FEEDING AMERICA SAN DIEGO - SUMMER FOOD SERVICE
Last updated 7/1/2016 at 6:30am
80% of Borrego Springs Elementary School children are eligible for the Free & Reduced Meal Program (FRPM), that doesn't even bring in to the equation children from the middle or high schools. In Julian, 60% of the elementary school and 57% of the high school children are eligible.
The chasm between the haves and have nots, is not as far apart as you may think and the stigma or fear of how to pay the rent/mortgage, the utilities, school extras and general bills isn't as far from your neighbor's thoughts as it is yours, and for more families in your community than you may think.
San Diego can seem so far away when as a community, we are dealing with the here and now of day to day living, but for some people in Borrego Springs, Julian, Santa Ysabel and Ocotillo Wells, it is an organisation from San Diego which is thinking about them most.
Feeding America San Diego, California Library Association and the United States Department of Agriculture have all come together once more to offer help through the summer months.
Speaking to Kelsey Ellis, Director of Programs for Feeding America San Diego, there is a lot more that goes in to the Summer Food Program than meets the eye and a lot more heart than people would expect.
"72% or 91k children in California are not getting nutritious meals, including fresh fruit and vegetables, over the summer months" according to Ellis. Surprisingly, she still maintains a semblance of hope for the future, as that figure, mainly due to the organisations work, is down from last year where it showed 97K were suffering from the lack of school meals during the holidays, "Feeding America San Diego have already added 10 additional sites to the county and aim to continue adding more."
They offer not only kid friendly menus but work on the 'My Plate' model which requires them to provide a set amount of vegetables and grain per child in order for it to be reimbursable from the US Department of Agriculture. The idea tick's political boxes left right and center, but the reality is a non-profit organisation, the only non-profit organization in the area. They provide nutritious meals and source them, as much as they can, from local California farms.
Based on donations and an army of volunteers and financial gifts, children can continue to receive nutritious meals when the school terms have ended and not just the individual child, but by providing weekly grocery bags, the support takes in to consideration the needs of the family as a whole.
Ellis is typical of a lot of the people who work for the organisation. She has worked for Feeding America San Diego full-time for the last three years, but her interest in nutrition began a lot earlier. Having grown up in San Diego, she completed her Masters in Kansas City. A thesis in nutrition and low/fixed income, led her to explore the needs of families who live having to choose between medical bills and food. Her own upbringing as a child was far removed from the life her and her husband led in grad school when they found themselves studying and working part-time and learning how to feed themselves a healthy diet on a limited income. "It opens your eyes to hunger and food insecurity," said Ellis "it creates a personal connection. Us, my neighbor. It could be me.". Ellis describes it as an intrigue and a passion, but it is one that led to working an internship in a food bank before starting her path within Feeding America before rapidly gaining her current position.
The idealism of the organisation, could be lost in the skepticism of reality were it not for the passion of the people involved. No excuse is made for the requirements that are expected of the locations involved in providing their services. They may be offering free food and groceries but they expect and deliver professionalism and high standards in the way it is served.
Every establishment goes through the same checks to ensure the food arrives at its best and at the correct temperature from the moment it leaves San Diego to it reaching the child's plate. Managers attend a week's training and have to gain their food safety certificate. Staff from head office attend the sites to check the volunteers are handling and serving the food correctly. Rigorous protocols are carried out ensuring only the best and freshest ingredients are made available. A huge task that sees 18 ½ million meals being sent out across San Diego county.
There are a variety of ways communities could help and Feeding America San Diego welcome enquiries from retail establishments who may wish to donate surplus stock and individuals who would like to volunteer. If you would like to know more http://www.feedingamericasd.org