Helping San Diegans with food insecurity – and much more

About one in seven people in San Diego struggles with getting the proper food for a healthy life, according to the San Diego Hunger Coalition. That’s almost half a million people who might have to choose between putting food on the table and paying for a medication or keeping the lights on.

The San Diego Food Bank is one resource in the community for people who are facing food insecurity. From 2017-2018, the food bank distributed 28 million pounds of food to individuals and other nonprofits in the area. A $375,000 grant from UnitedHealthcare for the San Diego Food Bank hopes to make food more accessible and convenient for people who need it. This grant helps expand the organization’s capacity to make the process easier for people looking for help — and not just with food. 

With the FEED (Feeding Everyone with Equity and Dignity) pilot program, San Diego Food Bank clients are given a personalized food ID card at participating sites. Much like a library card, this will allow individuals to avoid burdensome duplicate paperwork if they access services from multiple programs. They can use the card at one of the 82 participating food bank sites, cutting wait times from up to a couple of hours to 20 minutes.

The grant from UnitedHealthcare will allow the FEED program to expand into 50 more sites this year, and in turn, will support the delivery of 10 million pounds of food.  

“There are a couple of great things about our partnership with UnitedHealthcare,” said Jim Floros, CEO of the San Diego Food Bank. “The first one is client dignity. Now people don’t have to wait in line, they have a designated time, they have a special ID card that is just for them; they can get in line quick, get their food and go to school or work. They’re able to go on and function in life.”

More than that, the grant will also help expand the 2-1-1 Community Information Exchange (CIE) of the San Diego Food Bank. This will allow an additional 114,000 people who use the organization’s services to get help with housing, employment, legal issues and much more. 

“This is revolutionary,” Floros said. “The data that the Food Bank is gathering is vital to create strategies to address food insecurity and other social determinants. The Food Bank’s partnership with UnitedHealthcare will help us understand more about our service population, and the challenges they are facing, so that we can develop strategies to better serve them.”

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