Sunday, April 10th

San Diego Hunger Coalition School Meals Program Director, Robin McNulty and Executive Director, Anahid Brakke

Transcript - Not for consumer use. Robot overlords only. Will not be accurate.

Good morning and welcome to another edition of living veteran San Diego public service presentation of the and it comes San Diego radio stations and Gary late. Unfortunately there are many people adults and children going hungry every day here in San Diego County. The San Diego hunger coalition is dedicated to changing that and ending hunger here. They have several goals they wanna accomplish this year we're gonna talk about those today. And much more joining us this morning is San Diego hunger coalition executive director on the he'd Iraqi. And school meals program director Robert McNulty well c'mon he'd welcome Robin. Hello great to be here thank you very thank you so much for having us on the show let's start with some background information on your organization San Diego hunger coalition help. How long has the F hunger coalition that around here in San Diego. Her coalition was founded in 1978. We were. Founded to start coordinating actually with a bunch of people who got together around Thanksgiving. To try to coordinate food drives. In San Diego County for the Thanksgiving holiday and a group just kept coming together kept working together organize more food drives. And then we were actually one of the players at the table and that's Ian eagle food bank was founded in 1977. In the eighties we started looking at it federal nutrition programs as a more. Expansive. Broader wade aid to feed a lot of people. That's what we are getting started looking at. Food stamps and child attrition programs as soon as means and hunger. Here not a part of a national organization are you strictly local. We are local. Where a fairly. Small team of about to around seven employees were focused on CN he'll coney. We do you get involved with state level advocacy when news when it affects our our issues locally. Nelson and I'll actually with some federal advocacy related to. The child nutrition act and farm bill. What do what does the the mission and vision of the San Diego hunger coalition. The the mission of the San Diego hunger coalition is to lead coordinated action to end hunger hits in Eagle County. And we do that through research education. And advocacy. So our vision is that everyone has enough food for an active healthy life. So that means not just enough calories but enough food enough healthy food for an active life our vision is ultimately we don't want to see anybody going to bed hungry. We have enough resources. Where wealthy country people shouldn't be struggling with hunger. And and what is the situation here in San Diego. This Faris. That goes well we do know that and one in five children. Go hungry at some point during the day. You know me know that the economic recovery. Has not touched a ball 30% of scene Nikos. Residents. And it's you know along with that we have parents that are of hacking to me choices do they pay bills or didn't buy food put on the table. And those are things that it's the hunger coalition looks at listens to and we find ways to bring local resources to these spam links. An accounting why not just San Diego right we are countywide. When we. An example is we run something called the cal fresh task force. It meets in every region of the counting on a monthly basis so we're driving up North County east driving up each time going down to south county. We don't just focus on the city. OK and we had had a lot of talk about cal freshman we'll do that in in just a few minutes what what is your background. So I started as the executive director in January 2015. I'm before that it worked in San Diego's Philanthropic sector on the foundation side of the of the table the giving side of my side. For about ten years. And I have always and what attracted me to a nonprofit work is. I really wanna see people have. Equal pathways to opportunity. One of our big values in this country is that people have the ability to to succeed if they put forth an effort. But right now it's such an unequal. Playing field. That we just need to windy city knocked down and look at some of those fares and to less hunger is one of those barriers and you know we can we can talk about. Are these things we need to do with education system to be able to. Get people into engineering. Jobs are in chicken you know various other computer got high tech you know integrate high tech. Sector here in San Diego County. But the employers are constantly talking about how we just don't have enough candidates to fill those positions right so we can do science. Technology engineering arts math classes you know we can do those steam curriculums. You know all day. But if the kids are don't have enough to eat. There are having trouble focusing. They're not paying attention. They may or may not hit. That critical milestone of being able to read by the end of their grade reader at a great level by the end of third grade. Those two laugh you know addressing hunger is an issue. That affects the future of Marconi in the future of our nation. And so so kids that are going hungry wearing it it does affect their cognitive development. Hello very match. You know we have that data contracted back to pretty much birth. Com bubble we find is that if you are hungry you are not thinking about anything else except your next meal or when you're next by eight. So we have children that start the school day and they have not had breakfast and often. There's numerous reasons why they haven't had practice but we do know and again I say that the studies have proven to us that they cannot concentrate in school they visit the health office more. They on tend to fall asleep because they have you know their bodies to shutting down is nothing there to keep them I'll wait. On and also they're very disruptive in the classroom you know because they're agitated they and there are belly is hungry. So these are things that we've learned by providing school breakfast. Is away for our low income families practically the children to be better prepared to learn an attentive in the classroom. And what is your background rather put my background is stats prior to coming to beat any higher coalition in November of 2015. I was eight food school food service director for ten years and a local school district. And what I did was. In that district and provided all of the families who were eligible for any federal meal program access to Nat. Along with access to afterschool snacks. Also suffer program. And I was one of the first people to bring in universal free meals to a school district locally as well as or summer meal program. Because