Food insecurity isn't a term most of us are familiar with in U.C. or La Jolla, especially at Thanksgiving.. "However, a half million San Diegans are food insecure. That is about 1 in 5 people who don't know where their next meal will come from," according to Andrew Hoffman, Coordinator of Hand Up Teen Leadership at the Jewish Family Service.(JFS). Hoffmann is happy to show off the upgraded JFS facility in the Kearny Mesa area, especially the Esther and Bud Fischer Hand Up Youth Food Pantry. He introduced Daniel Krasner, a senior at University City High School, the teen co-chair of Team Leadership at JFS. Thirty-four teens in Teen Leadership are learning social change and how to make a difference for good in people's lives.
Krasner is engaged in good works as the president of Hand Up club at UCHS. He is a likable young man with a ready grin, although this is a serious weekend when he sends out college applications and has tryouts for UCHS varsity soccer. His duties as co-chair for Team Leadership involve coordinating events, teaching high school students to have a food awareness and go to local stores to ask for food donations. He also promotes a higher awareness of food insecurity issues on social media. Over 35 club members are on his Hand Up roster at UCHS. "I bumped it up from 10 early on," he said proudly.
Krasner credits his older brother Ari with getting him interested in this mission. "My brother started the program as a freshman. I joined my sophomore year. We have volunteered for JFS since we were little. Ari goes to George Washington University in D.C and just turned 20. I hope to go to USC...such a nice school. Competition is so tough; grade point average, SAT, community service all play a role. I have been president of Hand Up both junior and senior year."
Daniel got his start in education at the Jewish Academy in Carmel Valley from kindergarten through grade 3. Then he went to a small school near Montgomery Field, Soille Hebrew Day School for grades 4-8. He entered UCHS as a 9th grader.
A pantry holds lots of food at this JFS facility. The Hand Up Youth Pantry distributes supplemental food and hygiene products to thousands in need across San Diego County. Hand Up teen leaders supervise volunteers in the food pantry at military food distributions, deliver community educational presentation on food insecurity, raise funds and advocate to relieve hunger. Clients with a case manager are allowed to choose what food they want or need, including pet food and baby food. There is a point system, where healthy foods cost fewer points than unhealthy ones.
Then there is the pubic distribution of food from JFS. which has two military food distributions a month. Hoffman chimes in that "the cost of living is so high in San Diego as compared to some place like Iowa. Food is an issue for many in the military. Besides that, lots of enlisted military do not have a family support system here if they are from another part of the country. We also visit St Paul's at 6th and Olive, where the homeless, some middle class folks, and older people line up for food." When asked if this is an ecumenical opportunity, he replied. "Of course. This year's Team Leadership participants are 19 non-Jewish and 15 Jewish." Krasner also said that his UCHS club brought in people from all religions."
Synagogues donate food, especially during High Holy Days. Businesses also support the cause and so do many other generous San Diegans. The Hand Up Teen Leadership Program helps teens improve their leadership skills, increases their leadership and resilience as positive agents for change, builds their awareness about the issues of hunger and food insecurity in San Diego. Monthly meetings focus on skills like public speaking, team building, fundraising, advocacy, goal setting and project planning.
Krasner also is a Price Fellow at UCHS. "Aaron Price Fellows prepares highly motivated and diverse San Diego public high school students to be responsible, engaged, and caring members of their community, according to their website." Aaron Price, the son of David and Allison Price and grandson of Sol Price, died in 1989 at age fifteen from a year long battle with cancer. The Price family started the Aaron Price Fellows in honor of him in 1991. Krasner had to write an application, go through a selection process and formal interviews. Besides the JFS involvement in Team Leadership and the Hand Up Club at UCHS, he played j.v. soccer and varsity lacrosse in his freshman and sophomore years, In his junior year, he played varsity tennis and j.v soccer. For his senior year, he is not sure if he will play lacrosse or tennis, but he is hoping to play varsity soccer.
Andrew Hoffman says the level of involvement varies for Teen Leadership program participants. "Some kids start off shy their first year as freshmen and four years later, they are speaking up." Daniel wasn't shy. He was right out of the starting gate. Too bad he isn't old enough to run for President this year. No doubt that will happen some day. This Thanksgiving you might want to check out the website of JFS at jfssd.org/handupteen and get involved.