By Cindy Long, FNS Administrator
In early August, Deputy Under Secretary Stacy Dean and I travelled to San Francisco for meetings and events related to the work the USDA Food and Nutrition Service does to support local communities. On August 3, we spent the day visiting programs around the Bay Area that have an impact on addressing hunger.
Our first stop was Davis Park in San Pablo, which is one site where the West Costa Contra Unified School District (WCCUSD) provides summer meals. There we saw children of all ages playing, but more importantly, enjoying a fresh, locally sourced, and scratch-cooked meal. WCCUSD feeds 250 children a day at this one location and after seeing the meals they served, we could see why. It looked, and smelled, delicious!
At the summer meal site, we also observed the importance of partnerships and collaboration to make a difference in addressing childhood hunger. The WCCUSD partners with the city, the county, the state, the federal government, local farmers, non-profits, parents, and volunteers to provide healthy and delicious meals, and increase nutrition awareness. On this day at the summer meals site, for instance, a local farmer was on hand offering samples of stone fruit for the children to taste test. A local non-profit, Conscious Kitchen, was also there with a variety of raspberries to sample and give-away packages of other fresh fruit for the families to take home to enjoy later. It was a perfect example of how all these organizations working together with a common goal can make a big impact in local communities.
We were also delighted to see the WCCUSD’s mobile kitchen, Fresh Wheels, which was purchased with USDA grant funding. The bright yellow food truck adorned with colorful paintings of fruits and vegetables allows the district to provide summer meals in low-income remote areas where families may not otherwise have access.
Next, we met with the leadership at the Alameda County Community Food Bank and heard about the incredible work they are doing to feed people in their community. We were also able to see their warehouse expansion, which will strengthen their ability to serve their community.
We wrapped up the day at the Heart of the City Farmers Market in San Francisco. This farmers market redeems more nutrition assistance benefits than any other in the nation. That’s over $3 million a year in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and grant-funded incentives to help low-income families increase their purchasing power of fruits and vegetables from local farmers.
Engaging with the partners that administer FNS programs and make them a success, as well as children and families that participate in these programs, is so rewarding. It’s a great reminder of why we do what we do here at FNS: to ensure that everyone can access safe, healthy, and nutritious food.