Girl Scouts with donations at a past Stuff the Bus holiday food drive. Photo courtesy MTS

Officials at the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank say they face demand that has doubled due to the economic impacts of COVID-19.

That means the food bank must feed 600,000 San Diegans this holiday season – it also makes this week’s annual Stuff the Bus food drive more important than ever.

The partners in the countywide drive, the Metropolitan Transit System (MTS)North County Transit District (NCTD), the Albertsons/Vons supermarket chain, and Girl Scouts San Diego are coordinating to benefit both the San Diego Food Bank and the North County Food Bank.

“As a company, we are fully committed to hunger relief programs, and are proud to host a food drive tackling this important issue,” said Rick Williams, Vons & Albertsons Area Vice President.

Donations will help feed nearly 15,000 seniors living in poverty, and students from 47 elementary schools and eight school districts who rely on free meals.

The drive began Monday, with a final push through the weekend. On Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., MTS and NCTD will have buses at 15 different supermarkets, while more than 1,400 Girl Scouts do their parts by encouraging the community to offer donations.

Organizers set a goal of breaking last year’s record of 178,600 pounds of food donated during Stuff the Bus week.

They most urgently need canned tuna or chicken (in water), canned soups (low sodium, low fat), dry or canned beans (low sodium), canned fruit (packed in juice, no added sugar) and vegetables, cereal (low sugar, whole grain or bran), dried fruit, rice (brown or wild) and pasta (whole grain), nuts and seeds (unsalted almonds, flax), powdered milk (low or non-fat), peanut butter (no sugar added) and infant formula.

All food will go directly to the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank and the North County Food Bank to be distributed to those in need.

Shoppers can help this week by donating $5 for hunger bags at check out, or dropping non-perishable food items in specially marked bins any of the 73 San Diego County Albertsons or Vons locations.

They also may donate online. The Virtual Food Drive may be accessed to purchase food items or donate directly to the food bank.

“This year, the COVID-19 pandemic has left thousands unemployed or furloughed, making it even more difficult for families to put food on the table,” Alejandra Sotelo-Solis, Vice-chair of the MTS Board of Directors and National City Mayor. “As a community, we must do our best to help those in need, and I’m confident San Diegans will step up to the challenge.”

In addition, Stuff the Bus is Girl Scouts San Diego’s largest countywide service project. Girl Scouts earn a patch by volunteering for this event, leading their own grocery collections and delivering donations at drop-off sites.

For additional Stuff the Bus information, visit the MTS website or the NCTD website.

– Staff reports