the district than I was and we had more than 80% of the children at the time. Who are eligible for free or reduced price cuts so we had a high need in the unique I was working. Now on your website. You have several goals that are listed for for this year 2016. The first of those goals is to build more effective and interconnected system the food assistance resource is how to we do that. Well that falls under our ending hunger initiative which is something or launching this year. What we're going to do is start win gatherings. Data and some research we need to look we need to understand. What are the hunger relief resources that we haven't seen you county. And let's start talking about what are the most effective and efficient and cost effective ways of addressing hunger. We have are addressing this issue. Like wearing a sinking ship and trying to bail out a little pocket you know and we don't really know how well we're doing in terms of addressing the issue we don't know how much progress from making so. We want to be able to produce information for all of the organizations continue accounting doing this work so that they can have more data driven planning. We're going to be doing some forecasting. Of what hunger will look like in ten years. And now and combine it with the information about. What are the most effective efficient ways of addressing hunger he kept looking at the resources in the gaps and we can do some collaborative planning. And what that's going to entail is knowledge is ramping up on the individual efforts but looking at how they are all interconnected. So we wanna make sure that if the families coming in far assistance with something. Minutes and it's clear that their having found issues being able to put enough food on the table. That not only are they being asked are you enrolled in pal fresh. But they're being asked are you enrolled in free or reduced price meals at school. And then we don't then the next step is to make sure that all of those outreach programs are linked to other programs that advance people's self sufficiency like. Employment services. Healthcare career advancement health care. You know first five for the younger children with the head start program. You know that disconnect Emery into with the school meal programs and other community organizations. So it's really taking in. A broad look of all of the agencies that work together to be that coalition. So that it's were getting leverage from the resources to the best of the advantage for everyone. You know we don't provide direct service and we operate a little bit like this. Technical assistance expert contents content expert in the community. That trains organizations. On what Italy's best practices. How can we keep you up to date on all the regulations that affect your work. We bring groups together you know we've we've talked about with sort of briefly mentioned the toughest task force a couple of times. Through the toughest task force we bring together over fifty organizations countywide through the various regional meetings that we have. And around the county comes to that table. That's how we started to bring together the county and previous organizations on a regular basis to communicate. We're pretty fortunate at. Counties and very responsive. And a good partner through the toughest task force so together we've been doing we've made a lot of advancements like. Creating a new new process for cal fresh enrollment. Which is called same day Cindy service for homeless people to be able to come in and get their account fresh from the same day. And should probably take one. Quick step back and just explain that how fresh. Is the modern generation of food stamps. So this is not your grandparents food stamps misses a highly regulated program and extremely low for Audrey. In San Diego count mean average length of time on how fresh is less than two years. So this is not. What a lot of people imagine and out about food stamps as I remember back in the day who stands totally different. It's very different down and so that's not that's not the case anymore. What it is firm for most families is a full and also I should say that I'm. Almost half of them recipients of how fresh our children. And then you can say another 10% are seniors and disabled. That means that parents and some individuals. You know so this is not. This is a family support this is a program to help lift American families. And and M aren't that the guidelines. For getting on account fresh pretty strict. Yeah I mean from our perspective it's a little too. It's a little too arduous. It's one of the hardest benefits from the hardest benefits to get it and it's not really that capped the amount of the benefit is not that much money. I think the average. Per household or something like. 230 dollars. On both hold of war. That's not them you know what the average individual benefit is something like a 13840. Were talked about four dollars and 38 cents. Today and so people are not living high on the they're not. You know this is this really can't be your only. Foods you and so. So it's ours as a supplement right that's what it's intended to be and because there is. Often misconceptions. About this type of benefit there are very strict. Federal regulations that over seas act so that again is why it is difficult. Program to become eligible for and your monitored. And many times people are frightened by that. Ending mean they mean not know they can qualify or they just don't wanna go through. What is required thinking it's the old school way and for many of our. Citizens or residents that are eligible they also fear that there could be deportation while. So the participation rate is not as as highs as it should be or were you folks would like it to be we we'd like to be higher. So when you look at other metropolitan areas in the US there are about eighty or 90%. Utilization so meaning of the a people who are eligible that's how many people are participating. And that eligibility level is low so I mean use the screening level is 200% federal poverty level. So that camera. When he sat out a year roughly it's well 24000. Years for four Emmy for federal poverty level for double it. So you started about 48. You take out you take out certain I'm let's look wait to switch accompany it to get into right now but it may take a certain categorical. Eligibility takeout different expenses but basically where falls is around 125% federal poverty level that's very low income. As in very very low income so okay so back to. How do we compare to other communities when you compare us to Detroit or New York City where they've got you know this 90% utilization. You also have to look at what. It's happening at the state level. So there are