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Making Music and Bringing in Donations – We are the Food Bank

Music has been part of Ben James’ life for many years, and now the Santa Cruz resident has chosen The Food Bank as a beneficiary of his musical efforts.

Last year James’ talents helped provide thousands of meals to our neighbors in need, something that he says is part of his mission to serve his community. He is among the many Second Harvest volunteers who make a difference in Santa Cruz County.

If you’ve been to farmers’ markets in Santa Cruz, San Mateo, San Jose, or Los Gatos, you may have experienced James busking with his signature mix of folk and acoustic blues and his sense of determination to gather donations for The Food Bank. In addition to playing at these bay area markets, he’s also been featured at East Cliff Village senior apartments, and Kuumba Jazz Center in Santa Cruz. Although he’s been raising money for the past four years, 2022 saw his largest total to date.

His recent donation, an amazing $3,348, provided 13,392 meals!

Ben James—his stage name (his full name is Ben James Yokel) has recorded several albums and has been performing professionally for many years. More about Ben’s music can be found at

In a previous life, James owned a computer repair business in Santa Cruz for several decades before making the decision to retire in 2021. He did this with the express intent of devoting himself to community service—in particular The Food Bank.

“I felt good about what they [Second Harvest] were doing, delivering food to people in need,” said Ben.

He had been playing at farmers’ markets and local events, and when he decided to ramp up his efforts by adding more gigs in 2022 at markets, he contacted market managers to inquire about open slots. With signage advertising his beneficiary, he was off and raising money for The Food Bank. In December 2022, James organized a concert at the Corralitos Cultural Center where he and other local musicians played live music for the community and for The Food Bank.

James continues to appear at farmers’ markets in 2023, continuing his fundraising quest for Second Harvest. And now, he said, he’s going to “up the game,” organizing a bigger and better benefit concert this year, so more people can attend, and even more funds can be raised for Second Harvest and the community. He’s also working on several recording projects and collaborations.

“Second Harvest Food Bank Santa Cruz County is a great organization and I’m honored to be able to contribute,” James said.

James’ efforts are all part of what it takes to care for neighbors in need in Santa Cruz County. Donors, volunteers, partners, and staff are all essential to the mission of The Food Bank, and we’re all in this together – We are the Food Bank.