By Maureen McNair
In June of 2019, four or five congregants attending the annual meeting in the Meeting House wrote down that their vision for the future of First UU included a food pantry or a soup kitchen. At the time, the primary concerns on the minds of most people at that meeting were things such as how we would respond to the offer from UCSD Medical Center to purchase our Hillcrest campus; whether we would expand our music, dance, and art programs; and, requests that we find more ways to enjoy meals together. I didn't believe those few requests to start a food pantry would make it into the top five goals of the new strategic plan the congregation was providing input for. But, those requests reflected such an acute and immediate need that, as a newly elected member of the Board of Trustees, I thought we should do something about them.
Six months later, in December, Rev. Tania Márquez told me yes, we could open a food pantry at our South Bay location in Chula Vista. In fact, congregants included some of the pantry's first clients.
Since last December, the pantry has been increasingly providing food to the wider community. As we go to press, the pantry is distributing food to about 130 heads of household each week, representing about 500 people. The vast majority of our pantry clients now are Latinx families who speak English as a second language. The number of pantry clients grows every week.
A lot of ground work was needed before opening the pantry, starting right after the annual meeting last June. One of the most productive things I did was traipse around west Chula Vista one day last October with Andrea Travers.
Andrea lives in the Summit UU. We met because she had started attending services in South Bay. Andrea and I were looking for an organization called South Bay Community Services. They had started in Chula Vista under a different name in the 1970s. Their advertised address was closed because the building had asbestos. We eventually found them in an office upstairs from a bank. A staff person there told me to attend a meeting the next week for a group of representatives from about 100 South County social services organizations.
I've attended that meeting every month since then. Our pantry has created partnerships with many people I've met there. In fact, the first big food donation to the pantry came from an organization I partnered with there. Many of the agencies who have social workers at that meeting?WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children), Catholic Charities, the Family Resource Centers, to name a few-also send their clients to our pantry. There are many, many more stories about how our South Bay Food Pantry became the place it is today. Our dedicated volunteers are changing who we are as a church and how our community sees us. We can thank that handful of people from the annual meeting last year for steering us to do the right thing at the right time in the right place. At the moment, we're another source of food for people who are suffering from the economic losses of the pandemic.
And, so, we see ourselves in our pantry's fifth month. For more info and to get involved, visit our Food Pantry page.
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