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Questions surround meals served at San Diego's Safe Sleeping site

A look at San Diego's new safe sleeping site
Posted at 8:48 PM, Dec 05, 2023

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Homeless advocates are questioning the meals being served at the City of San Diego's Safe Sleeping sites.

Since launching the initiative, the city has said it provides free meals to people staying at the sites.

"Pop-Tarts in the morning and a small dish for dinner are not adequate meals for the day,” said Coleen Cusack, a local advocate who is running for San Diego City Council.

Cusack posted photos of the meals online, which she said were taken by someone staying at the city’s 20th and B Street site. This weekend, she posted a photo of two packs of Pop-Tarts, which the person claimed was their morning meal from the city. Cusack has also posted photos of an English muffin and a peanut butter cracker package.

A spokesperson for the city said it could not authenticate the photos but did confirm that breakfasts included two options as well as coffee.

ABC 10News asked San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria if he was concerned with the food that was being handed out.

“The Safe Sleeping sites are geared to have basically two meals a day. One is a light meal, the other one's a bit more,” Gloria said.

The mayor then explained that the current meal rollout is on purpose, adding, "Part of why we're doing that is to make sure that these individuals not only get good nutrition, but they also can maintain their public benefits like CalFresh so they can have the resources to be able to purchase food on their own and maintain their eligibility for benefits.”

ABC 10News asked the mayor if he believed Pop-Tarts, or peanut butter cracker packages, were a light meal.

“Listen, man, we're caring for hundreds of individuals and their personal preferences are unique,” Gloria said. "You know, I'm sure it's probably good for somebody, it's probably not enough for another. But that's precisely why we make sure that they continue to have the agency to purchase the food they want to purchase.”

The city said the current meal delivery setup is temporary, and the Pop-Tarts were provided by the nonprofit group Dreams For Change.

ABC 10News reached out to Dreams For Change, but no one was available to answer questions.

A city spokesperson said the city is finalizing a contract with a vendor to provide meal delivery services at the Safe Sleeping sites. The spokesperson said the city expects it to be done later in the month, and the vendor will deliver two meals per day to the sites.