When the pandemic froze our economy, it overwhelmed our clients already struggling to make ends meet in one of the most expensive places in the country. As service workers and others in Silicon Valley started losing their jobs, the number of people coming to our food distributions doubled. We had to take drastic measures. We had to ensure that everyone in Silicon Valley could access nutritious groceries while also protecting the health of our clients, volunteers and staff in the middle of a pandemic. Although some of the changes were meant to quickly meet the challenges of the day, what we have learned has helped us make changes that will benefit our clients for years to come. One of those changes was to stop taking food donations from individuals for health and safety reasons. That meant putting traditional food drives on hold because we could not safely accept food from the community. At the same time, we had to dramatically increase the amount of food we were providing as more and more people turned to us for help. In response to the soaring need, we streamlined our operations and utilized warehouse space previously used to sort and process food collected in our barrels.

While our barrels are a familiar site in the community, in fact only about 4% of food distributed to our clients came from food drives. The vast majority of what we distribute is donated by growers, food manufacturers, processors, wholesalers, distributors and retailers. It takes massive amounts of food to provide nutritious groceries to 450,000 people every month. We also purchase food at wholesale prices to supplement what is donated to ensure we’re consistently providing clients with a healthy variety of food.

We Crunched the Numbers

When it came time to consider restarting our traditional food drive program, we crunched the numbers to determine if it was still an effective way to get food for our clients. After totaling the cost of producing and transporting the barrels, sorting and storing the donated food, and managing and marketing the campaigns, we found that traditional food drives are actually more expensive than purchasing food.

Our focus has always been on providing the highest quality food possible to our clients and food drives are not the best way to do that. Accepting large scale donations and purchasing food allows us to control what we get and ensure our clients have the nutritious items they need to thrive. That’s why we decided to end our traditional food drive program for good.

Maximizing Our Impact

We know many individuals, companies and organizations have invested countless hours running traditional food drives for Second Harvest, and we honor your commitment to our mission. 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.

Virtual food drives can be just as fun and inspiring as traditional food drives, without the need to physically gather food. Online fundraising can still incorporate all the team-building activities and social aspects of running a food drive. Running a virtual food drive will actually be more impactful because the dollars you raise will provide even more nutritious food for the families we serve.

Because of our ability to leverage large scale food donations, bulk purchasing power and volunteers, a $1 donation helps us provide enough food for two nutritious meals. Monetary donations help ensure we can select a nutritious mix of produce, lean protein, whole grains and other items kids, families and seniors need to stay healthy.

Ending Hunger Together

Traditional food drives are deeply rooted in our history, but they are no longer the best way to serve our clients. It will take a long time – maybe even years – for many families to recover from this economic crisis. Second Harvest must continue to operate in the most effective and efficient way possible to meet this unprecedented need.

A lot has changed since the start of the pandemic, but one thing remains the same – we need your support like never before. Let’s continue to work together to end hunger in Silicon Valley.

It only takes a few clicks to create and share your virtual food drive. Get started today.