By Nina D, South Bay Food Pantry Volunteer
In late 2019, when former FUUSD board member Maureen McNair first engaged us in launching the South Bay Food Pantry, neither my husband Jeff nor I had been involved in such a project before. I anticipated distributing mushy canned green beans and other basic (and unappetizing) canned goods, and wondered how much difference such items could make.
As our pantry ministry has developed over the past three years, so has my understanding of the complexities of food insecurity, and of the positive impacts that pantries like ours make in the lives of people experiencing ﬁnancial hardship. I’ve also been impressed by the capacity of our big partner organizations, Feeding San Diego and the San Diego Food Bank, to source high quality food and other items which promote dignity, help relieve the emotional stress of food insecurity and other scarcity, and contribute to the ability of developing children and students to learn.
Thus, while canned green beans do sometimes appear in our distributions, we also provide a variety of nutrition-rich foods, diapers, feminine hygiene products and Covid test kits. At last Saturday’s distribution, we served over 300 families. (The week before, we served over 370 families, many of them new to the pantry!) Each family received fresh cucumbers, pineapples and celery, frozen chicken or meat, boxed milk, assorted dairy and other goods rescued from Albertson’s, a bag of Starbucks bakery items, bread from Con Pane bakery and Food for Less, and a bag of shelf-stable canned goods, pasta, beans, rice, tuna and peanut butter. Our Sunday morning infant diaper program continues to offset the burden of expensive diapers.
The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated unemployment and other ﬁnancial problems in addition to causing or exacerbating chronic illness and death among the largely BIPOC South Bay community. Among pantry clients (some of whom also volunteer with us) are veterans, pregnant women and parents of infants and young children, fully employed workers and many with chronic and disabling health conditions. Some arrive pushing walkers, on crutches, and even with oxygen tanks. New volunteers are encouraged to monitor the parking lot for individuals having trouble waiting to receive their food due to illness, chemotherapy, pain, recent surgery, mental illness or advanced pregnancy.
I’ve learned that food insecurity isn’t just about food or hunger. Members of our community with limited incomes (within our congregation and in the South Bay) face hard choices about meeting their basic needs: between paying for medical care, utilities, transportation and housing vs. buying food. We see and hear about many examples of this challenge from our clients. A middle aged woman in line a few weeks ago told me she has worked in healthcare for years. Her husband recently retired due to health issues. They were ﬁnancially stable until recent factors including his condition and rampant inﬂation left them unable to make ends meet. She said the pantry’s help is “a Godsend.”
We deeply appreciate the contributions so many of you have made to the pantry. Your time, expertise, donations of funds and equipment and support allow us to continue to meet the needs of our friends and neighbors.
Susan Riegel Harding
12/9/2022 09:40:55 am
I would love to work at the food bank, but don't drive. Can I hitch a ride from someone? I'm on Adams near the 15 freeway.
12/15/2022 05:04:37 pm
Hi Susan! I'll pass your question on to the Food Pantry folks. I'd imagine we can get you a ride somehow! ~ Ame
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