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San Diego Food Bank Moves To ‘Super Pantries’ To Increase Distribution As Pandemic Continues

Cars lined up for a food pantry at Jewish Family Service in Kearny Mesa, June...

Photo by Mike Damron

Above: Cars lined up for a food pantry at Jewish Family Service in Kearny Mesa, June 25, 2020.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the San Diego Food Bank was feeding some 300,000 residents. Now, as the unemployment rate continues to rise, that number has about doubled to 600,000 people.

To increase distribution, the Food Bank on Thursday is launching 35 "super pantries" countywide.

"So we have 500 nonprofit partners. We’re taking 35 of them to make them high volume, high-frequency distribution sites," said San Diego Food Bank president and CEO James Floros.

"They have to distribute at least three days a week until Dec. 31," Floros said. "In return, they’re going to get as much food as we can give them and they're going to get capacity grants of $20,000 to help build their infrastructure."

RELATED: San Diego Food Banks Prioritize Meals For Seniors As Coronavirus Increases Demand

Reported by Matt Hoffman , Video by Mike Damron

Jewish Family Service in Kearny Mesa is running one of these beefed-up pantries. JFS staff said the demand for food has exploded.

"The numbers have just skyrocketed," said Sasha Escue, nutrition services director for JFS. "So we’re seeing a really large increase. People are coming through on a daily basis. We’re serving over 1,000 meals a day through our drive through."

JFS officials said many people are coming to their food pantries for the first time, but for others during the pandemic, this resource is helping now more than ever.

"People really don’t realize how hard it is even for simple things like food," said Cari Mata, who drove up to JFS's food pantry Thursday. "So we’re a family of three, I have an eight-year-old son and we’re so thankful for this."

Mata said her husband recently lost his job and the extra food goes a long way.

"Programs like this make such a difference for families and for the last few months this has been a savior for us," she said.

In addition to things like fruits, vegetables, bread and dairy products Mata was able to pick up some dog food for her brown lab, Bear.

"They saw my dog and said, 'Do you want food?'" she said.

The Food Bank previously did large-scale distributions at places such as SDCCU Stadium during the pandemic, but these “super pantries” will take their place.

"We learned that the mass distributions lacked client dignity," Floros said. "So you know 1,000 people you can serve, but 3,000 get turned away. They wait in line and they don't get food."

For a full list of San Diego Food Bank pantries open during COVID-19, click here.

Jewish Family Service is also looking for help delivering meals to San Diegans who can't make it to a food pantry. More information on how to sign up is available here.

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Matt Hoffman
General Assignment Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI am a general assignment reporter for KPBS. In addition to covering the latest news and issues that are relevant to the San Diego community, I like to dig deeper to find the voices and perspectives that other media often miss.

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