BUENA PARK, Calif.—Families in need residing in Buena Park are receiving extra assistance to shop for essential groceries right in time for the holidays.
The city accepted $70,000 in funds that were distributed to three school districts within the area on behalf of American Rescue Plan funds received by the county.
Local schools were able to identify families in need who qualified to receive $100 to $200 in gift cards to use at participating stores within the community.
During the first three weeks of December, participating school districts hosted grocery shopping events at select Stater Bros. and Smart and Final stores, where the receiving families could shop with the funds provided.
“These funds were really impactful for the families who needed it most,” Councilmember Connor Traut told The Epoch Times.
Traut was able to witness the families shopping together. He recalled one mother and her son arriving at the grocery store to shop for groceries, with the son holding his own list of five items in his hands, anticipating the moment he would be able to cross the items off.
While candy was among the few items on his list, another was a particular fruit he had learned about at school. Once the mom and son finished shopping, the son exited the store with the fruit he searched for in hand and a smile on his face.
“For us to see the joy in their eyes and for them to feel like they have that flexibility to buy the food they wanted, to give these parents in more lower-income neighborhoods a little boost that they might need … that way they can save some of their own money to maybe have a better Christmas or holiday season for their children,” Traut said.
Orange County Board of Supervisors originally approved the allocation of $10 million in American Rescue Plan Funds for food insecurity support throughout the county in spring 2021.
Each of the five county supervisors was approved to utilize $2 million.
Sup. Katrina Foley notified her cities of District 2 that she would be distributing her portion of the funds to each city based on the population.
“My goal was to make sure the money goes directly to residents,” Foley told The Epoch Times.
Before administering the funds, a survey was conducted to determine the items most needed by residents.
While hot meal boxes are popular solutions regarding food insecurity, Foley found many residents needed more essential items such as toothpaste and dish soap.
The survey concluded that gift cards to grocery stores provided the most flexibility, especially for families with food allergies, Foley said.
While Buena Park took the approach of distributing gift cards to families within the education system, cities such as Newport and Costa Mesa have allocated funds to low-income seniors.
“Giving these families or providing these families $100 towards groceries, it also meant now they have $100 to spend on something else to benefit their family, whether that’s ensuring that next rent payment is more stable, or maybe they are just getting more gifts,” said Traut.