By Maureen McNair
Our hard working volunteers handed out food for over 3,300 individuals last month at our southwestern Chula Vista pantry. Our main pantry clients are families and individuals.
I wanted to start our pantry in the 91911 zip code because I knew they community needed more food. We do have clients come from outside the neighborhood, but we are ﬁlling a void in a location where there simply has not been enough food ﬂowing into the community.
I became aware of the need for more food in this Chula Vista neighborhood when I taught at a local public school. There were two things I saw with children that convinced me the community needed more nutrition.
The year I retired — well before covid-19 — I taught kindergarten. In the school at which I taught, 97% of the families lived below the poverty line. The vast majority of children qualiﬁed for a free or reduced cost breakfast. Many of my kindergartners came to school early, sat on the outdoor picnic benches, and ate breakfast together before class.
For those of you who have been around 5 year old children, you know how energetic they are. They don’t really walk. They run everywhere, including inside the classroom. So one might think when morning recess arrived, they would run around the playground. But, many children did not. Instead, they went back to sit at the outdoor picnic benches to eat what the school called “second breakfast.” Instead of playing, they ate a free second morning meal.
Second breakfast happened everyday. Second breakfast was routine. It was a huge clue many children at that school were not getting enough food at home.
In addition to seeing a broad need among the students for more food, I saw some individual children with an even more acute need for food.
Our school participated in a program in which select students were sent home every Friday afternoon with a backpack ﬁlled with child accessible food so that child would be able to eat alone over the weekend.
One kindergarten girl in my class participated in the Friday backpack program. She was very thin with upper arms no bigger around than a broomstick. One day, I brought several huge sunﬂowers I had grown in my backyard into my classroom. For our science lesson, I wanted the children to learn about plants. Then, for math, I wanted them to practice their counting skills with the abundant seeds from each ﬂower head. This particular little girl did not do her science or math lesson. Instead, she ate her seeds.
So, I have wanted a food pantry in this particular community for while now. Thank you for working with me to make it so.
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