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Five San Diego Schools Become Makeshift Food Stamp Centers

— Public schools in San Diego's poorest neighborhoods are now doubling as food stamp enrollment centers for low-income families.

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Above: The food stamp enrollment rate in San Diego is one of the lowest in the nation. In an effort to increase local enrollment in the food stamp program, the San Diego Food Bank is forming a partnership with five local elementary schools. Education Reporter Ana Tintocalis joins us to explain how the program works.

A line of parents wait on the playground of Rodriguez Elementary School on Wednesday May 12, 2010, to enroll in the federal food stamp program.
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Above: A line of parents wait on the playground of Rodriguez Elementary School on Wednesday May 12, 2010, to enroll in the federal food stamp program.

San Diego Food Bank offered free food to families who enrolled in the food stamp program at Rodriguez Elementary School on Wednesday May 12, 2010.
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Above: San Diego Food Bank offered free food to families who enrolled in the food stamp program at Rodriguez Elementary School on Wednesday May 12, 2010.

A long line of mothers with baby strollers wait their turn on Wednesday in front of two makeshift tents. Those tents are on the playground of Laura Rodriguez Elementary School located south of downtown San Diego. The parents are hoping to sign up for food stamps.

Typically this process takes place in a county office miles away, but families can now apply at one of five San Diego public schools. The campuses were picked because they serve the highest concentrations of low-income families.

Food stamp school centers are part of a joint effort between San Diego City Schools and the San Diego Food Bank. The goal is to boost food stamp participation in San Diego County.

Mitch Mitchell is chairman of the San Diego Food Bank. He says the process can be complicated and time-consuming, but schools are comfortable and convenient, especially for poor, immigrant parents.

“The application itself is frustrating for someone who speaks English,” Mitchell said. “When there are English as a second language issue, the extra help, the extra resource, someone to talk to, is truly beneficial.”

San Diego County loses more than $140 million in federal food stamp funding every year because not enough people apply.

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