Sign of the Times? Bread Lines in San Diego

Hundreds lined up to receive free bread and produce in Hillcrest Tuesday

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    NEWSLETTERS

    People stand patiently waiting for free produce in Hillcrest.

    A line wrapped down the block and around another one in Hillcrest Tuesday morning. If you didn't know, you would think they were handing out free money not free nectarines and bread.

    One after another, young and old collected plastic bags filled with fresh produce -- bread, cantalope, nectarines, bananas and potatoes -- from volunteers.

    With every thank you from the people pushing carts and holding boxes, volunteers behind the line can be heard chatting while they pack bags with fresh fruits and vegetables.

    "If they have children with them, they get one bag for each person!" a supervisor reminded the volunteers. The idea was to make sure the produce got to the people in need. More than once, people were encouraged to get back into line to get more if supplies held out.

    The San Diego Food Bank has more than 150 scheduled distributions throughout the county each month. The Hillcrest distribution is the first Tuesday of each month from 6 a.m. until 9 a.m. To mark the beginning of Hunger Action Month, a program aimed at getting community to take action against hunger, the makers of Home Pride and WonderBread donated 5,000 loaves of bread to San Diego families.

    Food bank staff chose the Hillcrest distribution to hand out the fresh food and the response appeared to us to be unusually large. Talk with organizers and they say it's all too common of a sight.

    "Sadly, this response is normal," said Chris Carter with the San Diego Food Bank. "We have seen the number of people we're serving increase dramatically. Last year we were serving 200,000 a month. This year, we're serving over 300,000 people a month."

    "The face of hunger in San Diego has changed," Carter said. "It's no longer just the low-income working poor." Now, San Diego's middle-class families affected by the recession need help.

    "Families in retail, construction, in service industries throughout the county who have been layed off need assistance," he said.

    One woman heard about the free fresh produce and thinks it's wonderful.

    "A lot of people after you pay your bills and necessities, your pantry is low," said Belinda Johnson. "When I am able to go to the store, I buy staple foods and I'm not able to buy fresh vegatables and fruits."

    "There's no reason to steal or take when they're giving it out for free," said Joseph Coleman known as "Papa Joe" to his friends.

    "I'm not working, I'm an old lady and I have only Social Security and I have to pay my rent," said Josie Duran.

    Throughout the U.S. campaigners will encourage elected officials, community leaders and local communities to join the fight against hunger by raising awareness and taking action.

    For every $1 donated, the San Diego Food Bank can provide three meals. To get involved, visit the San Diego Food Bank online or call (858) 527-1419 to make a donation.