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The Berry Bounty of Santa Cruz County

One of the first things visitors to southern Santa Cruz County notice are the acres upon acres of farmland blanketing the Pajaro Valley. Drop in during the summer and you’ll see farmworkers harvesting and packing little red, pink, and blue gems—strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries—for distribution throughout the county and across the country.

Driscoll's berry growersMany of the growers pluck their berries for one company—Driscoll’s—whose ongoing donations to Second Harvest just earned it our Food Industry Donor of the Year award.

It’s hard to grasp the sheer volume of berries the company has donated—5.4 million pounds in the last ten years alone. That’s over 10,000 pounds every single week!

Second Harvest distributes those berries through our network of more than 100 partner agencies—non-profit food pantries, recovery centers, group homes, school programs, and more—to reach members of the community most in need of food.

And because of the vitamins and nutrients inherent in fresh berries, they also feed the need for nutrition. The fact is, those who can’t afford enough food also tend to lack healthy food. As most shoppers know, the most affordable foods in the supermarket are often highly processed, “empty calories.”

Soren Bjorn, Driscoll's
Soren Bjorn, President of Driscoll’s of the Americas, receiving Second Harvest’s Food Donor of the Year award

So families forced to cut costs at the supermarket often face the added burdens of poorer health—and all the costs and complications that come with that.

That’s why Second Harvest partners with organizations and donors, like Driscoll’s, who not only share the harvest but good nutrition, too.

The Food Bank recognized Driscoll’s as our Food Industry Donor of the Year at our recent Partner Agency Conference held on October 16th at Twin Lakes Church in Aptos. Soren Bjorn, President of Driscoll’s of the Americas, accepted the award and quickly shared credit with their independent growers, without whom “we wouldn’t have fruit to give.”

Bjorn also credited Second Harvest for helping to feed the community and shared Driscoll’s desire to reduce local workers’ and families’ need for food assistance in the first place. “We can only do [this] as a community,” Bjorn remarked, “and we would love to partner with you to solve this.”

Many elected officials also came out to recognize Driscoll’s—mayors, county supervisors, state representatives, and the district’s new U.S. Congressman, Rep. Jimmy Panetta—all of whom presented Driscoll’s with proclamations in honor of their ongoing community involvement.

Driscoll's raspberries“I commend Driscoll’s for working to ensure that families on the Central Coast have access to the fresh and nutritious berries grown in their own backyard,” Panetta said, in remarks he entered into the official Congressional Record.

We’re fortunate to live in such a bountiful region, but proximity to so many acres of fresh fruits and veggies isn’t enough to guard against hunger and malnutrition. It takes the ongoing generosity of growers like Driscoll’s, and the support of the whole community, to feed people in need in Santa Cruz County.

Watch a fun little clip of berries in our warehouse. Can you spot the movie reference?