For nearly 39 years, Val Paniccia worked for the Los Angeles Police Department, retiring a decade ago as the commander in charge of the San Fernando Valley. In the years that followed, he stayed busy, serving as an usher at his church, Living Faith in Northridge, and spending time with his wife of 48 years, his three kids and six grandchildren.
But when a friend at church told him about his volunteer work at the Valley Food Bank, Val was intrigued. “He encouraged me to check it out, and told what good work they were doing. I came out and had a good time. I actually had a lot of fun—everyone was really pleasant to be around, and we were really doing something positive—helping people get the food they need in our community.”
Val now volunteers at the Food Bank at least every Friday. He unloads food, packs the dairy and vegetables, moves proteins into the freezer, and uses the pallet jack to move large donations. “I do a little bit of everything,” Val said. “I work out with weights, and I like physical exertion—especially after years of sitting behind a desk. So I look forward to a hard day’s work. There are a lot of laughs and we have a good time.”
Aside from receiving and storing food in the warehouse, Val has seen people come to the Food Bank and to partnering churches for help. “I’ve been able to see people get what they need,” he said. “There is such an abundance of food in this country, and we don’t see how many people are in need. If we coordinated better, we could avoid so much waste.”
One Friday, the warehouse was short a volunteer, so Val worked late. “I went on a delivery to a church,” he said. “We brought pallets of food, and when we pulled up, I saw all the people from the community, lined up, waiting for it. I saw how thankful they were.”
Val has also been inspired to try to improve the process, working with the director to look into compost factories that could use expired foods. “I’m good at improving on people’s ideas, but not necessarily coming up with them,” Val said with a laugh. “I hate to waste. If we could set up something up with the compost people, then it could end up going back into people’s gardens.”
He’s also excited to utilize new freezer and refrigeration units, which will soon be installed, made possible by grants. “We’ll be able to save more food from going bad, and then serve more to the community,” Val said. “Once we get it all done, I look forward to filling those units up with even more crates.”