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Community comes together to “Kick-Off” the Holiday Food & Fund Drive

Aptos—Second Harvest Food Bank launched its annual Holiday Food & Fund Drive at the Annual Kickoff Luncheon on November 7th at Twin Lakes Church in Aptos. For Second Harvest, these are the most intensive two months of the year when we encourage and empower grassroots food and fund drives throughout the county, which in total raises over half of the food Second Harvest provides all year long for food insecure families in Santa Cruz County.

Over 300 members of the community attended the event to launch Second Harvest’s biggest campaign of the year, the Holiday Food & Fund Drive. 100% of the food and funds raised will support a network of 200 pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, food distributions, and programs throughout the county.

This year’s Co-Chairs— John Laird (California State Assembly member) and Megan Martinelli (engaged citizen) —rallied the crowd while explaining the necessity of the services the food bank provides to Santa Cruz County and how the “community” pulls together every year during the food drive to make sure those services continue.

A range of compelling speakers shared their own strategies and tips for different food and fund drives, and some allowed their competitive spirit to shine through, like Stephen Gray from Sutter Health/Palo Alto Medical Foundation who presented Second Harvest with a kick-off check for $16,500 (equal to 66,000 healthy meals) to challenge the other competitors.

Likewise, the Emmert Family, Kristin, and children Levi, Nova, and Faith, at the urging of young Levi, sets up a fundraising stand each year in front of the Corralitos Market in Corralitos.  They have raised thousands of healthy meals from their drives showing that everyone plays a part in feeding hope, no matter what age.

Another compelling speaker, Benito Mendoza (Santa Cruz County Agriculture Weights & Measures Director) spoke about the now infamous mini-barrels and the importance of donating funds in place of food. Mendoza coined the idea of using “mini-barrels” to collect funds because the food bank can purchase food for pennies on the dollar. A $25 cash donation provides enough food to fill a large food collection barrel.  And, continuing with this tradition, Second Harvest volunteers and staff distributed “mini barrels” for the assembled leaders, coordinators, and volunteers to take to their workplaces and private fundraisers to collect funds during the Holiday Food & Fund Drive.

Second Harvest CEO Willy Elliott-McCrea closed the lunch by reminding everyone about the challenges we face, and the power we have as a community to be the solution. “We have a diabetes epidemic that is out of control, because housing costs mean that many families can’t afford healthy food.” Elliott-McCrea explained. “In fact, 1 in 4 children in Santa Cruz County are food insecure, that is a staggering number; that is an unacceptable number. These kids are facing a lifetime struggle with the devastating effects of diabetes.”

“Every single dollar goes to food for our network of over 200 partner agencies and programs—with their 3,000 volunteers—on the ground throughout the county . . . food pantries, soup kitchens, assisted living homes, youth programs, and more,” he said. “So, every quarter, every dollar, every can donated goes straight to nourishing hungry neighbors.”

“Together, we can solve the problem of hunger and food insecurity.  The Holiday Food Drive puts five million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables on the tables of families working hard to making ends meet. The Holiday Food Drive provides millions of pounds of basic staples to many of our neighbors with nowhere else to turn. The Holiday Food Drive is about building a healthy workforce who can support their own families. The Holiday Food Drive is about thriving young people, thriving families, and thriving communities.  The Holiday Food Drive is about feeding…hope!!!” Elliott-McCrea said.

Do you want to help raise food and funds?  Visit

Photos available here

Dignity Health Dominican guests look on as they are invited to compete with Sutter Health/Palo Alto Medical Foundation to see who can raise the most meals this year.
Jan Kamman and Jennifer Welling (Second Harvest) show off the Mini Barrels that attendees were encouraged to take with them.
Benito Mendoza explains the benefits of the Mini Barrels and reminds the crowd they were his idea.  Way to go Benito.
Nova and Faith Emmert