The room inside Stars’ northwest Pasadena center, normally bustling with elementary students and outfitted with library books and college pennants, is now filled with mounds of rice, dry beans, and canned goods. Nearby, boxes of fresh produce ready for distribution showcase a rainbow of healthy colors. For Pasadena Community Foundation (PCF) staff members Kate Clavijo and Sarah Hilbert, a recent site visit demonstrated how a PCF grant has enabled Stars to adapt its youth-serving school program into one that focuses on the food security of its client families during the pandemic.
“Stars to Go” Food Distribution Program
Stars serves up to 250 students and their families in northwest Pasadena, one of the most densely populated and underserved areas in LA County. Many here are challenged by socio-economic or language barriers that can impede their chances of educational and life success. With a mission focused on empowering students despite these obstacles, Stars typically operates a broad program that includes tutoring and mentoring, homework assistance, and enrichment classes. Much of it continued in virtual form during the pandemic.
However, soon after the global pandemic began, Stars staff discovered that 85% of their families reported a sudden loss of income and desperately needed food assistance. Stars quickly designed a food distribution program to provide weekly supplies of groceries that include fresh fruits, quality protein/meat, and vegetables. Dubbed “Stars to Go,” the program has been supported by PCF’s COVID-19 Response Fund and will help students emerge from the pandemic as healthy as possible so they can continue with their education and thrive academically, emotionally, and socially.
Maintaining a Vital Connection
“Food was an incentive for families to continue their relationship with Stars during the pandemic,” says Executive Director Nancy Stiles. “The strength of Stars is our lengthy relationships with families. We are a trusted resource and have walked alongside them for years with school tutoring and providing college-preparation resources. When the pandemic hit, we knew this was our moment to make a big difference and leverage that trust.” Now, because these vital family relationships have been maintained over the course of 12+ months, Stars sees a new niche it plans to address: designing mental health and holistic wellness programs.
Over the course of 2020 alone, Stars delivered 46,386 meals, which equaled 130,000 pounds of fresh food distributed to families. At the peak of the pandemic, 55 families (270 individuals) were coming weekly for food and supplies; today that number stands at approximately 40 families. Stars plans to continue with its food distribution through the summer months.
Join us on our site visit to Stars by watching a short video – (1:45 minutes in length).