The Magnolia Project has been making a difference in the Imperial Beach community since 2008. Regina Gamboa, the pantry operator, who is also the Founder and Executive Director of Project 1:1, wanted to create a food pantry that served the community with dignity. In 2021 they enrolled in our Nutrition Pantry Program (NPP). Two years later, Regina opened the Magnolia Project, a client-choice pantry that feels like a local farmers’ market where clients can self-select nutritious, culturally appropriate foods they prefer for their families. Our Urban Food Equity team’s Community Food Project Manager, Lakisha McZeal, worked with the Magnolia Project to obtain Gold Certification in the Nutrition Pantry Program and achieve their goals to become an exemplary food pantry in San Diego County.
One of the keys to the Magnolia Project’s success is the trauma-informed work completed in each of the Nutrition Pantry Program’s focus areas. One such area is “Dietary and Cultural Accommodation”. We assisted Magnolia by providing our Dietary Guide for Pantries and other NPP tips like “Dietary Food Preferences” and “Tips for Clients with Limited Housing” to support this area. Magnolia has established an “International Shelf” featuring an assortment of Latin, Asian, Middle Eastern, and Kosher products to serve its diverse clients.
At the Magnolia Project, clients no longer have to wait in line, and appointments are provided to provide dignity and empowerment. We supported the design of a new resource wall providing a wall mounted rack set, recipe cards, Rethink Your Drink nutrition education materials, tips for reducing household food waste, and healthy snack ideas.
Magnolia has also completed goals in the “Nutrition Education” focus area of NPP. Magnolia Project is home to Maggie’s Table, a healthy cooking program led by professional chefs and nutritionists. The eight-week program serves up simple, healthy, easy-to-learn recipes and tips to promote health and wellness. The cooking program is funded by our Advancing Health Literacy Program, Aetna, and the San Diego County District Attorney’s office. These classes have been incredibly popular with the community and have helped foster a greater understanding of the importance of healthy eating. We also invested in new signage for Magnolia to ensure the pantry is visible from the street to build community awareness for the resources they offer.
The Magnolia Project is dedicated to caring for their volunteers. Lakisha designed a volunteer appreciation board for a special area honoring their volunteers and also provided volunteer appreciation tips and small incentives.
The Magnolia Project’s work and dedication have paid off. Lakisha was honored to present them with the Nutrition Pantry Program Gold Certification at their ribbon cutting ceremony in March of 2023. This certification is a testament to their commitment to promoting healthy living and offering outstanding services and resources. Along with the Gold Certification, the Magnolia Project has been recognized by Assembly member David Alvarez, District 80, who acknowledged their exceptional work. Additionally, the Magnolia Project was recognized for its contributions to South Bay communities with a proclamation from Chairwoman Supervisor Nora Vargas.
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