One of the healthiest food banks in the country. That’s the claim Second Harvest Food Bank Santa Cruz County makes because of the amazing generosity of our local agriculture community, the farmers, packers and farmworkers of the Pajaro Valley and beyond.
Second Harvest receives more than 8 million pounds of food, including 6 million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables, from farms, grocery stores, food manufacturers, distributors and individuals. The Food Bank distributes its produce to 100 nonprofit partner agencies—food pantries, schools, soup kitchens, group homes, youth centers and more, plus another 60-plus Second Harvest program sites. This fresh produce is donated by local and state-wide growers who are committed to helping our community.
More than 60% of the food Second Harvest distributes is fresh produce, making it one of the healthiest food banks in the nation. And behind that, in this rich growing area, a literal fruit and salad bowl, our farmers give value back, helping food-insecure people eat healthier.
“Local Ag people have a sense of community, that we’re all in it together,” said June Ponce, a Food Bank board member whose family business, Sun Valley Farms, is among the growers donating fresh produce.
“Contributing is fundamental to helping people and creating a thriving community. Farmers contribute a piece to the many less-invisible parts we apply to help lift people up,” Ponce added. “It’s wonderful to be connected, knowing that your produce contribution is being used by families and helping bring fresh fruits and vegetables into their homes. I encourage all businesses to get involved in serving the community.”
Driscoll’s has been working with the Food Bank for 20 years, says Matthew Quinlan, senior manager of community & charitable giving. Annually, the company donates an average of 1.3 million pounds of fresh berries and roughly $20,000 in cash and sponsorships. This includes the nearly $5,000 that Driscoll’s matches with the funds raised each year by company employees around Thanksgiving.
“Second Harvest is a great partner,” Quinlan said. “Santa Cruz County is where our company got started and where we’re headquartered. South County will always be our hometown. Food Bank donations are part of a broader effort to give back to the people and place that made our company’s success possible.”
Lakeside Organic Gardens, the largest family-owned, solely organic vegetable grower/shipper in the United States, is also one of Second Harvest’s key partners. Owner Dick Peixoto says he sees Second Harvest as a distribution partner, ensuring that fresh, unsold produce gets into the hands of local, food-insecure people. His company has been repeatedly recognized as a major Food Bank supporter.
“All the produce is maintained in the cold chain, all the way until we deliver [it] to the food bank, making sure that it’s good quality,” Peixoto said. “As a business owner, you have to look at the community that supports you. A lot of times people are helping other people that are helping us and so it really goes full circle. By feeding the community through the food bank, we come up with a stronger community and it comes back to us many times over.”
Emily Freed, supply chain director at the Food Bank, said she sees the Pajaro Valley Ag community’s generosity as especially unique to our area.
“We live in a geographically unique place,” she said. “It is impossible to not see the vast bounty growing everywhere. We must acknowledge the Ag contributions making our food supply far more valuable than nearly anywhere else.”