Heather shares her passion for Unite NCI, talking with Pastor Nate Alcorn of The Church at Rancho Bernado (left), and Barry Leonard, Poway City Councilmember
Q: What makes an organization like UNITE unique? What are its strengths?
A: What really drew me to it at first was the combination of not just church members and churches, but government groups and schools and our political leaders and volunteers in the community – BRINGING EVERYBODY TO THE TABLE. Just how powerful and impactful it is to bring multiple resources to the table so we could tackle one problem instead of individual groups each finding a problem. We’re just so much more powerful as a group.
Q: What is the biggest takeaway from your involvement in UNITE so far?
A: The biggest takeaway that I had was probably at the luncheon in May 2018 which is where we launched UNITE, sort of presented it and informed the community about what this was. When I walked into the room, it was packed – every single seat was taken. It was almost shoulder-to shoulder standing room. When it was time for us to let people know about the food-insecure families in North County, immediately people were there, whipping out their checkbooks, ready to jump in and help. I was a little surprised about that – I thought the people would maybe take the information and go home and digest it and figure out if they or their organization or company could help out. But people were willing to jump in on the spot.
Q: Tell us a little bit about the backpack program. Were you already aware of how many families are food-insecure in North County?
A: I had no idea the number of families that are considered to be food-insecure. I think that number was so surprising. This is such a socioeconomically diverse area of the county, and I think that it opened a lot of eyes to some of the problems in pockets of North County. When we started the backpack program, the idea was to have students at schools have access to food that they could eat over the weekend. That was so surprising for a lot of us, I think. You know, the schools are able to provide and sort of fill in the gaps for students during the week – with lunch programs and even breakfast programs – but on the weekends, these kids have nothing. That was pretty apparent when we started digging through the numbers and saw how many people were signed up for the program. It’s mind-boggling that a kid might come home on a Friday and from Friday to Monday wonder where their next meal might come from.
A LITTLE BACKSTORY on UNITE NORTH COUNTY INLAND
1 in 5 children in San Diego go hungry over the weekend
HUNGRY NO MORE – Uniting to End Childhood Hunger
In San Diego County, 1 in 5 children in public schools is considered “food insecure.” That means those students often don’t know where they will get their next meal. That’s a number that UNITE hopes to change. UNITE, an organization with chapters throughout San Diego County, is a coalition of community groups that aims to address problems in the inland North County community. The group is intentionally diverse – it is comprised of churches, civic groups, businesses, and nonprofits. While UNITE’s overarching goal is to help people thrive, its current initiative centers around food insecure students and their families. This year, UNITE’s fundraising efforts and backpack drive ensured 350 hungry children would be fed. In just a few short months over $70,000 was contributed.
HERE’S THE COOL PART: We started UNITE NCI as a group of church members led by Pastor Nate Alcorn. Stepping out into North County we said, “Let’s solve a problem together. Who is with us?” And we took the phrase ‘everyone has a role to play’ seriously. We truly believe that this church can be a uniting force in our city, and we’re ready to act on it. Without our leadership in this area, 350 children in Escondido would still be hungry over the weekend. In 2019, we plan to feed 500.