Tzu-Chi foundation and school district to give free food bags

Photo/Anthony Victoria: San Bernardino City Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Dale Marsden handing out blankets and fresh food to resident Frank Soto during the commencement of the Tzu Chi mobile food pantry on Nov. 20, 2016.
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San Bernardino City Unified School District officials and philanthropists are inviting residents to take advantage of two mobile food pantry service events this weekend.

The Tzu-Chi Foundation is helping organize free food giveaways designed to provide over 500 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables, rice, beans, and other produce to the community.

Tzu-Chi representative Michael Tsai asserts that stakeholders have thoroughly analyzed the needs of struggling students and their families by observing economic trends, resident income levels, and poverty statistics. The nonprofit organization has helped address the needs of San Bernardino residents since 1994.

“Many of these kids have nothing,” Tsai said. “We were saddened to see them struggle. All of us were compelled to do something.”

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U.S. Census Bureau data compiled for the County of San Bernardino from 2011 to 2015 indicates that about 19.5-percent of residents live in poverty. Further figures demonstrate that 15.7-percent of families and 32.8-percent of female-led households saw their incomes decrease below the poverty line.

Tsai said Tzu-Chi and school district officials have helped feed approximately 16,000 people and 4,000 families in the San Bernardino area in the eight months since they’ve launched the food pantry. They hold two events every month. Tsai expressed disappointment in the food distribution rate. He believes many more families can take advantage of the pantry service.

“There’s so much food to give out, but very little people come by,” expressed Tsai. “And we know the need for an improved diet is there. We hope to break the cycle of poor nutrition in this community.” District Community Engagement Executive Director Ginger Ontiveros said the school district is blessed to have a partner like Tzu-Chi.

“What Tzu-Chi does give them is fresh [produce] that helps alleviate financial concerns, and they do it with love,” she said. “They’re awesome.”

Residents will be able to visit Indian Springs High School on July 16 and Juanita Blakely Jones Elementary School on July 17 from 9 a.m to 11 a.m to receive bags of fresh food. For more information, call (909) 447-7799 ext. 455.

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