Food Recovery in Marin County: By picking up excess fresh food from businesses and immediately delivering it to nonprofits serving Marin’s most vulnerable children, adults, and families, we address the critical issues of hunger, food waste, and global warming.


Highlights


Hunger and poor nutrition negatively impact a child’s ability to do well in school.

Sending food home with Next Generation students allows the kids and their parents to reclaim precious family time.

The students bring friends, siblings and cousins who may not have eaten for a day or more to share the program’s food.

Food Donations Help Break the Cycle of Poverty

Next Generation Scholars helps middle and high school students from Marin’s low-income families reach their dreams of getting into college. The organization is housed in a small white building in downtown San Rafael; if you blink, you could miss it. But big changes are happening inside. One hundred percent of their students go to college and 98 percent of those students graduate, helping them and their families break the cycle of poverty.

Next Generation families make an average of $23,000 a year. There is not much a family can do with that income in Marin County other than struggle to get by. As a result, families are often trapped in their circumstances. Next Generation Scholars creates a path out of poverty for their students and their families, 98% of whom are Latino.

The program blends rigorous academics with wrap-around social services that include housing resources, immigration legal services, a free clothing store, access to medical services, free prescription glasses and food. Next Generation’s model is built on the fact that kids don’t do well in school if their basic needs aren’t being met.

Meeting students’ basic needs

Sally Matsuishi is the Executive Director of Next Generation and founded the organization 10 years ago. If you ask her what makes the program work, she says, “Balancing high-expectations curricula with meeting basic needs helps us uplift communities. Our students can read Angela Davis and the great works of Latin American authors, and get hot meals, mental health and medical access, and housing referrals for their families.”

Next Generation families make an average of $23,000 a year. There is not much a family can do with that income in Marin County other than struggle to get by. As a result, families are often trapped in their circumstances. Next Generation Scholars creates a path out of poverty for their students and their families, 98% of whom are Latino.

One of the many critical services Next Generation provides to students is a food program, which includes The Hot Meal Program and Summer Academy Lunches. Study after study shows that hunger and poor nutrition negatively impact a child’s ability to do well in school, making it difficult for a child from a low-income family to escape their economic circumstances. Next Generation provides two hot meals plus a snack to each student every day. The program also sends food home with kids when they don’t have enough time to eat at Next Generation because they are so focused on their studies. This guarantees them a healthy, hot dinner. And, there is often enough food to share with their families.

ExtraFood’s donations support kids’ learning

In the early days of the program, Next Generation was handling meal planning and preparation on their own. It was an expensive effort with a $15,000 annual budget, not including the staff time needed to make the meals. The resources put toward the meal program were taking away from investing in books, microscopes and teacher training. Sally knew they had to retool their approach to the food program because without education, these kids would be hard-pressed to make better lives for themselves.

About three years ago, Next Generation began to source food donations. Since then, they have received regular donations from ExtraFood, the only countywide food recovery program of its kind in Marin. ExtraFood works closely with Marin nonprofit partners that serve low-income children, adults and families, staying up to the minute on their food needs. ExtraFood’s staff locates donations of excess food from businesses that meet those needs and volunteers pick up and deliver the food in less than 30 minutes, at no cost to donors or recipients. What might normally end up in the landfill goes to help many of the 50,000 vulnerable people in Marin who need extra food. Half of those people are children and seniors.

ExtraFood’s donations began in the nick of time. Next Generation had just doubled the size of their program to 80 kids during the school year who were eating the two meals and a snack each day. During the summer, they were serving three meals a day to 100 kids. That’s over a thousand meals each year. “Food donations give me the freedom to focus on educating the students,” says Sally.

Hugo Anaya is 17 years old and has been a Next Generation Scholar for four years. His mom doesn’t drive, and his neighborhood – San Rafael’s Venetia Valley – is a food desert. Combine both factors and eating health is a challenge. ExtraFood’s donations provide nutritious foods such as chicken, rice, burritos and fresh produce – items the students might not otherwise have access to, and the kind of food that helps them be healthy enough to thrive in school.  

Next Generation shares the ExtraFood donations with kids outside the program too. The students bring friends, siblings and cousins who may not have eaten for a day or more to share the program’s food. Sally also gets calls from teachers at the local high school with stories about kids who haven’t eaten breakfast or lunch. They’re working as hard as they can to do well in school so they can build better lives for themselves, but that’s hard to do on an empty stomach. The teachers send students to pick up crates full of breakfast foods, produce and snacks they can eat throughout the school day to give them energy.

San Rafael’s Los Moles donates to Next Generation

One of ExtraFood’s donors who provides meals to Next Generation students and their families is Los Moles, a Mexican restaurant in San Rafael that’s owned and operated by Lito Saldana. Lito’s donations include freshly made rice, beans, meat and moles – mouth-watering sauces used in traditional Mexican cooking. His goal is to educate the Latino community on their culinary heritage and familiarize them with real Mexican food from a healthy perspective – he doesn’t use sugar, lard or gluten in his dishes.

“Community is important to me as a person and as a business,” says Lito. “I donate because I know people don’t have enough money to eat well.”

Lito’s wide variety of moles are now one of Next Generation families’ favorite things to eat. Not only do they taste delicious, they feel like home. Because of Los Moles, every kid now has a story from their parents about when they were back in their home countries - how they’d pick up spices, grind them on the spot and take them home to cook beloved family dishes.

“Eating in all cultures and loving a child are so intertwined,” says Sally. “Los Moles is giving that back where it’s needed.”

Prepared food means more quality family time

Food justice is often about numbers: who has food, how many people have food. But sending food home also helps Next Generation’s parents and kids reclaim precious family time. Having enough healthy food is critical for a child’s well-being, but quality time with their parents is just as important for their development.

“The kids in this program are deeply loved,” says Sally. “Their parents have big dreams for them and have put blood, sweat and tears into moving them forward. It’s important for the students to spend time with their parents who they don’t get to see that much.”

Many parents work in construction, gardening, restaurants or cleaning houses. They drop their kids at 6:00 a.m. and pick them up at 7:00 p.m. after working hard all day. Feeling exhausted makes it difficult to face preparing dinner. And the time they’d spend cooking for their children is time they’d rather spend hearing about what they learned in school and what colleges they want to attend. That’s when the food Next Generation sends home can make a big difference to a family.

The food Next Generation provides also gives the students time back in their day. Vickie Diaz is 17 and has been in the program for three years. She says, “The food helps me because my parents work late. And if I get home late, I have to cook. But, if I eat at Next Generation, I can focus on my homework so that when I get home, I have time to shower and take care of my two younger siblings.”

“Beyond making sure kids have enough to eat,” says Sally, “the food donations relieve kids and their families of stress so they can focus on their school work and each other rather than worry about where their next meal will come from.”

 

Supported in part by:

Marin Community Foundation County of Marin The San Francisco Foundation