North County Food Bank

Trading Hunger for Hope

Food Bank strives to be a changemaker in North County

Posted on February 20, 2019

Servicing approximately 370,000 San Diegans each month, the San Diego Food Bank is no small operation. Its main facility, centrally located in the Miramar area, is a 90,000-square-foot warehouse complete with ten loading docks to get goods onto shelves and ready for distribution. However, the site doesn’t do all the work alone. A North County facility, located in San Marcos, serves roughly 100,000 of the Food Bank’s overall service population, feeding food insecure members of the community in a region that stretches from the SR 56 freeway to the northern border of San Diego County — an area with a population roughly equivalent to Cleveland.

North County Food Bank

James Floros

It’s a relatively new addition to the Food Bank operation, acquired in 2015 from North County Community Services, which was looking to move away from food assistance as the San Diego Food Bank was seeking to expand. “It was the friendliest acquisition of all time,” says James Floros, San Diego Food Bank CEO. However, it didn’t come without its own challenges. For starters, at only 5,000 square feet, the space dwarfs in comparison to the main location. It lacks a loading dock and sufficient refrigeration space, and is too small to make effective use of volunteers, which, at about 20,000, is a huge element of the Food Bank’s supply chain. Amazingly, despite these issues, the North County Food Bank has tripled the number of people served and doubled the volume of food moving through the facility since its acquisition.

These successes are just the beginning for the North County Food Bank, as Floros reveals plans for an exciting new concept in not only hunger relief but a bundle of resources geared toward assisting those in need to share space and provide what he calls “wraparound services.” The idea is in its infancy, and a capital campaign is planned to launch later this year to get it off the ground.

In the interim, the Food Bank is seeking an alternate, larger location to continue current operations while the ultimate space is identified and completed — crucial, considering just how many people it serves. “People always associate food banks with feeding the homeless, and while we do support that, it’s less than 5 percent of our monthly service population of 370,000,” explains Floros, who notes that about 40,000 of those are active duty military, their dependents, and veterans.

Floros is quick to note that while the primary function is to feed people, there is a broader goal. “We’re working toward societal change,” he says. Citing health issues including diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and even studies indicating a link between mental health issues later in life and food insecurity as a child, plus the negative impact of hunger on learning and education, Floros describes a cycle that will continue unless health and nutrition are introduced. With a full-time staff nutritionist to ensure what’s offered meets self-imposed nutritional standards, plus educational programs to help consumers both choose and prepare the healthiest meals on a budget, the Food Bank is taking every step to end the devastating, long-term effects of hunger. Says Floros, “We’re trying to lift people out of poverty, we’re trying to break the cycle of poverty, and we’re trying to work ourselves out of a job. How cool is that?” northcountyfoodbank.org   Deanna Murphy

North County Food Bank

James Floros: Photo by Doug Gates