still areas where we can improve its accounting and where doing it. Every week I feel like the county and can he beats organization through the cal finished task force are making yet another. Innovation to be able to and Romo more people. But we have these state level. Barriers a lot of these regulations come from the states like now. Needing to. Recertify. Every six months a lot of people fall off. The problem with that much regulation for this small of a cash benefit is that it's not cost effective. So that's something for us to to be thinking about when we are going crazy over you know watching it you know are you. Two dollars over a year limo ride you know let's make sure we cut you off immediately it's a little bit of overkill. Now another another of your your goals that you had a new website. Is that to ensure. That all children have year round access to healthy food by expanding school meals and other federal child nutrition programs. Let's talk about half that that how how do you accomplish that goal. We understand before and Robyn Kemp then I'm just gonna say we're so lucky to have. Coming with Romney's experience working for this Ian eagle under coalition because now not only she'd. Implement these programs in leading the way in one particular district but she's written a school districts all over the county. To answer questions and and do it do the things that she's going to discard. I feel very fortunate to be working with the hunger coalition. We have very passionate school food service directors throughout the county and we do have 44 school districts someone working with them. To take a look at. There are opportunities. To feed more children. Be that expanding their breakfast programs so that we do some alternative breakfast after the bell. Or opening up the opportunity for us to have afterschool snacks because there are federal programs. Often what happens is. The numbers me not you what would necessarily qualify but the federal government has changed quite a bit of eligibility. So we can look at census data now not just at a family's eligibility for the free or reduced price meal program. And the big thing we're really moving towards right now. Meaning that city hired coalition is taken a look at the summer meal programs that we have throughout seeing Eagle County. We have a lot of them we have more than 200 sites that will feeder children in the summer however. It's difficult for families to get to them they mean I live in a neighborhood that's close by and the close by is less than a quarter from jail. So what plays into that is that if I have a site that's open and I have only ten children come is it really cost effective for me to be open. To feed these ten children or to be better used. Funds if they were to go to another location. And then of course we have some areas that there is there either rural. And no transportation or there me be. Gang other violence that means be happening and our children are on lockdown during the summer you know they're not allowed to leave their house so. You know beat. As idea hunger coalition started. Facilitating any summer meals task force over a year ago. And we have at least fifteen members strong now in those members are. Places that sponsor this summer meal program and also sites and that we are finding out what the best practice in California is and really. Camping out what we can do here locally. You get the word out where families can make it easier for them to access the summer meals because there's no paperwork involved. It just is eighteen years or younger. And you can have a free meal Monday through Friday that the location nearest you and we have a variety of weeks where building awareness for what they have to have a certain income. Now they do not really. That's the important part is that there's no paperwork you just need to be eighteen or younger and go to a site that. It's open. Have a couple different types. Most of them are opened there locally certainly seeing the unified school district sponsors over 53 different locations with in they're school district. Areas that they coaching. But each one of the school district in San Diego County along with some other youth based organizations. Offer new programs in the summer. So this is already a program that's in effect it is our radiant fat we've seen growth that can happen and particularly. For that is that we wanna be unified together. So again looking at leveraging the resources we have to have the same campaign that's me shorts out there for everyone to know. And one campaign that we started last year which is often national organizations called text food. So you've taxed. Is that code to you know texted whatever that is and that internal sent back to their recipient on your Smartphone. The nearest site. For someone else that is not ready yet for this summer program starts. Locally around June 20 and it's gonna run until about August no. So for the most traditional schools when they're out there will be access to certain foods. You mentioned. The app. Breakfast after the bell program and what does that come back is eat traditional practices and served before school starts if you don't have that. Breakfast at home. Then at the for the start of the school. Well a few years back there was a national campaign have breakfast after the start of the school people know it more as the first. Breakfast after the bell model was breakfast in the classroom and that's where the food is brought into the classroom. Answer to the children. While we see now it's a 40% increase in participation. In that model along and we've seen it in any state dining chain location. Other models are on grabbing go breakfast which works great for our middle school students as well as for opera element trees and that's where. The breakfast is already packed like a sack lunch and they have carts throughout the school. On in the hall some nine children can just grab their bag and go. And then our second chance breakfast has been phenomenally high schools and that's between passing periods. They'll be you know a fifteen minute break that all sorts of passing period. And school food services will open kiosk where children can come and get a complete practice as we know. Many ever older students still like to eat first thing in the morning and I don't know what's dragging on them getting to school when it may be. So is opportunity for those children that. Mean on an even had dinner the night before to really have something to get them you know get their brain working for them. The re we wanna fever. This happened about is because breakfast before the bow that the traditional breakfast model is served before school starts. Well unfortunately that's before a lot of the buses