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jesse hanwit, center, Sue Wojciak, left, and Lynda Charles stand in front of a truck filled with donations headed to +Box. Courtesy photo
jesse hanwit, center, Sue Wojciak, left, and Lynda Charles stand in front of a truck filled with donations headed to +Box. Courtesy photo
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Local food collection project holding open house in Encinitas

ENCINITAS — From Oregon to Encinitas, Jesse Hanwit’s new North County San Diego Food Project aims to bring non-perishable goods from over 100 donors to people all over the county.

Hanwit, founder of the organization, hopes to see new faces to the project with an upcoming open house. Initially a volunteer in Medford, Oregon, Hanwit participated in the Neighborhood Food Project, where she stemmed her idea of the North County version.

“There were some people in Ashland, Oregon, who were very concerned about their food bank because they felt they weren’t getting enough food year-round, and so they came up with this really simple way of collecting food while also getting to know community members,” Hanwit said. “It was very successful in Ashland, and so they ended up putting in the newspaper in Medford to recruit people to start the project there, and that’s where it all started for me.”

When Hanwit moved to Encinitas in late 2020, she noticed a need for the project in North County. When it started in November 2020 out of the High Country Villas, an active 55-plus community, Hanwit wanted to be able to give food to some of the immunocompromised residents and others who were not capable of getting goods on their own.

“I had thought about the food project on and off after I’d left Medford, but I didn’t act on it until COVID came, and when COVID came, the people here were particularly vulnerable because of our age,” Hanwit said. “Many of them have health issues, so everybody was isolated. Then I started thinking if we could do the food project, that would give the people that lived here a chance to be involved in the community, not feel so isolated, and know that their neighbors are doing the same thing for each other.”

Hanwit took her inspiration and replicated it exactly, talking with friends in the villas and planning how it would work. She gathered a few volunteers at first to be coordinators in their neighborhood and sent them green reusable grocery bags and an information pamphlet about this project and what items were needed.

The idea was almost an immediate success, and now with 160 food donors within the villas, Hanwit plans six food collections per year going to three different beneficiaries. After initially only starting donations to Community Resource Center, the group now works with +Box and St. Andrews Episcopal Church Food Pantry.

The Food Project donates twice a year each to these three collection companies, with around 150 reusable bags of food per donation.

Hanwit has since made this into a 501(c)3 nonprofit in the hopes of expanding it to more of North County and getting more people involved outside of her community.

Aiming to get more community involvement, Hanwit has an open house from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Aug. 12 at Perspective Spaces in Encinitas to inform anyone that wants to join the effort about the project further.

“I just want to see the community getting together to do something about food insecurity,” Hanwit said. “This open house would be open to any community interested in making a difference. I’m so dedicated to seeing it expand because I know how easy it is.”

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