As the economic crisis caused by the pandemic continues to impact local families, Second Harvest of Silicon Valley is issuing a call for monetary donations instead of the food donations that many think of this time of year. One of the largest food banks in the nation, Second Harvest is continuing to serve an average of 450,000 people every month – an 80% increase over pre-pandemic levels. At the same time, donations have softened in recent months, leaving the food bank with a funding deficit heading into the holiday giving season, which is a critical time for the food bank. The organization’s fundraising goal for the entire year has been set at an unprecedented $81 million to help meet the increased need.
“We generally raise about half our revenue during the holidays, and this year we are feeling additional pressure as financial donations have slowed,” said Leslie Bacho, CEO of Second Harvest of Silicon Valley. “While the community was incredibly generous as we ramped up our operations to meet this dramatic rise in need, we have seen a softening of monetary donations over time. Many people are experiencing some return to normalcy and may not know just how many families there are that are still in the middle of an economic crisis and will continue to need our help for years to come.”
Low-wage workers who were already struggling to afford rent and pay for food in one of the most expensive places in the country have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic’s impact on the economy. Even before businesses shuttered and people lost their jobs due to COVID-19, one in four people in Silicon Valley was at risk for hunger.
Now these same families are getting hit hard at the grocery store as food costs have risen 5.3% in the last year, according to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Meats, poultry, fish and eggs rose 10.5% in October.
“Other costs like gasoline have also gone up, making it even harder for local families to make ends meet,” Bacho said. “Many in our community have exhausted their savings and are facing uncertain times. We know based on what we saw after the Great Recession that it will be a very long time before we see the numbers of people we serve go down in any significant way – if ever. We have to brace ourselves for a long recovery – and that means we have to continue to raise enough money to meet this heightened need.”
After shelter-in-place was ordered, Second Harvest quickly ramped up its operations to meet the dramatic increase in the number of people who sought food assistance, many of whom found themselves in need for the very first time. The food bank streamlined its processes, added 15 more trucks to its fleet, opened a fourth warehouse and increased its staff by nearly 40%, among other changes.
“Our budget has nearly doubled to keep up with the dramatic rise in demand, which remains high,” Bacho added. “Throughout our emergency response over the last 18 months, we’ve done whatever it takes to meet the need. Now we have to sustain this effort moving forward if we want to ensure that everyone in our community has access to the nutritious food they need to stay healthy and thrive. You can’t even begin to dig yourself out of a financial hole if you are stressed about how you’re going to meet your basic needs and put food on the table.”
Make monetary donations and host virtual food drives instead of donating food
Second Harvest has ended traditional food collection drives with barrels so it can continue to operate in the most efficient and safe way possible. For more details about the food bank’s decision, visit Second Harvest’s blog.
The best way to support Second Harvest is to make a monetary donation, start a virtual food drive to collect funds, or volunteer at a Second Harvest warehouse or food distribution site.
Individuals, corporations and organizations can have a huge impact by making a financial gift. In fact, a $50 donation helps provide enough food for 100 meals. To support the campaign,donate online or call 1-866-234-3663.
Host a Virtual Drive
Virtual food drives can be just as fun as traditional food drives without the need to physically collect food. Organizers can set a goal, easily create their own personalized fundraising page with visuals, and ask their friends, family and co-workers to contribute. Learn more or to start a virtual drive
Volunteers are vital to ensuring that nutritious food continues to flow into the community. Last year volunteers contributed 208,000 hours of service the equivalent of 100 full-time employees. There are several ways to volunteer with Second Harvest, including:
- Helping sort and box fresh produce at our Cypress Center in north San Jose.
- Volunteering at one of our outdoor community food distributions, which can be found in nearly every neighborhood in Silicon Valley.
- Becoming a volunteer driver making home deliveries to homebound seniors and adults in Santa Clara or San Mateo counties.
Volunteers must be 14 or older. All open volunteer opportunities can be found online using our volunteer sign up calendar.
How to get help
Help is available to anyone in need of nutritious food, even if they have never needed it before. Second Harvest connects people to a variety of different food resources, including its own grocery distributions held in partnership with community organizations throughout Santa Clara and San Mateo County. The food bank also provides enrollment support for federally funded food assistance programs like CalFresh. To find out more, call Second Harvest’s multilingual Food Connection hotline at 1-800-984-3663, Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. or visit our Get Food page. Staff speak English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Cantonese, Mandarin and Tagalog. Three-way interpretation is available for other languages.