Leah's Pantry and EatFresh.org's Work with Community Partners in City Heights

guest post by Kelcey Ellis, Programs Manager at Feeding America San Diego 

 A year ago, Feeding America San Diego (FASD) and Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank (JCSDFB) set out together to improve the equity and dignity of food distribution in the City Heights region of San Diego County. With the guiding principle that our clients are at the center of all our work, FASD and JCSDFB seek to provide holistic and coordinated intervention and services to improve the health and opportunities of City Heights residents. As part of the project, the two organizations are investing a variety of resources including technical support, technology and pantry infrastructure assistance, nutrition training and other capacity building tools.

Based on feedback from partners and clients, a primary objective was to reduce client wait times to 20 minutes or less during 80% of distributions, providing a significantly more dignified experience for those we serve and requiring less of their valuable time resources. Three of our top partners agreed to pilot adoption of the Oasis Insights system database. The database collects real-time data to track where and when clients are accessing food assistance and give us greater insight into the needs of the community. In addition, two large distributions set up an appointment system as a method of reducing the wait time for the families they serve.

In order to provide the most comprehensive support to partners involved in the project, a designated project coordinator was hired and has been able to walk alongside agencies on the front lines of outreach efforts. Physical capacity was also increased through additions of refrigerators, freezers, shelving racks, hand trucks, tents, translation services and other resources.

Another way we can impact the health of City Heights residents is by empowering individuals to incorporate healthy eating habits through nutrition education. In partnership with Leah’s Pantry and EatFresh.org, our partners in City Heights receive nutrition information such as food label guidance, MyPlate introduction, recipe cards in three languages and nutrition workshops. Ten of the sixteen agencies participated in a “train-the-trainer” workshop, a class led by Leah’s Pantry teaching representatives to effectively deliver nutrition knowledge to the local community. Each participating agency received cooking kits with more than $150 worth of equipment to conduct the trainings at their agencies.

While there are exciting plans and goals for the the second year of this project, change has already begun to take place. To keep agencies abreast of the project, meetings were held to share year one progress, lay out year two goals and allow the three pilot agencies to share their experience during year one with their peers. After attending, other agencies were so inspired and eager to implement Oasis Insights that one meeting attendee shared, “I’m so overwhelmed with the humanity I feel.” We are committed to continuing to facilitate the restoration of humanity and dignity for the families that are turning to their community to help meet their basic food needs.