A few days ago, I met with Scody Hage (J. Scofield Hage), President & CEO of the San Diego Food Bank, to talk about our 11th year of partnership with the Run for the Hungry that takes place every Thanksgiving. Our discussion brought to mind all the ways that JFS deals with the issue of hunger. We have programs that provide food directly, like Foodmobile, our congregate meal sites for older adults, and the Hand Up Youth Food Pantry*, but the reality is that almost every program in the agency addresses and deals with alleviating hunger in some way.
An older adult might come to us to enroll in our On the Go transportation program, only for our program staff to discover from their interactions that the client doesn’t have enough food. An individual might come in for counseling when the therapist discovers they haven’t had a good meal in days. When these situations arise—as they do, often—we make sure that person or family receives supplies from the food pantry for a few meals—immediately. As our case managers will tell you, it’s often difficult to make progress solving other issues until the basic need of food is met.
We also think it’s important to have a case manager present at our food distributions. They talk to the individuals receiving food packages to discover if there are other ways JFS can help them.
This is because at JFS, we evaluate a person’s entire situation. It’s only after we meet a client’s immediate needs that we can begin working on other aspects of their life. Often, many programs within JFS will work together to create a lasting plan to get a client back on their feet. That’s just how we operate—whole person, whole solution.
There’s a term that we have been using a lot more lately—food insecurity. It means experiencing periods where you are uncertain if you will have enough food to meet the needs of your family due to insufficient money or resources. And you don’t have to be homeless to be food insecure: even those working full-time jobs can have difficulty putting food on the table. On average, in California, a person would need to make $26.02 an hour to afford a 2-bedroom unit. (Source: National Low Income Housing Coalition, 2012). Minimum wage is $8 an hour.
In San Diego County, more than 460,000 people are food insecure. That’s unacceptable. No one should go hungry. We’ll continue to do our best to meet people’s needs and give them their lives back, and thank you for your support in helping us carry out this mission.
*Since January 1, 2012:
- The Hand Up Youth Food Pantry served 3,341 people, including 428 military families. It distributed 62,098 pounds of non-perishables, 2,898 pounds of frozen meat and 15,756 pounds of fresh produce.
- Hand Up hosted 37 food drives, yielding 9,494 pounds in donated food.
- Foodmobile distributed 16,818 meals to homebound seniors and disabled homebound adults.
- Our Senior Nutrition Program is on track to serve over 66,000 meals this fiscal year.