"I realized there were pineapples on the beach, and we don't give out pineapples."
On Thanksgiving, Carolyn Flores saw a photo of fruits and vegetables strewn along the beach just south of the Imperial Beach Pier.
"I was outraged to see that somebody can throw away food when there are families that are in dire need."
Jennifer McDaniel: "It almost seems like it could've been some kind of religious offering/homage."
Since the shutdown in March, Flores has hooked up IB residents and visitors with boxes of vegetables and fruits, and canned goods, from her IB home and the Calvary IB chapel on Imperial Beach Boulevard, blocks east of the pier.
"I'm like, oh my goodness, everyone's going to think the produce is from our food boxes, then I realized there were pineapples on the beach, and we don't give out pineapples."
On November 21, Jennifer McDaniel and her dog Hilda noticed apples, oranges, bananas, limes, eggplants, mangos, avocados, and pineapples scattered along the shoreline "by the art installation"; she snapped a photo then posted it onto Facebook asking, "anybody know what it's about?"
"It was strange," she told me on November 30. "It almost seems like it could've been some kind of religious offering/homage from what I gathered from commenters' experiences. There was also mention of similar arrangements the same night and early morning."
McDaniel has lived in the southernmost city in California since 1982; this was her first time witnessing remnants of the “produce polluters.”
Anne Pilgrim: "I’ve been seeing them for ten years or more."
For Anne Pilgrim, the scattered produce isn’t such an anomaly. We spoke after she and her friend strolled the beach as a cool-down to a workout.
"We usually see this; in fact, we laughed because the week before it was mostly vegetables. Usually, it’s spread out along the shoreline.
Pilgrim has lived in IB for 33 years. She sent me a photo that appears to depict the same fruits and veggies that McDaniel posted online.
"I’ve been seeing them for ten years or more," Pilgrim continued. "If you’ve been traveling in international waters and you dock in San Diego, or wherever you have to go through customs — and just like at land and air crossings: you can’t bring certain foodstuffs into the U.S. No matter where you obtained it originally. So they dump it in the ocean."
Other locals questioned online if the deep-sea fishermen from the U.S. dumped the produce.
"Fishing boats tend to run lean,” Pilgrim opined. With the amount of stuff I see, it makes me think it’s the cruise ships, especially since now they’re anchored offshore."
Multiple beach strollers and joggers corroborated online and said they've witnessed increased fruits and veggies scattered or washed-up along the IB shoreline and beaches.
"It breaks my heart to see this," continued Flores, founder of The Hope Project, a "drive-thru food distribution for houses in need" program. "The people throwing away the fruits and vegetables can reach out to us. Our chapel's close to the beach."
Flores, her friends, and family connect recipients with food boxes every Monday and Thursday, with one stipulation: "you need to be in a car to receive food; no walk-ups."
"Some of these people just lost their jobs, and their unemployment hasn't kicked in; then there are homeless; some are working part-time and paid minimum wage because they lost their regular job. There's a gentleman that drives a Tesla, and people ask me: "How can a guy with a Tesla go through?"; I explained to them that this guy lost his corporation. We have families with little kids; they can't return to work because there's no daycare taking children."
On Thanksgiving, Flores, her family, friends, and congregation blessed 20 families and individuals with turkey, stuffing, gravy, bread, cranberry sauce, and a pie.
"Thanks to Vons for donating to our cause. One of the 20 turkey recipients was a 95-year-old man that could not have his family over because he's in the high-risk covid age bracket. The gentleman has no access to social media, so that he couldn't Zoom his family. People can find me on Facebook if they want to bring by fruits, vegetables, or canned goods to our chapel."