“To end hunger in Orange County” – that’s the mission of the Second Harvest Food Bank located in Irvine, CA at the old El Toro Marine Base.  Since its founding in 1983, Second Harvest has provided more than 272 million pounds of donated and surplus food to local charities.

If you live here in Orange County, you may be surprised to learn that:

–         nearly 400,000 people struggle with hunger in Orange County

–         15% of all seniors are at risk of hunger

–         50% of the homeless in Orange County are children

–         Second Harvest feeds more than 200,000 people each month

–         Second Harvest  partners with more than 340 member charities, community partners and agencies in more than 470 locations throughout Orange County including church pantries, shelters, senior centers, rehab centers and homes for abused women and children.

People needing assistance from Second Harvest include the working poor (people who may be working 2-3 jobs or are underemployed), those who are disabled, those who are homeless and the elderly.

Seniors, especially those with health issues and living on a fixed income, are having to deal with the high cost of living here in Orange County as well as rising medical costs. Nearly 45% of Orange County seniors don’t have enough money for basic necessities. Having to decide how to spend limited dollars can lead to poor nutrition which in turn can exacerbate existing health problems like diabetes and high blood pressure.

That’s where Second Harvest comes in.  Second Harvest relies on donations, grants, fundraising, food drives, food rescue, harvesting and volunteers to collect and then distribute food to those in need throughout Orange County.  The Grocery Rescue Program, for example, partners grocery stores (such as Albertson’s, Trader Joe’s, Walmart and Target) with Second Harvest. Empty trucks that have dropped off food to the various distribution centers return to pick up donated food at the grocery stores on their way back to the main warehouse.  The Farm to Table Program allows Second Harvest to negotiate reduced rates for local produce.  Other items are donated by food manufacturers and distributors.   Some of the fresh produce is grown locally at the Incredible Edible Farm at The Great Park in Irvine.  Although the farm recently relocated to an area with fewer acres, it’s actually now producing higher yields due to successful urban farming techniques.

Second Harvest relies heavily on volunteers. Over 15,000 people a year volunteer in various ways from sorting and packing food to providing accounting and marketing help in the office to public speaking to planting and harvesting to kids helping kids at Izzy’s Corner (where kids and their parents help in bagging produce). Volunteers can come individually or in groups. Many groups are from local businesses and corporations, community organizations, fraternities, sororities, high schools and middle schools.

I recently volunteered on a Saturday morning with about 30-35 other people.  Under the guidance of the Second Harvest staff, we set up an efficient assembly line, packing non-perishable food items (pasta, canned chicken, etc) into boxes.  By the end of the 3 hours (which went by very quickly), we had packed over 1,100 boxes that were destined for the Feeding Hope Food Box Program – a week’s worth of food to supplement families in need.

The Second Harvest Food Bank is affiliated with Feeding America, a national hunger relief association. In 2012, Second Harvest became an independent 501c3 corporation.  Second Harvest is committed to finding innovative and sustainable ways to end hunger in Orange County.  To find out how you can help, go to: FeedOC.org, or call (949) 653-2900. If you need assistance, you can find a distribution center near you (no one has to pay to receive food) by going to FeedOC.org and click on “Get Help.”

 

I would like to thank Barbara Wartman, PR Manager for Second Harvest Food Bank for her generous assistance with this article.

Maria Quici, MS, CCC-SLP

 

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