Partners and stakeholders countywide are pioneering programs to help the young, young-at-heart, and everyone in-between access healthy food and resources, connect to each other, and increase independent living and volunteerism. Actions in each of these areas are having a positive impact on the Live Well San Diego Vulnerable Populations and Community Involvement Indicators.
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SUCCESS STORIES INFLUENCING SOCIAL
Efforts to increase access to healthy food are providing fresh fruits and vegetables to San Diego County’s most vulnerable residents. In multiple school districts, school-age children are sharing whole fruit and other lunch food at " Sharetables" to avoid food waste and help students not leave school hungry. The Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank distributed over 7 million pounds of fresh produce through a valuable partnership with the California Association of Food Banks. ProduceGood “upcycled” 131,000 pounds of fresh produce into 393,000 servings, connecting surplus produce with food-insecure individuals to reduce waste and hunger.
Organizations are also helping residents increase their independence by providing social opportunities through mentoring, gardening, and physical activity programs. In the San Diego Unified School District and Lemon Grove School District after-school programs, a win-win intergenerational program is providing older adult volunteers with social, mental, and physical health benefits while they help at-risk school children to improve their literacy skills. Because older residents have an increased likelihood for food insecurity and isolation due to living alone, Serving Seniors is committed to increasing social opportunities for everyone, including many seniors with social anxiety who have been helped through their community gardening program. Jewish Family Services is working with The San Diego Foundation to promote aging in place and helping seniors stay connected to communities. The Senior Activity Center located in the City of San Marcos offers a place for those aged 50 years and older to engage in physical, mental, and spiritual well-being activities and serves 300 to 500 residents daily. The County of San Diego offered a “Gramping” event for relative caregivers and their families to support their enjoyment of nature and create an opportunity for them to learn together, bond with each other and make new friends.
Individuals and organizations are engaged in their community as seen through their generous charitable giving through donations and grant programs. ABC10/KGTV in partnership with Feeding San Diego raised more than 4.2 million meals during the 5th annual Month of a Million Meals campaign to provide meals to San Diegans struggling with hunger. The San Diego County Employees' Charitable Organization awarded a total of $167,990 in grants to 96 local non-profit programs funding diverse needs including food, medical equipment, books, kitchen appliances, garden supplies and sports equipment.
Resilient communities have people who are connected to each other and to resources and who help each other get on their feet after hard times. In response to the December 2017 Lilac Fire, the American Red Cross of San Diego/Imperial Counties mobilized local volunteers quickly to establish four shelters for residents in need of a safe place to stay, meals, and health services, and assisted 266 people with their recovery needs. Community Health Improvement Partners conducted a Resident Leadership Academy with members of the Iraqi refugee community in El Cajon who connected with the City of El Cajon to increase access to, and use of, parks in their community. The Institute for Public Strategies, SAY San Diego, Vista Community Clinic and Mental Health Systems have partnered with the County of San Diego to involve local residents and stakeholders in the planning of neighborhood prevention projects addressing alcohol and drug use problems in their community.
MAKING IMPACT PERSONAL
Lora Daines of La Mesa is a volunteer with ElderHelp of San Diego’s Concierge Club, a program that offers seniors support through check-in calls and escorted transportation to medical appointments, grocery shopping, places of worship, and rehabilitation and independence services. Using her own car and gasoline, Daines has proudly completed about 200 trips for ElderHelp over the past two years. In addition, she has clocked more than 300 hours talking on the phone to homebound seniors as part of ElderHelp’s “RUOK” (are you okay) program. Daines is a 2017 Healthcare Heroes awards recipient from the Grossmont Healthcare District.
Vista Community Clinic recently implemented a Resident Leadership Academy (RLA) in Vista. The grassroots training program is aimed at empowering residents to promote positive improvements in their communities. Lidia Mateos de Martinez was the oldest graduate of the program and honored to be the oldest participant in her cohort.
“When my church group informed me of the RLA program, I was intrigued at what it had to offer and I felt that the topics they were going to discuss were very important to me,” said Martinez. “Our community should look at the vacant dirt plots within our neighborhoods and create green spaces such as recreation parks, basketball courts or more grocery stores. We, as residents, should educate ourselves about the economy, health and active transportation. Children also need their own spaces to play and we need to collaborate with the city to develop these empty plots. These projects are important for us and we need to be a united front.”
The RLA program aims to educate residents about the individual, environmental and social causes of some chronic diseases. These tools empower the residents to bring changes needed to enhance their communities and create vibrant neighborhoods. With her graduation, Martinez took home more than a certificate: she took home an action plan.
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