The Coast News Group

North County Food Policy Council fights against hunger

REGION — As the holiday season approaches, the awareness of and visibility for those struggling to find a steady food source intensifies.

The North County Food Policy Council, a subcommittee of the Alliance for Regional Solutions, is on the front lines of bringing solutions to people who struggle with food insecurity, according to Wendy Starling, who chairs the committee.

She said the council brings stakeholders together to assist with people fighting against hunger, food waste and how those two connect.

“It’s everybody focused on food recovery and how we can get that to those in need,” said Starling, who is the North County manager for the San Diego Food Bank. “We bring in folks who focus on specific areas.”

Greg Anglea, executive director of Interfaith Community Services and president of the ARS, said the NCFPC was formed in 2008-09 and has since helped cities better understand food waste and food recovery, to name a few issues. The ARS, a collaborative of more than 65 organizations, he said, is addressing pressing human needs in North County.

It began in 2007 and was centered on homelessness and the need for more shelters. They soon realized those in ARS were addressing other issues, which led them to tackling hunger.

As a result, the NCFPC secured a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to identify food deserts and needs in North County.

In addition, they also collaborate with public and private entities, are an advocacy member of the California Food Policy Council, assist with legislative requirements and completed an interactive mapping project with Palomar College to identify areas of food hunger in North County.

“It shows where all the food distribution sites are,” Anglea said. “It’s a really rich set of data to help inform decision making and how we go about helping people with food hunger and get resources.”

Starling said the committee is the result of stakeholders who are committed to making a difference. One program is Thanks for Giving, which runs in August and takes in turkey donations for Thanksgiving.

The NCFPC received 807 donated turkeys, which will then be distributed before the November holiday, Anglea said.

“This is an event we created because we wanted to do something active with this committee,” Starling added. “But we save at the food bank, hunger knows no season.”

She also approached the Escondido Union School District to discuss how the two can engage in food recovery to benefit the students. Starling said it was a result of the collaborative effort of outreach and inviting other entities into the fold.

Another idea with potential, she added, is how to recover food waste and get it to farmers. Starling said the council brought in a farmer who takes in food waste and spoke about the logistics and challenges of recovering waste instead of it going to a landfill.

“It’s all about bringing us together, how can we help each other and in turn, how does that help us get food into the community and recovering food from food waste,” she added.