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By Collin Breaux and Lillian Boyd

Orange County Board Supervisor Lisa Bartlett and nonprofit officials, among others, ushered in a new program designed to address nutritional needs in the community during a ceremony on Wednesday, Oct. 14.

Bartlett’s office announced the launch of the COVID-19 Nutrition Gap Program (NGP) on Oct. 7 after seeing members of the Fifth District’s most vulnerable population suffering from food insecurity. The program serves seniors aged 55 and older, individuals with a disability and military veterans, regardless of age. It is designed to provide biweekly deliveries of food boxes to participants in the program.

“Everybody, to some extent, is struggling right now,” Bartlett said. “Making sure everyone has three square meals right now is so, so important, because food is nourishment for the brain.”

Orange County Board Supervisor Lisa Bartlett discusses food needsduring a COVID-19 Nutrition Gap Program launch event at the Outlets at San Clemente on Wednesday, Oct. 14. Photo: Collin Breaux

The ceremony was held at the Outlets at San Clemente in front of Ruby’s Diner, which along with Second Harvest Food Bank will provide the boxes of groceries, fresh produce and prepared meals.

Second Harvest CEO Harald Herrmann said restaurant jobs are being kept alive through the program.

“Now, more than ever, jobs matter,” Herrmann said. “We’re still in the eye of the storm. We have lots of work to do, but if we do more like this, and if we come together as a county in the way that we have with this program with the direction and leadership of Supervisor Bartlett, then we’ll make it through together.”

The program will be administered by 2-1-1 Orange County, which will coordinate participant registration, food assembly and delivery. 2-1-1 Orange County CEO Karen Williams said food is a significant need during the pandemic.

“People can enroll in this program either by calling us at 2-1-1 or by going to our webpage,,” Williams said. “On the homepage, there’s an NGP Nutrition Gap Program button that will allow people to go ahead and apply for the food to be delivered for them.”

The program is funded through the federal CARES Act program. To qualify, district residents must not be receiving assistance from other state or federal programs, such as CalFresh, Title III-C of the Older Americas Act (Congregate and Home-Delivered Meals), the Great Plates Delivered program, and others.

Priority will be given to individuals experiencing food insecurity due to age and/or disability, economic status, lack of familial or community support, lack of access to available resources, and those who have military service. Participants must reside in District 5 cities including Aliso Viejo, Dana Point, portions of Irvine, Laguna Beach, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Woods, Lake Forest, Laguna Hills, Mission Viejo, Rancho Santa Margarita, San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, and the unincorporated communities of Coto de Caza, Emerald Bay, Ladera Ranch, Las Flores Rancho Mission Viejo, Stonecliffe, and Wagon Wheel.

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