The face of hunger in San Diego County is ever changing. The recession brought with it a new group of people facing food insecurity. People who once held jobs but were laid off due to budget cuts. People who were forced to move in with family members or even live on the street because they could no longer afford their mortgage payments. People just like you and me. As the economy slowly recovers, social service agencies are wondering what’s next for their programs and the clients who receive services from them. On Wednesday, June 12, two research analysts from SANDAG came to talk to Food Bank staff members and nonprofit partners about their projections for what’s next in San Diego County. As first responders to the needs of people in San Diego County, it’s important that social service agencies always have their finger on the pulse of the community. SANDAG’s projections provided key information about what to expect in the next five, ten, and even forty years.
Key findings from SANDAG’s presentation included an emphasis on the County’s elderly population and the surge of “Baby Boomers” moving into retirement. This means that more people are available to volunteer for nonprofit organizations, and more people will also be living on fixed incomes with the potential need for services. Additionally, San Diego County is a minority-majority county, which means that no one race category makes up more than 50% of the population. The county’s racial and ethnic diversity means that clients have a variety of cultural and language needs.
With SANDAG’s guidance and expertise, the Food Bank and its valued partners are able to evaluate current services and build their future programs to best meet the needs of San Diego County’s most vulnerable populations. To learn more about SANDAG, please visit its website.
Meet Lisa Bacon, the Food Bank’s Nutrition & Nonprofit Relations Supervisor. Lisa oversees our Food To Nonprofits Program, which provides food to nearly 350 San Diego nonprofits including shelters, soup kitchens, and food pantries in communities throughout the county. She is in charge of compliance, food safety, nutrition education, and capacity building for our nonprofit partners in the program. Get to know Lisa and the work of the Food Bank in our Q & A interview session with her. You’ll get a fantastic look into the world of hunger-relief and how the sector serves the San Diego community.
Q: What inspired you to work for the Food Bank and the nonprofit sector?
A: “Before graduating from college, I had no idea that I would end up in the nonprofit sector. I landed a temporary job at a local nonprofit organization right after I graduated, and fell in love with the environment. I saw the job posting for the Food Bank, and jumped at the opportunity to work at an organization with such an important mission. Luckily, my skills were a good fit for the job, and I was hired to join the team!”
Q: What does working at the Food Bank mean to you?
A: “Because I work at the Food Bank, I am able to give back to our community every day. It’s a privilege to work for an organization that not only addresses the immediate needs of low income people in our county, but also provides resources and information for long term hunger solutions. I believe strongly in the mission of the Food Bank and am proud to work for an organization that impacts so many people.”
Q: Do you have any stories of service recipients who made you realize you are in the right career field?
A: “Any time I arrive at a distribution site and see people receiving food packages or hot meals, I’m reminded of why I come to work each day. One time, during a visit to a soup kitchen, I ran into a man who had told his children that they were at the distribution to volunteer but would stay for dinner afterward to share a meal with the clients. In reality, the man had lost his job and his family needed food, but he was too ashamed to tell that to his children. With the economic downturn, many families who had never faced hunger before had to rely on the Food Bank to make ends meet each month.”
Q: Why is nutrition so important for the Food Bank to focus on?
A: “Unfortunately, low-income individuals and families are faced with many barriers when it comes to accessing healthy foods. Food deserts impact many low-income neighborhoods in San Diego County, and even if fresh food is available nearby, it’s often too expensive for people to purchase with their limited budgets. Although it seems counterintuitive, many food insecure people are also overweight or obese because of these accessibility issues. The Food Bank is working hard to address this issue through the distribution of fresh produce and nutrition information, and through CalFresh outreach. We understand that families rely on our food packages to help them through the month, and we want to ensure that we’re providing them with healthy, nourishing foods.”
Q: Why are nonprofit agencies so important to the Food Bank?
A: “Our nonprofit agencies are essential to the fulfillment of the Food Bank’s mission. These nonprofits are the hands and feet of the Food Bank around the county, and the experts on the needs within their community. We are proud to provide these nonprofit partners with food so they can extend our reach and provide ongoing support to those in need.”
