Rosy Vasquez, the Executive Director and Founder of Community Through Hope, is no stranger to navigating adversity.

Some of the services that their clients utilize are services that she, too, has had to rely on to survive.

“There’s not a big difference between you and me,” Rosy said to one client who asked how she knew so much about the resources they needed assistance with. “This time around, I’m on this side – who knows? Maybe next time you’re going to help me.”

Nine years ago, Rosy wrote her very first food security-related grant for a program that at the time was called “Fresh To Families.” The goal of Fresh To Families was to improve access to healthy, locally-grown food in Chula Vista by building gardens in peoples’ backyards. The Chula Vista Charitable Foundation, one of our regional affiliates, funded the Fresh To Families program, which grew into Project Nutrition, a program at Community Through Hope that we were able to support this year through the COVID-19 Community Response Fund.

With a $32,000 grant from the response fund, Community Through Hope has been able to provide trauma-informed nutritional care to those most adversely impacted by the pandemic. The nonprofit is also a certified nutrition pantry, which means that they hand out fruits, vegetables, proteins and grains to the clients they serve.

The grant also supported the personal protective equipment needed for volunteers to continue bagging and serving food, and helped start a senior nutrition pantry – an entire bay in their facility dedicated to nutrition for seniors. Community Through Hope has partnered with Amazon to help support nutrition delivery services to about 1,500 seniors each week.

Since March 16, Community Through Hope, a regional hub for Feeding San Diego, has fed 30,000 people a month, distributed over 5 million pounds of nutrition, and logged 40,000 hours of volunteerism. In fact, all of Community Through Hope’s current 15-person team are volunteers, a third of which are former clients of the organization.

Pivoting to Meet Emergent Needs

Born out of the need to address food insecurity and to assist the unsheltered in the Chula Vista and South Bay areas, Community Through Hope normally serves 5,000 food insecure individuals a month, while also providing trauma-informed case management for the unsheltered community. That was before the pandemic.

When the first stay-at-home order was implemented, Rosy and the Community Through Hope team knew what needed to be done. Their building typically housed a community classroom, a thrift store that was a budding social venture, a community donation center, case management offices and the food pantry that was already serving those in need.

Within 24 hours, they had converted their entire facility to emergency services, and became one of the first local agencies to provide drive-up services for the community including access to nutrition, clothing, hygiene needs, bus passes, IDs, and a mail center for people without physical addresses.

Rosy shares that these volunteers, who are regularly tested to ensure the safety of the team and their clients, have turned their lives over for the betterment of their neighbors and friends.

With the recent surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in San Diego County and the new Regional Stay Home Order, more communities are feeling the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. According the San Diego Hunger Coalition, 1 in 3 San Diegans are food insecure, a significant jump from before the pandemic.

Rosy shared that of Community Through Hope’s new clients, about 33% are experiencing food insecurity for the first time in their lives.

“We’re truly meant to be here on this Earth to help other people,” Rosy says. “Now more than ever, fellow San Diegans need our help.”

A donation to the San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund will support nonprofits that are aiding the most vulnerable communities in our region.