For those who want to help or those in need, let’s join in the region-wide effort to fight food insecurity
People come in cars, trucks, vans, and on bicycles, motorcycles, or pushing a set of wheels, even pulling luggage. One woman recently arrived at a food distribution drive-thru in a brand new car purchased before the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, she says, she doesn’t know how she’ll pay for it. Others come on foot, some declining meat and dry goods because they “don’t have a way to cook,” or, as one woman shares, “I don’t have teeth, Ma’am.” These are among the 1 in 7 people in San Diego County who have little food at home and insufficient means to provide for the next meal.
The good news is that an amazing number of residents from all walks of life and income levels and a variety of community groups from metropolitan San Diego to tiny Borrego Springs are banding together to make sure people don’t go hungry. Many are doing this in partnership with larger faith-based organizations and the Jacobs and Cushman San Diego Food Bank and its North County Food Bank, as well as Feeding San Diego. In recent months, the Food Bank—the largest hunger-relief organization in the county—has supplied more than a million pounds of sustenance each week through more than 210 distribution sites.
The Food Bank and Feeding San Diego collectively rescue good, safe food from the supply chain so it isn’t wasted. Sources include farmers, manufacturers, distributors, caterers, restaurants, school districts, and retailers. Items include fresh produce, pasta, beans, rice, canned fruit and vegetables, cereals, soups, meat, and cheese. Donations from businesses, community groups, and individuals help support these operations.
Both Vons and Albertsons supermarkets encourage customers to contribute to the Food Bank at the checkout, for example. Since the 2007 recession, Vons has provided 4.1 million pounds of food to the Food Bank. The Food Bank and Feeding San Diego also purchase food at a discounted cost.
Large distribution sites that are approved to receive, store, and offer Food Bank supplies three days each week are called super pantries, because of their campus size, facilities to store food that needs to be refrigerated, and the number of staff and volunteers. To find a super pantry near you, click here. Organizations that provide food one day a month or a week are called distribution sites, Food Bank spokesman Chris Carter says. To find one near you, click here.
To support all these operations, you can learn how to host a virtual food drive or make a donation, by visiting sandiegofoodbank.org and feedingsandiego.org. Contributions made directly to distribution sites, such as in Ramona, help them purchase supplemental food to round out nutrition as well as supplies like gloves, bags, and sanitizer.
There are other organizations receiving donations to help sustain people in need. For example, Mission Foods is donating 17,000 servings of tortillas for distribution via Catholic Charities, through a partnership with the Consulate General of Mexico and the Catholic Diocese of San Diego.
Big trucks transport food throughout the county. Either the major organizations or the distribution site teams collect the food and unload it at local sites. Volunteers unpack pallets of boxes, complete paperwork, sort and bag dry goods, and place items like meat and cheese into fridges and freezers. On distribution day, they take guests’ names, ask how many people are in each household, and hand out the appropriate number of bags. During Covid-19, no questions are asked about income eligibility. New volunteers are needed at some sites because this strenuous work can lead to burnout over the long haul. Reliable people of all ages with a team spirit are valued. If interested, contact a nearby site directly.
Many people may be waiting to hear about the availability of turkeys, hams, or chickens this season. These potential provisions are dependent on donations, allocation amount, and the timing of each location’s distribution day, Carter says. The Food Bank was able to get turkeys to some sites who cook for people for Thanksgiving because the meat goes further that way, but it’s not known exactly what will be available for the upcoming holidays. “One thing is for certain,” says Carter, “food will be there. We’re just not sure yet about giving out whole turkeys.”