Carissa Casares, Senior Communications Manager Feeding San Diego
When the pandemic hit, Feeding San Diego started doing something it hadn’t done before: drive-through food distributions. The early ones were in the parking lot of the now defunct Qualcomm Stadium, and the long lines of cars were a visual representation of the challenges the pandemic created. Feeding San Diego’s Together Tour is a massive team effort, requiring the organization to build out online registration, develop a system for drive-through distributions specific to each site, and recruit a large numbers of volunteers to help each distribution run smoothly.
Seeing no sign of slowing, Feeding San Diego created the Together Tour in response to this elevated need for food assistance. These large-scale, drive-through food distributions started in February 2021 and have since grown to include 12 sites across San Diego County. The distributions have continued into 2022 due to the continued economic hardship in the region as evidenced by increasing attendance numbers. Since last February, over 330,000 individuals have been served and over 4.7 million pounds of food have been distributed at sites located throughout San Diego County, from Ramona to El Cajon to Escondido.
Most of the sites are prepared to serve upwards of 1,000 households in just a couple of hours, with each family receiving a minimum of 50 pounds of food, including fresh produce, frozen meat protein, and dry goods. The series of no-cost food distributions takes place at large venues around San Diego County, including recognizable venues like Pechanga Arena. The sites with the highest turnout, usually with over 1,000 households pre-registered, are in the South Bay at North Island Credit Union Amphitheatre and Southwestern College.
While attendance dipped slightly in February 2022, numbers began increasing shortly thereafter and rose to the highest they have been in April 2022, serving over 8,000 households in one month. Feeding San Diego’s team continues to meet San Diegans affected by economic hardship caused by record-high gas prices and soaring inflation.
“Last time we were here, we got ground turkey and that was awesome because meat is so expensive,” shares Sydney, an attendee of the Together Tour site at The Shoppes at Carlsbad. “I adopted my sister's three kids. Plus, with the pandemic, a lot of people lost their jobs, but I work at the grocery store and just working at the grocery store I have completely seen the drastic change in prices on things. After COVID hit, everything just skyrocketed and it's been hard. Then gas on top of that, it just gets harder and harder. Plus, we live in California so that's hard as well.”
Another attendee named Vanessa shared how much the distribution would help her and her family after recently moving to San Diego.
"This is our first distribution,” she explained. “I recently just moved here from San Antonio so we have a Facebook group and they posted about it. It definitely does help, especially when they give out fresh produce. It also helps because it’s definitely expensive here in California. I’m in the military, but the cost of living here is a lot more expensive than any other duty station I've been to. Even just if we go out to eat, it's so expensive compared to Texas or any other place that I've been to. The gas, especially, is expensive, housing, everything.”
Feeding San Diego relies on donations and volunteers to work towards its mission of ending hunger through food rescue. Volunteers are needed to sort, glean, and pack food that is distributed at the Together Tours, and to help operate Together Tours throughout the county.
Learn more and how you can get involved at www.feedingsandiego.org.