TPHS student helps feed San Diego families in need

A FULL volunteer hands out homemade cards to the children.

Torrey Pines High School senior Pearl Park is helping to ensure that no kid has to wonder where their next meal will come with her efforts with FULL, a project out of her Carmel Valley Whatever it Takes (WIT) class.

Torrey Pines senior Pearl Park

WIT is the only college credit social entrepreneur and leadership program for high school teens in the county. Teens learn how to do whatever it takes to design, launch and manage a social enterprise and when they complete the program they earn six units of college credit from the UC San Diego Extension.

Pearl’s project is part of Whatever It Takes, a social entrepreneurship program based in San Diego that helps high school students develop their own social entrepreneurship enterprises for college credit.

With the FULL project, Pearl aims to help those facing food insecurities over breaks from school when free or reduced-price meals are not available for children. FULL provides students and their families with nutritious groceries purchased with donations or donated by companies such as NuttZo, KIND Snacks, Perfect Bar, Whole Foods and Sprouts.

On July 30 Pearl held her second FULL event, distributing groceries to 40 families in need from Kit Carson Elementary School in Linda Vista.

Children came to “shop” with their families from picnic tables packed with good foods.

Pearl took over the FULL project last year when she joined the new Carmel Valley WIT chapter, the third in San Diego — the 30-week course also has classes in University City and at the downtown Central Library. Pearl decided to join WIT after its founder, Sarah Hernholm, visited her marketing class and spoke about how the course gives teens a voice, allowing them to learn about what it takes to start a successful business that addresses a social issue in a unique and sustainable way.

“I loved the idea of creating my own business and really taking charge, and making a difference too,” Pearl said.

FULL had already been established but the WIT student running it had graduated and the program had gone dormant for two years. Pearl decided to take it on.

“I love cooking and baking myself. When I heard about FULL it really intrigued me because I would get to deal with people personally,” Pearl said.

As she learned, one in five children struggle with hunger and 22 percent of American children are living below the poverty line. Forty-nine million Americans lack access to sufficient nutritious food on a regular basis.

In taking over FULL, Pearl made a few tweaks — in the past donations were mostly monetary and it seemed like a lot more work. She decided to instead approach companies for direct donations.

She also connected with the Senior Gleaners of San Diego County, who glean excess food from area fields and orchards as well as from grocery stores and packing sheds.

She held her first distribution event over spring break at the Bayside Community Center — over 50 families came to “shop” from donations, which included freshly baked loafs donated by Bread and Cie.

For the summer event, she used a volunteer site to help get more of the community involved.

She had a great mix of volunteers on July 30, who also gave out handmade cards to the kids.

She also got to share the WIT mission and one student volunteer was interested in looking into the program as a chance to make a difference.

“I think just being a part of WIT is a really eye-opening experience because you get to meet people that share the same interests as you,” Pearl said. “We share ideas and it opens up a huge community because of the connections that WIT gives you to businesses and the nonprofit industry. It’s very helpful.”

For more information on WIT, visit