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Report: One in four San Diegans experience nutrition insecurity

The San Diego Hunger Coalition says 1 in 4 San Diegans experience nutrition insecurity. KPBS Reporter Melissa Mae shows us what that looks like on the ground this holiday season.

Less than a week before millions sit down to Thanksgiving meals, the San Diego Hunger Coalition presented some bleak data about hunger in San Diego County.

The Coalition's State of Hunger presentation showed that 1 in 4 San Diegans experience nutrition insecurity. That translates to over 900,000 San Diegans.

The Coalition says a “nutrition secure” child, adult or senior can rely on three nutritious meals for themselves or their family per day. In San Diego that requires an annual income of at least $27,180 for an individual, $36,620 for a couple and $55,500 for a family of four.

According to the Hunger Coalition’s June 2022 nutrition insecurity data in San Diego County, nearly 29%— or 1 in 3 — of the county’s children are food insecure. That's approximately 198,000 children.

The data also showed food insecurity for 23% of older adults (111,000 seniors) and for 35% of San Diegans with disabilities (115,000 people).

The Coalition's report said the pandemic still affects many San Diegans, and even with San Diego’s hunger relief sector increasing its food assistance by 74%, nutrition insecurity remains at crisis levels. Residents are battling with an increase in food, housing, fuel and energy prices while 30% of full-time workers in the county are still making less than $35,000 a year.

National City resident Ivy Scott attended a turkey giveaway sponsored by Sycuan Casino, the San Diego Padres and National School District on Thursday to help a family she knows is experiencing nutrition insecurity celebrate Thanksgiving.

“There’s a mother who has her children and her grandchildren living in her home and unfortunately, I know she had been off of work,” Scott continued, “She worked with me and she’d been off of work because she had come down with COVID and she hadn’t worked in the last couple of weeks.”

Also picking up a turkey was El Cajon resident Elizabeth Adams, who has been taking care of a sick family member.

“We almost lost him last year, so for us it means a lot. Being together with the family, having him with us. It helps us a lot,” Adams said. “I was his caregiver all the time so we always go get free food. So if it wasn’t for the free food, we wouldn’t have no food on the table. So, for us, it really means a lot.”

Scott said she tries to help someone every Thanksgiving. “You gotta remember that we don’t live in this world by ourself. Take care of somebody. Do something for somebody. Invite them over, take ‘em a dinner, somebody that’s sick and shut in. Do something wonderful because that’s what Thanksgiving’s all about. You gotta be thankful,” she said.

Those in need of food assistance can find help at the San Diego Hunger Coalition website.

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