responsibility of the food drive and has kept it going since then. During the time 97.1 did the “Stuff a Truck Food Drive” and partnered with Smart & Final, Quinones retained the friendship and cohesion that was created to continue the food drive now aptly named The Film Freak Thanksgiving Food Drive.
The food drive, under Quinones leadership, has continued to gather food since it last aired on the radio in the early part of the decade. However,over the last few years it has gained traction again on the radio–this year in cooperation with Entercom and their Los Angeles-based radio stations are still a large portion of listener driven donations.
Stations like AMP Radio, KROQ, JACK FM and K-Earth are all airing spots talking about the food drive and encouraging listeners to donate. Quinones said that the main idea remains buying in bulk amounts.
The 21st Annual Film Freak Thanksgiving Food Drive will be taking place Nov. 16-18 at Smart & Final Store #395 11221 Pico blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064. The event will be day long each day and Quinones has talked about special guests appearing during the weekend, with Friday, Nov. 16 Adam Rifkin, writer of “Small Soldiers,” “Mouse Hunt” and writer/director of “The Last Movie Star” being in attendance at 6 p.m. Quinones emphasized the real reason for the food drive by reiterating that the event is about getting the most food to the people in need. “Fresh and bulk is how we do it,” said Quinones.