Veteran's Young Family is Helped by Feeding San Diego's Kids Program

January 9, 2023

Brianna, a U.S. Army veteran, was diagnosed with a rare disease that left her paralyzed and hospitalized for almost two years. It was a long and difficult struggle, but today, Brianna is walking again and dedicated to giving her 2 sons—Sean and Kayden—a happy and healthy childhood.

Encouraged by the school counselor, Brianna signed her family up for the Feeding San Diego Kid’s program at the beginning of the school year.

“It helps. It really comes in handy in between paychecks,” Diana, Brianna’s mother, shared. “My husband is the only one with a paycheck. The weekend food helps a lot”.

With the ingredients in the pack, Brianna’s family has made a list of family favorite recipes: chicken stir-fry, chicken and corn soup, and doctored tomato sauce with frozen Italian blend vegetables.

Diana adds that a family favorite has been her signature chicken stir fry. “I throw in some soy sauce, vegetables, the can of chicken, and it’s stir- fry. We are a Hispanic and Native family, so we have it with rice. It turns out delicious. Everyone loves it! “When asked about their favorite food in the pack, Sean, age 9, and Kayden, age 8, both shared that they loved spaghetti. Kayden dreams of becoming a chef and one day making his family a delicious ratatouille.

School Spotlight: Fay Elementary School

“International Relief Teams food pack program provides families some relief from extra hardships. Most food banks require families to take time out of their schedule during the week to pick up food. Having weekend food packs available from school is better for their schedule,” said Emilee Gilbert, Counselor at Fay Elementary School. “We have seen evidence of immediate need. Teachers saw that students who did not have food over the weekend were less engaged on Mondays,” and “many families have stated that they are grateful for the grocery relief.

Volunteer Spotlight

Frank Garofalo and Dave Kiley met 10 years ago through their San Diego-based running group. When Dave was recruited by the International Relief Teams delivery team he drafted his running buddy, Frank, to join as well. Together, they have been volunteering with the Feeding San Diego Kid’s delivery team since 2019.

“I love giving back to the community. I like to think that if we ever need help, the community would be there for us too.” –Frank

Not only do Frank and Dave deliver the food packs, but they also unload entire food shipments and stock the shelves at the International Relief Teams headquarters. “It is cool to see how everything comes together. We unload, other volunteers pack, we deliver, and then – families have the food they need, ”Dave shared about the experience.

“Every little bit helps. I look at this pack and it has all the essentials. We take all this food for granted but it means everything to one family to get through the weekend.” – Dave

Before volunteering with International Relief Teams, Frank, a Vietnam veteran who served with the U.S. Navy loading nuclear torpedoes on submarines and retired from 40 years in the food distribution industry. Dave worked for 37 years in software engineering as an Oracle developer. Outside of volunteering, both are avid members of their running club and enjoy going for hikes in the mountains. We’re grateful to have such committed volunteers who are willing to give their time and energy each week.


Volunteer Spotlight

“If I had to tell someone about IRT, the first thing I would tell them is that I trust International Relief Teams. I know where and how they use donations,” says Joyce Nichols.

Joyce has been an integral part of IRT’s “Feeding San Diego Kids” program. Since the program began 12 years ago, she has been working hard to ensure low-income schoolchildren and their families receive a pack filled with nutritious food to eat on the weekends. Joyce organizes and sorts the food procured from the local food bank and helps pack the food for each family in the program. A team of volunteers then takes these bags to four different elementary schools in low-income neighborhoods of San Diego.

“I love International Relief Teams because I love the mission, I love that they help people in our country AND around the world.”

Currently, Joyce is helping to feed over 300 families every week!

Before she began helping to feed deserving San Diego families, Joyce, who was a registered nurse practitioner, joined IRT’s volunteer medical team in Honduras in 1999, following Hurricane Mitch. She remembers flying in a 10-person airplane into “another world” of poverty and devastation. They landed on a soccer field and then traveled in a handmade canoe up a river to visit small villages and provide essential medical care. “This was a mind-blowing and life-changing adventure,” said Joyce. When Joyce isn’t volunteering, she knits, reads, makes handmade leather goods, or travels in her RV with her husband.


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