Santa Cruz County’s Second Harvest Food Bank started its Holiday Food and Fund Drive on Nov. 10 in Aptos Village. Since then, the food bank has continued to raise money and supply food to partner agencies to stock its own food pantries in various communities across the county.
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With the cost of living in Santa Cruz continuing to rise and inflation hitting peoples pocketbooks this holiday season, more and more people in the community are struggling to afford basic needs such as food.
In Santa Cruz County, 1 in 4 people faces hunger, according to Second Harvest Food Bank. The organization has been working to feed the community since 1972 as California’s first food bank and the second-oldest in the country. The food bank, which is funded by local donations, feeds more than 85,000 residents a month.
For Thanksgiving, Second Harvest started its Holiday Food and Fund Drive on Nov. 10 in Aptos Village. Since then, organizers have continued to raise money and supply food to partner agencies to stock their own food pantries in various communities across the county. The food bank aims to provide five million meals across the county over the winter holidays, between Nov. 10-Jan. 15.
One of those partner agencies is Bay Avenue Senior Apartments in Capitola. The apartment complex has run its own food drive and pantry, provided by Second Harvest, twice a month for more than eight years. The pantry is open to the public as well as to residents of the apartment complex.
Bay Avenue Resident Services Coordinator Lisa Smith said more than 80% of residents participate in the food pantry: “We get between 80-100 people that come to get food on days that we are open. That comes to about 150 families.”
The nutrition programs education manager, Delia Bernal, who was overseeing the food distribution at Church of the Nazarene off Green Valley Road in Watsonville when Lookout visited Wednesday, said that particular distribution site hands out food to roughly 120 families per day.
Second Harvest Food Bank’s largest distribution site is located at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds in Watsonville. This site first opened in April 2020 and continued for several months during the pandemic. It reopened in October because organizers saw a growing need in the community. The site now serves more than 1,200 people per day.
Second Harvest Santa Cruz’s chief development officer, Suzanne Willis, said the organization provides more than a million pounds of food each month. Much of its produce is provided by local growers. “We still have some food from [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] left over from COVID, and we also get food from grocery rescue and the open market,” she said.