Encanto Elementary School, located in Southeastern San Diego, serves 500 students. Of these students, over 90% are eligible for free or reduced school meals and over 40% of Encanto families were reported as housing insecure before the COVID-19 pandemic. 43% of students are English Language Learners (ELL) and all services are offered bilingually in English and Spanish (California Department of Education, School Profile: Encanto Elementary, 2020). As the health and well-being of students and their families has always been a top priority, Encanto administration quickly recognized a surge in food needs caused by COVID-19. The administration sought the assistance of UC San Diego Center for Community Health (UCSD CCH), as a long-term wellness partner of San Diego Unified School District. Encanto administration requested help locating fresh, healthy, and reliable inventory for their pantry to supplement student meal distributions
We leveraged partnerships in their San Diego Urban Growers’ Collaborative project to support hunger relief efforts at Encanto Elementary. Specifically, we coordinated and brokered an agreement for donated CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) boxes from Second Chance Youth Garden, an Encanto-based urban farm youth job training program, to directly benefit Encanto Elementary families. Second Chance was equipped to generously offer a donation of twenty 10-week CSA shares (a value of $6,000) to high need Encanto families identified by the school counselor for the Fall 2020 season. Identified families experienced a sudden loss of household income as a result of COVID-19. This experience is unfortunately on par with the disproportionate level of hardships low- income and communities of color are experiencing across San Diego County and the nation right now. For the duration of the 10-week CSA season, each of the twenty families received a CSA box filled with fresh fruits and vegetables grown locally in their own neighborhood, and paired with applicable seasonal English/Spanish recipe cards from Leah’s Pantry’s EatFresh.org. Shares were delivered weekly directly to families’ homes by our staff. School staff reported the boxes and nutrition education resources were well received by their students’ families.
We built a mutually beneficial relationship between Encanto Elementary and their neighboring community-based organization (CBO), Second Chance. Tangible fresh and healthy supplemental food supply was made available over the course of 10 weeks to twenty Encanto families deeply impacted by COVID-19. Encanto administration is committed to continuing these enhanced and highly coordinated food security efforts into the new school year and beyond our help.
Additionally, Encanto Elementary offers families a virtual Wellness Wednesday consisting of virtual nutrition and health education classes and ongoing supplemental resources such as healthy recipe cards, cookbooks, and more offered by the Nutrition Pantry Program. They will sustain these efforts through a coordinated approach from a dedicated group of staff, teachers, and administrators. Specifically, Encanto’s principal and one of the school’s counselors are committed to championing future health and food security efforts for their students’ families.