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Higher Ground Youth & Family Services in Anaheim provides mentoring programs for youth in at-risk communities in Orange County. It’s a safe haven for the community where all may feel welcome to play, learn, and grow in body, mind, and spirit.

For the 80 – 100 students in 2nd to 12th grade, who attend Higher Ground’s free

after-school program, students can take advantage of homework help, visual and performing arts, and sports. They also offer dinner, a family dinner night, a fresh garden, produce, and a food pantry.

Bracken’s Kitchen provides meals each week at their after-school program, and hot dinners to their teen group two to three times a month so that families who are struggling can enjoy nutritious meals.

Rosie Lopez, 45, a mother of seven and a grandmother, works two jobs to provide for her family. Two of her children attend Higher Ground’s after-school program. For the past four years, Rosie has been picking up meals for her family at dismissal. “It's helping a lot. On the days that we get the food here, I don't cook at home. I just get home and put it in the oven, and voilà dinner is ready,” said Rosie. She especially loves the steak and veggies. Sometimes the meals can last her family two to three days. The school also provides a box of fresh vegetables and staples about once a month so that helps her too.

As expected when the pandemic hit, life became even harder for Rosie. She lost a lot of family members to COVID, both here and in Mexico. She lost her job, and to make matters worse, she broke an ankle and her tibia. She missed a step, and the

next thing she knew she was in a lot of pain. “It was awful,” said Rosie. She lives upstairs so it was especially difficult going up and downstairs. She had to sit on her bottom and use her hands to go up and downstairs.

She just went back to work in August as a school safety assistant, but didn’t work at all during the lockdown.

Rosie said many of her friends also rely on meals at the after-school program. “Some of them are single mothers and they don't qualify for food stamps because they are not legally here. It really helps them because it's a dinner that they didn't have, that they didn't have to come up with.”

“The kids love the food. And it's hot food. We also have kids from Orangewood that come and we give them the food too. They love it. They're very thankful. They think I cook it up, they always say, "Oh, it's very good".

“I still have some pain. But, Hey, I'm walking, and I'm happy that I'm back to work. And I can provide more meals to my kids and I don't have to worry about, "Hey, where's

my next meal going to come from."

Bracken’s Kitchen is honored to be able to provide nutritious meals for Rosie and other family members served at Higher Ground.



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