This wish became reality for more than 50 families Thursday morning, June 21, 2018, when Pechanga Resort Casino teamed with Feeding America IE and the Elsinore Women’s Club to provide a food pantry for families of Elsinore Elementary – an elementary school serving an underprivileged area of Lake Elsinore where more than 96 percent of students are enrolled in the free- and reduced-cost lunch programs.
The pantry was created through an initial $10,000 donation from Pechanga, with funds exclusively coming from harvested coins from Pechanga’s fountains and water features. Seeing a need for a pantry, Pechanga donated the money to Feeding America IE, who worked with Pechanga and the Elsinore Women’s Club to make the pantry a reality.
“This is a great opportunity for us to meaningfully interact with students and families in our community and provide them with heathy food options that take care of them over the weekend,” said Heidi Dodd, president of the Elsinore Women’s Club and a member of the Lake Elsinore School Board. “A lot of these students don’t have assistance over the weekend. During the summer, we only have six weeks of what we call summer literacy camp and we selected this time to be able to distribute much needed food and snacks to help get them through the weekend.
“We were thrilled when we heard that Pechanga had specifically made a donation that specifically would support the efforts at this school and we jumped at the chance. We’ve never done anything like this before.”
The bags, which can be refilled with fresh food every Thursday throughout the summer, contained perishable and non-perishable items from across the food spectrum. Special emphasis was placed on providing fresh fruit and vegetables, which came in the form of bananas and large bags of carrots. Also included in the bags was a bilingual cookbook featuring recipes using many of the items contained in the bag.
The need came about because of the school’s location in what is essentially a food desert. Outside of a small local market, there isn’t a grocery store anywhere in the area and many of the houses in the area are small with multiple families living in each one.
One of the recipients, Michelle Nugent, who was there with her second-grade daughter, Olivia, explained to her where the money came from.
“They used the wishing coins you throw in the fountain to give us the goodie bags,” Nugent told her wide-eyed daughter. Isn’t that amazing?”
Nugent said the food bags could not come at a better time in terms of feeding her six kids.
“It means a whole lot. My daughter loves coming here and with this right here, this will be great to feed my kids for the week,” she said.