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Drive-thru food pantry in North Park in danger of being shut down

Uptown Community Service Center's small food distribution site in North Park is under investigation by the City of San Diego for violating city codes.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — It’s a sight we’ve seen often during the worst of the pandemic.

Lines of cars waiting to pick up bags of food from drive-thru distribution centers, putting much-needed nutrition on the table for thousands of San Diegans.

Since September of 2020, nonprofit Uptown Community Service Center has been handing out bags of food Mondays and Fridays under a small tent on the corner of 30th and Landis in North Park.

"If they don't have enough money for groceries, being able to get pantry food would then allow them to put their money towards their rent or other bills," said Uptown Community Service Center Executive Director, Alisan Rowland

She says everything was going smoothly and the organization had already served over 700 families to date. But earlier this month, she received a call from a code enforcement officer from the city of San Diego.

"He contacted me to let me know that our Super Food Pantry drive-thru distribution was part of a larger complaint against us by some neighbors," said Rowland. "And that we needed to stop the drive-thru distribution,"

CBS 8 reached out to the city, and they told us there is an active investigation into the distribution center and couldn’t go into more detail.

The claim made against St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, which owns the vacant lot where the drive-thru is based, says Uptown Community Service Center might not be following several city codes as cars block roads and sidewalks while waiting to get their food.

The officer suggested switching to a walk-up system to follow city code. 

"All the construction that's happening in the neighborhood, there's almost no parking here," said Rowland. “We're still in the middle of the pandemic and we've just been having this surge and so many people have gotten ill, and the intent of the drive-thru pantry was to avoid or to minimize contact with people."

The city official CBS 8 spoke to says, the drive-thru can continue to operate while the investigation is ongoing.

However, when the city completes its findings, it could mean The Super Food Pantry would be shut down, leaving needy families to find other options.

District 3 Council Member Stephen Whitburn is against the investigation and stated the following:

“Uptown Community Service Center provides vital community services. Especially when we are still going through a pandemic it is imperative now more than ever that these essential services to our community stay in place.”

WATCH RELATED: California Restaurant Association says omicron has been bad for business (January 2022)

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