TIJUANA — Some of the food packed by volunteers last June in the Million Meal Event is being distributed to the poorest families in Tijuana and elsewhere in Baja California.
Meanwhile, the deacons of the San Diego Diocese are organizing this year’s charitable event, which will be held June 10 and 11 once more at Cathedral Catholic High School.
Their goal is to build on the successful inaugural event. They have set their sights on surpassing the more than 1 million meals they packed in 2022, and to raising more than $250,000, the amount needed to make that a reality.
“We had more good people turn out than we dreamed of last June,” said Deacon Mike Daniels, who heads the organizing committee. “That inspired us to aim higher.”
The nutritious meals packed last June, in partnership with the nonprofit organization Kids Around the World, were distributed to children and families living in extreme poverty in Zambia, the Philippines and Mexico.
In Mexico, the painstaking inspection process the federal government required took months to complete to be able to bring the meal packets into the country, said Guillermo Gomez, the exporter who facilitated the transportation of two trailers’ worth of food packets.
The meals finally started arriving in late October at Casa de los Pobres, an organization operated by the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady, Queen of Peace that serves those living in extreme poverty in Tijuana.
Sister Armida Andrade, who manages the Casa, said in a phone interview that the food is gradually being distributed in a number of ways.
The house hands out the meal packets every other Thursday to the families that converge in their facility for a variety of services, arriving by foot and bus.
Two sisters go out several times a month to far-flung neighborhoods where families live in improvised housing, struggling to survive day to day. The delay in receiving the meal packets has complicated that task.
“The rain makes it impossible for us to take our vehicles to these colonias,” said Sister Andrade. “The roads turn into mud that carries nails, screws and other debris that make it hard to drive there. We have to wait until they dry out.”
Families converge on the Casa’s trucks, from where the sisters distribute boxes of the meals to the colonia’s residents, mostly women and children.
The sisters also give some of the packets to Haitian refugees who have set up tents in a Tijuana lot. They are awaiting an opportunity to apply for asylum in the U.S. The 120 or so men, women and children live in tough outdoor conditions, made all the more punishing as the temperatures drop in the winter. She said the sisters are allowing a newborn baby and his mother and father to live temporarily in their facility to keep them safe and warm.
“It’s great having a baby around.”
A mission run by Franciscans also receives meal packets and distributes them to workers who labor in the agricultural fields of the town of San Quintín, down the Baja California peninsula.
Sister Andrade and several of the sisters who run Casa de los Pobres traveled to Cathedral Catholic High School last June during the Million Meal Event. She addressed the hundreds of volunteers during one of the packing shifts, telling them what impact receiving food makes, particularly on a child going to bed hungry.
What would she say now?
“The poor grow poorer by the day. They face a very difficult economy. Many struggled to survive COVID and find any kind of work. The need has not changed.”
Casa de los Pobres, a nonprofit organization, seeks donations to help the poorest families in Tijuana. Checks and money orders may be sent to P.O. Box 432256, San Ysidro, CA 92143-2256. For more information, visit casadelospobresusa.com.
Save the Date
The deacons of the San Diego Diocese will hold the Million Meal Event on June 10 and 11 at Cathedral Catholic High School. They will seek more than 3,000 volunteers and donations to hold this second-annual packing event to provide nutritious food meals for impoverished children across the border and around the world. For more information, visit sdcatholic.org/millionmeal2023.