Friday, November 09, 2012

Feeding homeless teenagers in Vista Unified

VISTA: Group starts effort to feed homeless teens
Aug. 26, 2012

Volunteers Alex Gamble and Donna Harden stock the shelves in the Vista Teen Outreach's food pantry at Alta Vista High School on Wednesday. The program aims to help feed poor and homeless teens, and donations can be made at Kings Stationers, Sport About, the Vista Chamber of Commerce and all Vista fire stations. The food pantry is the first of several they expect to set up at middle and high schools in the Vista Unified School District.

A group of Vista residents has come together to help feed homeless teenagers in the city.

The dozen or so volunteers started collecting food in November for the effort, which they're calling Hunger Hurts.

Last week, they started distributing the food in a food pantry they created at Alta Vista High School.

Eventually, they plan to have food, clothing and toiletries available at all Vista Unified School District's middle and high schools, said Debbie Medrano, one of the organizers.

Denise Gamble came up with the idea after hearing about the need from customers of her store, Sport About.

"Coaches were telling me that one of their biggest concerns was trying to get food in the kids before they leave school," Gamble said. "I was just kind of blown away by that."

About 2,700 of the more than 22,000 students in the school district are classified as homeless, district officials have said.

The increase is the result of higher unemployment and more rigorous efforts to identify such students, they said.

Homeless, as defined by the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, doesn't just mean students living on the streets, but anybody who lacks "a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence." That would include families who are bunking with relatives or living in trailers.

"We're just trying to show the kids that people out here care and we want them to have a great life," Gamble said. "They're our future."

The volunteers wanted to focus on older kids because they thought there were other programs that collected food for younger children, she said.

The older students "want to go to be normal, and a lot of them are worried about what they're going to eat, if anything," she said.

Originally, the group wanted to start with community barbecues to help feed the needy. However, the volunteers have since decided to start with food banks at schools.

They have also donated some of the food collected to North County Lifeline.

Those with food, clothing or toiletries to donate can drop them off at King's North County Stationers, 1688 S. Melrose Drive, or Sport About, 1310 E. Vista Way.

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