United Way’s Guide to Free Food in San Diego During COVID-19

person holds a bowl with a salad in it


Many San Diego County residents have lost their jobs, are hurting financially and worried about where their next meal will come from. Fortunately, there are many different ways to get food in San Diego, whether it’s from a local business, food bank, or other nonprofit program. The San Diego County response has been overwhelmingly impressive in this time of incredible need by making food more available. We applaud the businesses who are stepping up to serve the community, whether offering food for people who have lost jobs, or the workers on our front lines. If you can, support local businesses, especially the ones donating meals, as this will help them continue to serve the community. 

Here’s a rundown of the many places offering food for those in need:

Unions United

If you are food insecure and do not qualify for free meals at the restaurants listed below, please check out UWSD’s Unions United program, which helps local families get food and other basic necessities in times of need.

The San Diego Hunger Coalition

The San Diego Hunger Coalition has compiled extensive resources about where you can get food from food pantries and other relief options. Learn more here.

San Diego 2-1-1

If you need help getting access to food near you, you can also call 2-1-1 or go to the 2-1-1 website for a list of resources.

Free Meals at Schools

Any child 18 or younger can go to any school site providing meals and receive food during this period of school closures due to COVID-19. The San Diego County Office of Education has a comprehensive list of places offering free meals. They also have a mobile app to help people find the nearest locations. 

Feeding San Diego

Feeding San Diego is open to serve people right now. Click here for a list of locations

San Diego Food Bank

The San Diego Food Bank has food distributions scheduled from Monday, April 6 to Saturday, April 11.

Breakfast Republic – Mission Valley

For: Laid-off hospitality industry members

What: Pre-packaged comfort meals

When: 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Where: Mission Valley at 1570 Camino De La Reina

Contributions: Breakfast Republic is suggesting a $10 contribution for these meals, but the food will be free for those who can’t afford to pay. Patrons can also “pass it forward” and buy an extra meal for another customer.

Source: San Diego Eater

Karina’s Mexican Seafood – Bonita & National City

For: All first responders who show proper credentials — from firemen and policemen to hospital medical staff, EMTs, and paramedics

What: A free carnitas, fish, or sautéed vegetable burrito 

When: 12 p.m to 6 p.m. 

Where: 1705 Highland Ave, National City, CA 91950 and 89 Bonita Rd, Chula Vista, CA 91910

Contributions: Contact Karina’s Mexican Seafood 

Source: San Diego Eater

Metl – Downtown San Diego

For: San Diego’s unemployed hospitality industry workers

What: Free meals 

When: 12 p.m to 8 p.m.

Where: 748 5th Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101

Contributions: GoFundMe page

Source: San Diego Eater

Farmer’s Table Little Italy or Saltwater Restaurant in the Gaslamp Quarter

For: Anyone on the front lines trying to combat the coronavirus pandemic

What: Free meals 

When: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday

Where: 550 W Date St. Suite A, San Diego, CA 92101 and 565 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101

Contributions: Contact San Diego Dining Group

Source: KUSI

Common Stock – Hillcrest

For: San Diegans who have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus crisis 

What: One free menu item per person

When: Regular business hours 

Where: 3805 Fifth Avenue, San Diego, CA 92103

Contributions: Customers can donate a meal when ordering for pickup or delivery

Source: San Diego Eater

Note: The eatery has implemented a “passphrase” for those shy about asking for a handout; today’s code for free food is “Sirius Black was never evil”, and daily codes will be posted every morning on the restaurant’s Instagram page at @eatcommonstock.

The Prado at Balboa Park and 333 Pacific in Oceanside

For: Employees of the Cohn Restaurant Group

What: Free family-style meals for takeout 

When: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays 

Where: 1549 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101 and 

Contributions: Contact the Cohn Restaurant Group

Source: San Diego Union Tribune

Starbucks – Multiple Locations

For: Any customer who identifies as a first responder or frontline worker supporting our healthcare system

What: Free tall brewed coffee, either hot or iced.

When: Business hours

Where: Multiple locations

Contributions: Contact Starbucks

Source: USA Today

How United Way of San Diego County Is Helping

UWSD supports family stability year-round, not just during times of crisis, with rent/mortgage payments and food assistance. You can learn more about our Unions United program that supports families in need, as well as what we’re doing specifically to address the Coronavirus Crisis, with our Worker Assistance Initiative. The Initiative is designed to support low-wage workers who need assistance paying utilities and rent/mortgage bills due to layoffs or reduced hours.

How You Can Help

Is there something we missed? Let us know in the comments below.