After many years of volunteering at Jamul Community Church (JCC), Melodee Takasugi, newly retired from Cuyamaca Community College, took on a new role: running a Feeding San Diego food distribution partnership to make sure her community had the food they needed to thrive.

Jamul is a 16.8 square mile rural town 120 miles east of downtown, “where some of us have paved roads, and some of us don’t,” says Melodee.

After wildfires in 2009, 13 families came to JCC each week seeking help from the church

JCC now serves more than 700 people in a single day. Melodee, her husband, and their team of volunteers, ages 8 to 84, tailor food distributions to her neighbors’ changing needs.

Grocery stores are far for Jamul residents, and higher prices make the choice between food and other necessities a daily decision. Food is free at JCC to anyone in need every Thursday from 10am – 3:30pm, accommodating the community’s unique work hours and lengthy travel time.

Participants are welcomed with coffee, tortillas and beans, making the food distribution a community event. They can attend free onsite English and Spanish classes and are supported by an informal network of job connectors, community advocates and neighbors looking out for one another. Melodee says program attendees increasingly recognize the need in their community, and deliver food back to their own neighbors who can’t make it to the distribution.

The fresh produce, including potatoes, onions, carrots and stone fruit, are both appreciated and practical, particularly for those whose unreliable power often means camp stove cooking. One senior shared that this distribution is her only social outing for the week. She tells Melodee, “I love all of you, you’re just so good to me.”

The generosity of Feeding San Diego’s community – including volunteers like Melodee, donors and food industry partners – provides consistent and dignified access to healthy food to help our neighbors make ends meet.