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La Jolla church cancels meals program, citing Hep A

In light of the Hepatitis A outbreak in the County, the holiday meals program produced by the non-profit So Others May Eat and held at Mary, Star of the Sea Church on Girard Avenue in La Jolla, has been canceled this year.

The bi-weekly meals served at the church for almost a decade have also been canceled — effective immediately — for the foreseeable future.

In explaining his decision to stop hosting the free meals programs, Mary, Star of the Sea church pastor Rev. Jim Rafferty said in an e-mail to La Jolla Light: “So Others May Eat, has consistently fed anyone in our Church Hall every other Tuesday for approximately seven years. Due to our renovations the last five months, we have not had a hall available. Concomitant with the completion of our hall renovation, there is in San Diego County, a heightened level of Hepatitis A. For me, as pastor, I need to provide facilities that are not likely to infect the people of La Jolla. I am, therefore, unwilling to commence So Others May Eat feeding in the parish hall at the present time.”

At the time of the decision, the La Jolla Town Council wrote a letter to the church asking that it permanently cancel the feeding program. Town Council president Ann Kerr Bache told the Light the group favors more comprehensive programs, rather than a single project that only addresses one need, in the campaign to break the cycle of homelessness.

So Others May Eat founder Tresha Souza said the cancellation was issued “behind our backs” and was “heartbreaking.”

“We have been doing this for years,” she told the Light. “Why would anyone think we can’t handle the post-event cleaning? We have all the information from the County about how to clean and sanitize the area. We also provide Hep A vaccinations for those who come to our program.”

In addition to homeless people, Souza said the dinners feed the working poor and families, as well as provide community service hours for area youth.

“We serve anywhere from 150 to 200 people from 4 to 7 p.m. every other Tuesday. From 4 to 5:30 p.m., we offer a full pantry with perishables and non-perishables for families with homes, but who find it difficult to put food on the table. We have bathrooms in the halls where these people would wash their hands.

“In light of the Hep A outbreak, we began to serve the dinners to the tables, whereas before the outbreak, the diners would form a line and we’d put the food on their plates at each station as they moved through the line. Now, our volunteers wear gloves and serve the tables, so no one is getting up and touching anything.”

Souza said she would like to continue the dinners, and so she needs to find another venue. Souza can be reached at soothersmayeatinc@san.rr.com

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