Q: Why do you think it’s important for people to know about the work the Food Bank does day in and day out?
A: “Before I started working at the Food Bank, I had no idea how the organization operated. All I knew was that the Food Bank fed hungry people. And while the most basic elements of our mission are compelling, they don’t tell the whole story. They don’t mention the food drives, the hours donated by dedicated volunteers, the miles driven for deliveries by our committed warehouse team, and the investment of the entire staff in providing food to our county. I would encourage anyone who wants to learn more about the Food Bank to volunteer here! It’s a great experience that really sheds light on the operation as a whole.”
Q: How are clients with food allergies handled? And how do you know they have food allergies?
A: “Clients are encouraged to share any dietary restrictions or allergies they may have with the lead volunteer or staff member at their local distribution site. Our nonprofit partners do their best to accommodate different dietary needs with gluten free, dairy free, sugar free, nut free, and kosher items. If a client receives a food package that includes an item they cannot eat, they are asked to return the item to the volunteers at the distribution. If possible, the item would be replaced with something the client could safely eat.”
Q: Working as a nutrition educator here, what is your favorite healthy recipe?
A: “Great question! I love to cook (and eat!), so sharing healthy recipes is one of the best parts of my job. I just made these delicious and easy Honey Yogurt Berry Pops last weekend. They are the perfect summertime snack—or even breakfast, if you’re feeling adventurous! I use frozen berries to cut costs, and buy whatever Greek yogurt is on sale.”
Your mother always told you to eat your vegetables, and today’s national holiday celebrates that advice. Vegetables are a key part of a healthy lifestyle. The Food Bank is proud to distribute millions of pounds of fresh produce to low income neighborhoods every month. Many of these families would not otherwise have access to fresh fruits and vegetables due to their high cost and limited availability.
The average person needs between four and five servings of vegetables a day. But what is a serving? A serving of vegetables could be two small bell peppers, 12 baby carrots, 20 cherry tomatoes, or 10 broccoli florets. Unfortunately, 75% of Americans are not eating the recommended servings of fruit and vegetables. This disparity has been linked to the cost of fresh produce, the difficulty in preparing vegetables to eat, and the short shelf life of most vegetables. The Food Bank is working hard to reverse this trend, distributing over five million pounds of fresh produce throughout the county since July 1, 2012 and providing healthy recipes to teach clients how to use the produce they receive.
Although fresh is typically the best option, vegetables can also be purchased frozen or canned. Frozen and canned vegetables have a longer shelf life, making them more appealing to low income families who cannot afford to throw away food. Frozen vegetables maintain a high level of nutrition, as they are processed at the peak of freshness. Canned vegetables should be purchased in the low sodium variety, and rinsed before cooking or eating.
For more tools and information about eating healthy, visit www.choosemyplate.gov.
Here are a few of our favorite vegetable-based recipes that you can try at home:
The summer months are a critical time for hungry San Diegans. Donations to the Food Bank drop dramatically, but demand increases due to thousands of children living in poverty who stop receiving free school meals and their parents are forced to turn to the Food Bank for help.
To help the Food Bank provide food to families in need, the San Diego County Fair is hosting a food and fund drive for the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank. On Tuesday, June 11 and Tuesday, June 18, Food Bank volunteers will be collecting food items at the fair’s front gates. Fairgoers are encouraged to donate nonperishable food items.
Our most needed nonperishable food items include:
- Canned meats (tuna, ham, chicken)
- Canned fruit
- Canned soup
- Canned beans
- Peanut butter
However, for those who will not be attending on one of the two days, there is another way to help feed families in need throughout the county. Throughout the entire fair season, Food Bank volunteers will be collecting monetary donations at the information booths. Those who make monetary donations will receive discounted or free “bounce-back” tickets, so they can visit the fair a second time. All proceeds from this food drive will provide meals to hungry San Diegans throughout the summer months.
We’ll see you at the fair!