SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - San Diego County is missing out on millions of federal dollars that could go to feeding children.
The San Diego Hunger Coalition did a large, comprehensive study over the past year and will be releasing a full report in January. They looked at federal nutrition programs being utilized in the school districts and community organizations like the Boys & Girls Clubs and the YMCA.
"There are available dollars at the federal level that we could be channeling to our efforts locally that we're not going after and part of the reason we're not going after them is it's incredibly complicated," said Anahid Brakke, Executive Director of the San Diego Hunger Coalition.
Brakke said getting the federal dollars can be time-consuming and that some districts might not even know about them. The process can also be daunting for some districts due to money being needed up front to cover food or equipment.
The Hunger Coalition hopes to make the process easier for districts by providing toolkits. Even parents wanting to get involved will have access to them and can start identifying necessary steps.
Brakke said small charitable donations could be used to get federal programs going and it would yield big benefits.
"It really takes a community-level focus to address hunger in the most efficient ways," said Brakke.
A big area of improvement is getting federal reimbursement for after-school suppers.
Only 9 percent of students in the county who receive free and reduced meals are getting after-school suppers -- that's a loss of over $121 million that could go to reimbursing after-school supper programs.
"Some districts are doing an incredible job, but there are still some opportunities," said Brakke. "What it takes to unlock these dollars is a relatively minor investment of time and resources."
Kitchens for Good helps provide meals for after-school suppers in the South Bay.
"These are pre-packaged, warm, ready-to-eat meals, that provide that additional nutrition for at-risk youth who might not have that meal when they go home," said Aviva Paley, Senior Director for Kitchens for Good.
Paley said this year they're growing to provide 50,000 meals to over 125,000.
Communities are invited to take a deeper dive into the Hunger Free San Diego research and specific needs in their areas.