San Diego has three naval bases, three Marine Corps bases and one U.S. Coast Guard station, with approximately 95,000 uniformed military personnel. Add their family and children and the total military population in San Diego County comes close to 175,000.
It might come as a surprise that members of the military often need extra help to feed their families. Of the food pantries and meal programs receiving food and resources from FASD, 68 report serving active-duty military or veterans. According to a survey conducted by Jewish Family Service of San Diego, one of FASD’s partners, 60 percent of active duty military households reported being food insecure and 50 percent reported they cut the size of their meals or skipped meals because there wasn’t enough money for food.
When relocating to a new community, military personnel are often on the lookout for the next place they can find support and care from people they trust. In San Diego, they often find it with Feeding America San Diego (FASD) and the 150 food pantries and meal programs we partner with to provide food directly to people in need.
In response to this need, FASD makes sure to take care of the military community. We provide food to food pantries and meal programs – including schools – that we know are serving military members and their families.
USO San Diego hosts our Mobile Pantry for service members and their families twice a month, providing fresh produce and healthy, shelf-stable items. Families from all corners of San Diego County visit the Mobile Pantry. As part of the distribution, FASD hands out recipes incorporating the fresh produce being provided that day and it has opened the door for families to try new foods.
“It’s really important for USO San Diego to host the Mobile Pantry for Active Duty, Reserve and Guard because it brings people together and builds a sense of community,” said Tiana Caylor, USO San Diego Downtown Center director. “When you can provide a home away from home feeling, it becomes more than just about the food.”
Jose, a U.S. Navy veteran, found himself homeless after struggling with mental illness. Once he received help and healthy food from Veterans Village of San Diego, another FASD partner, he said “it brought [him] back to life.”
“Having a healthy diet helped my mind heal,” said Jose. “Three balanced meals helped my body make up for the time I was undernourished.”
No active-duty military or veterans should have to worry about where their next meal is coming from. FASD is committed to providing nutritious meals to those who serve our country as we work to build a hunger-free and healthy San Diego.
*Kelcey Ellis is the director of programs at Feeding America San Diego. She has served with the organization for three years, focusing on agency relations and nutrition efforts before her current role overseeing all programs. Kelcey is a native San Diegan and lives with her husband in Point Loma.
**Photos courtesy of Feeding America San Diego.Tags: Hunger Heroes , Food Bank Network , California , Feeding America San Diego