arrived to the for a lot of parents drop their kids off. So kids and I gained a school early enough to go eat in the cafeteria. There's also a little bit of stigma around that breakfast in the cafeteria program because it's seen as you know it's via. And the other important part with breakfast after the bell why there's such an. Data driven reasons for that is that we've seen again as I mentioned a 40% increase and breakfast participation. Deep trees and tardiness which is huge for school districts along with. I. The health office because they're having headaches or stomach aches from lack of food and we have teachers report back to us at the students her. You know just friends earlier in the morning and there are more engaged in the opportunity for teaching. And it was so important about three years ago ire state superintendent of schools. Released that even. Time spent in a breakfast program that starts after the start of the day is instructional time. So the students arcs are eating a breakfast. But they're also. Inky Jing in doing homework. Reviewing things that need be about nutrition education but it is things that meet the common core curriculum that we need to have for our students. What things sure have changed since. And I was in high school it's quite different theories of how we never had anything like that. And and I would assume that. Meals in schools there are a lot more nutritious these days and they were back then. Oh yes most definitely back in 2010 when me. No hungry kid act was passed and a lot of it was driven as well by. The First Lady. Michelle Obama about making a more whole grain available doing at her school meals along with more fresh. Fruits and vegetables. In San Diego we have seen an increase in the amount of local produce. That is being served better schools. And children love it I know for the district that I worked and we saw more than a 150% increase the first year. In our purchasing of fresh produce. That's great we have just a couple more minutes left and I wanted to talk about advocacy you mentioned that at the beginning of the program. What is going on on on your end at San Diego hunger coalition as far as efficacy. So efficacy of those words that mean so many things that it becomes almost meaningless and so thinking firm thanks for asking it's an opportunity to talk about it. How so. Advocacy can be defined as systems change so we're trying to change the system. His story they're trying to change a system at a legislative leveled by changing bills are you know changing. Changing laws. Or were trying to changes at a C. And ministry of all the so for working with the county to change a particular process that would be administrative efficacy local school district's. Office education. Exactly. So on the advocacy front there are couple of exciting. Things happening in Sacramento. And panache that's a national level grenade to school meals. One thing I wanted to say about cal fresh. Is that. And I think that it is a sort of a different sort of advocacy plan that not legislative but. You can apply for how fresh and go through the application process now without ever stepping foot in accounting office. You can do it on line online now he can do an interview over the phone can all do on your paperwork online so and they've also read. Refurbished found accounting offices with a much different system than we had in this community ten years ago. So that's more. To signatory. And looking at what it would be like these changes are made looking at it through the eyes of a client. What does it feel like coming here. Because they reported to us that they felt so disconnected and they almost like they were schooled and that's not what it's about. So we've seen account actually reach out as well and provide services. Out of their regular place on in on the school meals frank what we're doing. Is nationally this a child nutrition reauthorization act of 2015. Which and continues the more healthy school lunches it requires that. Anyone working in school food service has to have certain professional standards. It also affects ire with programs as well as. You know the child and health care feeding programs out there and that's from out there that a federal program. And everything working at the state levels and budget item or asking for higher reimbursement for school breakfast. And in turn. That schools which have a higher. Breed of low income students that they do an alternative breakfast after the bell program because we know. That children do better. In school by having breakfast and we should probably talk about summary VT oh yeah Robin is talking about the barriers for some families with summer meal model. Which is. And been a model that was developed the forties and fifties when and kids could wheel for Somalia had a parent home. Both parents were working. And also you'd neighborhoods where kids can just walk. To the nearest park and so a lot of things have changed. Themselves so this summer EDT President Obama signed a bill back in January that over the next ten years we're gonna have ten million dollars that will. Be available force states to. Bright grant so that they can be part of the program and what that means is. That families who qualify for free or reduced price meals would receive on a summer basis basically 43 dollars per child. On a benefit cards that they can use that money to purchase foods that they could serve at home. If they're able to get through summer meal site. And what we'd asked at the state level is that California aligns himself. To be ready and to apply for this federal money as soon as it's released. Before we wrap up you are nonprofit correct yes okay so if somebody wants to help you out. Make a donation to help you with your mission your vision how to do that please visit our website it's SD hunger dot board. We really welcome. Support at any level. Two to do our work. It's we are able to when you touch and support their hunger coalition you're supporting organizations throughout the county. And you're helping to bring those resources for our families. On because kids deserve to have three meals a day and the resources are available for an app. Oh great unheeded and Robin thank you for being on the show today thank you for all you do with San Diego hunger coalition thank you thank you very much. That concludes another addition of living veteran San Diego the opinions expressed are living better San Diego did not necessarily reflect the opinions and views staff and management of and it comes San Diego. Episodes of living veteran San Diego are available on the station's website. Join me next week when my guest will be from the San Diego American Indian health center. Until then I'm Carrie Lee have a great week.