Excerpt from Santa Cruz Sentinel
by Tara Fatemi Walker
When people think of Second Harvest Food Bank, they might picture the ubiquitous collection barrels seen across the county during the holiday season — popular with individuals and businesses to donate to those in need. Or they remember Food Bank trucks that deliver fresh produce and other items daily to food pantries.
Let’s get to know some of the Food Bank’s people: a couple recent distribution recipients and two Board Trustees.
75-year-old Silvana, a France native who first came to the U.S. in 1969 and raised her kids in Capitola, shows up every week at the Thursday noon Food Bank distribution at Santa Cruz Bible Church (it was held at Inner Light Church until a year ago when the church closed its physical location). She has been coming for eight years. Of the bounty she receives, Silvana only keeps a couple of items for herself.
“I share the rest with my neighbors,” she says. Silvana lives at Via Pacifica, an Aptos senior housing complex. There are many seniors who don’t drive anymore or are sick and can’t access Food Bank resources. “By bringing food to them, it helps them — financially and otherwise.” She rotates the food between different households, so everyone benefits. “It’s so rewarding to see people become happy when I bring them food.”
Sharing the food aligns perfectly with the distribution’s goal, says Dan Moher, who serves as pantry co-director with Miguel Aznar and Lois Smith. “When you come here, we want you to take enough to fill your pantry and more for a neighbor or friend, mostly we want you to feel valued and respected,” says Moher. He estimates the distribution helps feed 500-600 people weekly.
“Working with Second Harvest is like magic,” says Aznar. “They are focused and eager to get us the food we need. Every Thursday morning one of their big trucks rolls up. The always-friendly driver rolls huge pallets of produce, canned food, dry goods, and even eggs and frozen foods right next to our 14 tables.”
Mother and daughter Teresa and Jill (names changed for confidentiality), who live together in Santa Cruz, have been coming to the pantry off and on for 15-plus years. “It’s how I survived raising six kids,” says 58-year-old Teresa, who is a past pantry volunteer. Lately, they’ve needed extra help — CalFresh benefits, which increased during the pandemic, have decreased. “Plus, with prices of food and gas going up, it’s been even harder,” says 30-year-old Jill. “And everything is more expensive: our water, phone, and PG&E bills, and our rent,” adds Teresa.
At the farmers market-style pantry, attendees choose what they want. Numbers by each item specify the maximum each family can take. On a recent Thursday, maximums were (among others): four packages of bread/rolls/muffins, four soup cans, four peanut butter jars, and two bunches each of fresh carrots and broccoli.
Teresa enjoys the self-selection format. “This way, you only take what you’ll use — nothing goes to waste. And the volunteers are always smiling and helpful. This is such a valuable resource we are so grateful for.”
Karina Diaz Alvarez
We are the Food Bank