WHAT’S HAPPENING’S TRI-CITY VOICE
March 22, 2016
BY ROBBIE FINLEY PHOTOS COURTESY OF HAYWARD PROMISE NEIGHBORHOOD
ometimes, getting a nutritious meal can make a world of difference. Hayward’s Fresh Food for Families initiative, administered through the Hayward Promise Neighborhood program, does just that by providing residents of the Jackson Triangle with free meals twice a month. One in five children in the U.S. are estimated to be living in poverty today, a difficult statistic that can be felt in the Jackson Triangle neighborhood, which runs along Jackson Street, Harder
Road, and Whitman Street in Hayward. For more than five years, the federally-funded program has made strides to alleviate the challenges that local children face every day through multifaceted outreach intended to carry children “from cradle to career.” In 2010, the Department of Education kicked off the Promise Neighborhoods program with the mission of supporting America’s children who live in distressed communities. Fresh Food for Families, which operates through support from the Alameda County Community Food Bank, is one of the outreach programs established as a result of the initiative. “Services start as early as prenatal, all the way up to high school,” explained Lauren
Pitcher, Hayward Promise Neighborhood’s community manager for the last three years. “The mobile food pantry travels to different locations and gives away fresh, healthy food to the Jackson Triangle,” Pitcher said. Distributions began last October at The Hub (formerly John Muir Elementary School) and Eden Greenway Park. The types of food available vary by distribution date. “One is a full distribution that includes milk, rice, beans, fruit, peanut butter, pasta, etc., and then there is a produceonly distribution,” explained Pitcher. According to the Food Bank website, the distributed food is acquired as either surplus, donation, or through purchase. “We have served 1,100 families. It’s been pretty successful,” Pitcher said. One of the locations used for distribution is a park, which Pitcher says helps to facilitate family attendance by giving younger children a place to play while parents line up. Though the Hayward Promise Neighborhood services the Jackson Triangle, all are welcome at the food distribution locations. “Before the food even comes, people are lined up. It’s been really wonderful,” Pitcher said, adding, “We haven’t had to turn anyone away.”
“The (Alameda County) Food Bank has done a really good job of helping us track how many people come… They’re always prepared for the next time,” Pitcher said of the Promise Neighborhood partner organization. “The beauty of the Fresh Food for Families program is that it’s right in the heart of the Jackson Triangle,” she said. “(Hayward Promise Neighborhood)’s funding is managed by CSU East Bay. We do all of the promotions, working with CSU East Bay students to volunteer,” Pitcher explained of the program’s relationship to the university. Twice a month, when the mobile pantry makes its way to the Jackson Triangle neighborhood, students from CSU East Bay come out to help with the distribution. “It’s been a great experience getting the college students from CSU East Bay and Chabot to volunteer,” Pitcher added, noting that this is the first time that the Food Bank has consistently seen the same people volunteering every month. Hayward Promise Neighborhood has 12 staff members housed at CSU East Bay and 10 partner organizations that help administer their outreach to the Jackson Triangle area and Hayward Unified School District.
Through monthly meetings, all of the heavy lifting of the coordination is sorted out and tracked so that outreach is as efficient and effective as possible. “There is quite a bit of checking in to see how everything is doing,” Pitcher said, adding that they also submit bi-annual reports to the Department of Education, which wants to track the progress of all Promise Neighborhoods. Though the program has been successful for the past five years, it is fast reaching a critical moment in its life. “Our first round of funding will be ending in December of this year,” Pitcher said. As a result, the Hayward Promise Neighborhood team is building a strategic plan for sustainability, in the event that this chapter of the initiative does not see its funding renewed. “We hope that there is an opportunity to apply for an extension,” Pitcher noted, saying, “We don’t know when the federal government will allow us to reapply.” In May, Hayward Promise Neighborhood is planning to hold a summit with its outreach partners to strategize and address their funding situation, which is a harrowing prospect but Pitcher and her colleagues remain hopeful. “(There are) many strategies underway to keep our promise,” she said. Currently, distributions are scheduled through August and will be scheduled for the remainder of the year. For more information about Fresh Food for Families, distribution times and dates, or other Hayward Promise Neighborhood programs, please visit www.haywardpromise.org. Fresh Food for Families Distribution Thursday, Mar 24 11 a.m. – 12 p.m. Hayward Unified School District Family Resource Hub 24823 Soto Rd, Hayward Free