Second Harvest Food Bank just entered its most intense two months of the year, in which we encourage and empower the community to organize the dozens of local food and fund drives throughout the county which together raise over half of the food Second Harvest provides all year long. This is the Holiday Food & Fund Drive, which we launched at the Annual Kickoff Luncheon on November 3rd at Twin Lakes Church in Aptos.
The drive is Second Harvest’s biggest campaign of the year, and 100% of the food and funds we raise will support our network of 200 pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, food distributions, and programs throughout the county.
Second Harvest CEO Willy Elliott-McCrea shared the three “levers for maximum impact” he said will allow the Food Bank and the school, business, non-profit, government, and community members in attendance to meet their goal of raising 4.5 million meals during the drive.
“The holidays are a perfect time for those of us more fortunate to come together and work with our friends and neighbors to help those in the community most in need.”
The first is the Food Bank’s ability to acquire $9 worth of food for every dollar raised. “Last year [Director of Agency Network Services Grace Galvan] acquired 5 million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables for an average of 10-12 cents a pound,” Elliott-McCrea explained.
The second is our network of 200 programs and partner agencies who are on the ground, across the county. “They know the need, they know the people, and they get the food you raise to the children and adults who need it most,” Elliott-McCrea told the crowd of nearly 300.
Finally, Elliott-McCrea rallied the room and informed them that together, they are the third “lever for maximum impact—there is strength in community.”
“You know that providing healthy food to kids, working poor families, the disabled, seniors, and others builds a healthy and sustainable community, a vibrant and strong economy, and dignity and hope in all of us.”
Speakers included Dr. Nanette Mickiewicz, Dignity Health Dominican Hospital president and Jess Brown, Executive Director of the Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau, among others.
Brown related how, early on, he learned the importance of sharing ideas with family, colleagues, and friends to achieve maximum impact. He shared the example of how, in 1990, “three colleagues realized Food Banks needed a steady supply of fresh, locally grown produce. Their idea was to create an organization to accomplish this goal.” Today, “Ag Against Hunger, has distributed over 250 million pounds of produce to people in need in the past 25 years.” (Brown was a founding member, along with Elliott-McCrea and Tim Driscoll.)
Mickiewicz told the audience that “Food security and health go hand in hand, and anything we can do to combat hunger will enhance the overall well-being of our community.” She continued, “Dominican Hospital is proud to partner once again with Second Harvest Food Bank for the Holiday Food Drive.”
The speakers also stressed the importance of the healthy produce that Second Harvest distributes through our network. When family budgets are squeezed, people are forced to turn to cheap food, and the upshot is the growth of chronic diseases like diabetes and ballooning health care costs, which further impact families’ health and budgets. Second Harvest has long championed the importance of nutritious foods to reducing some of the very stressors which contribute to hunger in the first place.
“Even in such a wealthy part of the country,” observed Elliott-McCrea, “the community needs the Food Bank. People lose jobs, or their jobs don’t pay enough to live on; others get hit with unforeseen medical bills; others are veterans, or elderly, or children.”
Elliott-McCrea continued, “The holidays are a perfect time for those of us more fortunate to come together and work with our friends and neighbors to help those in the community most in need.”