Todd Gloria speaks while Toni Atkins (far left) and Scott Peters (far right) look on. Photo by Chris Jennewein

Three of San Diego’s most influential political leaders joined seven local nonprofits on Friday to begin distributing 2,500 boxes of federal food aid and encourage hungry residents to disregard President Trump’s advice on masks.

Rep. Scott Peters, state Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins and Assemblymember Todd Gloria spoke briefly in front of large stacks of USDA Farmers to Familes Food Boxes at Jewish Family Service of San Diego, which has provided nearly 1 million meals since the coronavirus pandemic began.

The boxes contain a letter from President Trump describing masks as optional during the pandemic, but Atkins added her own letter offering “accurate information” as well as masks and hand sanitizer to the boxes.

“Personally, I’m offended by the letter. I recently lost my uncle to COVID-19,” she said.

Gloria, who is seeking election as Mayor of San Diego in November, also criticized the President’s political message. “When the need is greatest, we need to put partisanship aside,” he said.

And Peters agreed, saying, “These kinds of relief programs are crucial to the COVID-19 relief effort and I’m disappointed that the president chose to politicize this taxpayer funded assistance.”

The social service agencies distributing the boxes included Jewish Family Service, the San Diego Food Bank, People Assisting the Homeless, Paving Great Futures, Veterans Village of San Diego, Serving Seniors and the San Diego & Imperial Counties Labor Council.

The labor council, which represents 136 unions, has been holding food distribution events on weekends at the stadium in Mission Valley.

“There’re a lot of people still hurting. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help,” said Keith Maddox, executive secretary-treasurer of the council.

James Floros, president and CEO of the food bank, said he expected an increased need for free food in the community for at least two more years due to unemployment and other disruptions from the coronavirus.

“There could be a million people in San Diego County who are now food insecure,” he said.

USDA food boxes in the parking lot of Jewish Family Service of San Diego.

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.