by MICHELLE TREMBLAY | photos by Alicia Jeanne Photography

Feeding Hungry Kids

volunteer_medrano2Recent studies show a critical link between sufficient nutrition and a young student’s academic success. According to San Diego Food Bank, hungry kids have trouble concentrating and struggle with behavioral issues in the classroom. Additionally, kids who have inadequate food intake face a higher risk for developmental deficiencies. Community volunteer and long-time Vista resident Debbie Medrano is doing her part to help combat student hunger.

Years ago, Debbie participated in a community food drive for athletes at Vista High School who didn’t have enough food at home. When she learned that there were 3,500 students in local schools that were hungry and homeless, Debbie wanted to do more. “I called the person running the food drive and said ‘What more can I do to help?’” recalled Debbie. “We met and created Hunger Hurts which has evolved into Vista Teen Outreach, Hunger Hurts.”

Name: Debbie Medrano
Community: Shadowridge
Profession: Event planner and business owner
Family: Married to Angel; two adult sons named Mitch and Blake
Hobbies & Interests: Hiking, going to the beach, scrapbooking
Favorite Local Spot: The beach


Founded in 2011 by Debbie and two other members, Vista Teen Outreach currently services 14 Vista middle and high schools by providing food and basic needs for hungry and homeless teens through on-campus pantries that are supported by community donations.

Debbie’s role as founder and president for the organization consists of public speaking and outreach, managing a board of directors and overseeing the 15 community liaisons servicing the schools. “Our first biggest accomplishment was getting 15 schools in Vista onboard to have a food pantry, which took several years,” shared Debbie. “Our recent accomplishment was last year’s Holiday Food Basket project when we provided full holiday meals to 125 families.”

Debbie explained that Vista Teen Outreach is always looking for volunteers and encourages those who are interested in getting involved to look for up-to-date volunteer needs on the group’s Facebook page. Currently, the organization is looking for someone to service their five community boxes by collecting the food from the business and bringing to their storage location. They are also looking for a Holiday Food Project coordinator, a community liaison for Roosevelt Middle School, and a webmaster.


“We are looking for businesses to host food drives to kick off back to school,” added Debbie. “We open our pantries again in August and have to replenish our warehouse. Churches, service organizations, and companies hold food drives for us, which helps supplement our expenses of purchasing food.”

Name: Vista Teen Outreach
Group’s Mission: To provide food and basic needs for hungry and homeless teens in Vista through on campus pantries that are supported by community donations

Debbie is proud of the organization’s accomplishments and has high hopes for its future. As stated in the website for Vista Teen Outreach, “In the 2015 to 2016 school year there were 800 students identified as homeless under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. We were able to serve 350 to 400 of them on a monthly basis.” For more information about Vista Teen Outreach visit