Feeding San Diego – which each year distributes more than 26 million meals across San Diego County in partnership with local charities, faith communities, and more – is going into overdrive.

With the COVID-19 pandemic upending daily life throughout the region, Feeding San Diego is expanding its services and implementing new methods of distributing food to a growing number of residents from all walks of life who are going hungry. It has launched new drive-through pickups that adhere to social distancing and other COVID-19 guidelines, implemented new regional emergency deliveries, and opened new meal sites to help feed the tens of thousands of students who lost access to free breakfast and lunches when schools closed. It is updating and expanding its distribution sites daily. And it is boosting the amount of food supplied at its 10 rural mobile pantries.

“This is a worthy cause,” said Mike, a San Diego resident picking up food for some elderly neighbors during a drive-through Feeding San Diego event at SDCCU Stadium that served more than 1,200 families. “It’s a great situation for them to be providing food and meals to people that aren’t able to purchase things and don’t have the means, the money or the income right now.”

All of this is happening while Feeding San Diego is seeing a dramatic drop in the amount of food it normally receives cost-free. It has been able to grow its outreach thanks to generous philanthropic giving, including a $100,000 grant from The San Diego Foundation COVID-19 Community Response Fund. The grant is among the more than $2.7 million provided to nonprofits through the COVID-19 Community Response Fund.

Part of the Feeding America network, Feeding San Diego is an independent 501(c)(3) which operates a comprehensive food rescue and distribution network, including 200 Starbucks locations, 240 grocery stores, the San Diego Convention Center, the San Diego Padres, San Diego International Airport, grocery wholesalers and others. With so many of those sources shut down or reducing operations because of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, Feeding San Diego has been picking up just one-third of the food it typically rescues since the crisis began. That means higher costs to cover a sharp increase in purchased food, not to mention rising transportation and operating expenses.

“This crisis is impacting every neighborhood across every community in the entire county,” said Feeding San Diego CEO Vince Hall. “It’s resulting in unprecedented high levels of unemployment, of which the greatest immediate symptom is a dramatic increase in hunger. With us having to rely more on purchasing food, we simply could not afford to do what we are doing without the generous support of the community. These gifts illustrate what our region is all about.”

Those at the recent SDCCU Stadium distribution were beyond grateful. “I believe that it’s very important,” said a young man named Kariba. “Some people can’t get down here to even get their groceries. I’m here for an older lady that lives in my mom’s apartment complex… It’s not the normal San Diego that I’m used to.”

The San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund at The San Diego Foundation was created in partnership with San Diego County Supervisor and Co-Chair of the COVID-19 Subcommittee Nathan Fletcher, San Diego Gas & Electric, United Way of San Diego County, San Diego & Imperial Counties Labor Council, NEWS 8 and Alliance Healthcare Foundation. Emergency grants are made possible thanks to thousands of donations from donor-advised funds, businesses and individuals.

The COVID-19 Community Response Fund underscores how community foundations are partnering with family foundations, businesses and government agencies to raise and grant funds quickly to those most in need and to ensure an efficient and coordinated response.

“We are incredibly grateful to the San Diego Foundation for helping us help the community,” Hall said. “San Diego is a place that has become accustomed to dealing with crises, from the wildfires in 2003 and 2007 to the COVID-19 pandemic, and everyone throughout the region is once again rising to the occasion.”

Help San Diegans during this crisis by donating to the San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund.