Norma Flores is a single mother of three trying to put food on the table.
She stands in this line wrapped around Lampson Elementary School in Garden Grove, the first Wednesday of each month. Today she’s hoping to get some strawberries and squash.
“It helps a lot. Basically for people that have low incomes and have no jobs right now. It helps them out with food,” says Flores.
Second Harvest Food Bank supplies this mobile food pantry program at 39 Orange County schools.
“They really benefit monthly with at least half a week’s worth of groceries,” said Lampson Assistant Principal Lucia Perales.
The program helps over 11,000 children from 5,500 families with free, fresh produce every month.
“I know there’s a lot of low-income people around this area that need the help a lot,” Flores says.
“Very positive feeling and we feel rewarded to be putting in these hours,” says a volunteer named Maria.
The line is filled with people of all ages, a reminder that even behind smiling faces, hunger doesn’t discriminate. These are just some of the over 300,000 people at risk of hunger in Orange County alone, that includes one in six children.
“It’s definitely a hidden issue in Orange County that we’re trying to bring light to,” says Ellie Nedry of Second Harvest Food Bank.
“For me it truly hits home because I see myself as one of them growing up. Their kids, that was me growing up. So I know what it’s like to be in a family where there was no food on the table, to be from a low-income family,” says Principal Heriberto Angel.
And for Flores, whose daughter attends this school, the program is a blessing; enabling her to save money that would otherwise be spent on these items.
“I’m really tight with budget so it does help a lot. And it helps me be calm knowing I have some extra food at the house for my kids,” says Flores.
There’s no checking out of this line. It’s just neighbors helping neighbors. The currency is humanity, the receipt a “thank you” and a big smile.