Feeding 9,000 People Annually in the County
Pajaro Valley Loaves and Fishes (PVLF) assists people with nutritious food, education and referrals in cooperation with other agencies and distributes over 370,000 pounds of food annually and procures 85% of that food from Second Harvest Food Bank. The remaining 15% is donated from local organic farms like Live Earth Farm and High Ground Organics Farm, and local markets such as La Rosa Bakery, Food Maxx, Whole Foods and Nob Hill.
Per California Food Policy Advocates, 35% of Santa Cruz County residents experience food insecurity. These rates are higher in Watsonville, where 20% of residents live below the poverty line. Despite the agricultural bounty of Santa Cruz County many local residents, including our local farm worker population, struggle with hunger and food insecurity. PVLF’s programs are a critical nutrition safety net for the over 9,000 people from our community who are served annually.
The Lunch Program operates every Monday – Friday including holidays and is the only weekday lunch program in Watsonville, and one of only two such programs in Santa Cruz County. Kitchen Manager Maria Gonzalez and a team of volunteers prepare up to 150 meals daily.
The free, hot lunch is complete with high-quality protein, hearty grains, fresh vegetables, salad and fruit. In the next year we expect to serve over 25,000 lunches and more than 5,000 second helpings to local residents in need. In addition to farm workers, PVLF serves the elderly, disabled, homeless, veterans and families with children. Participation in the lunch program increases by 40% during the agricultural off-season.
The Pantry Program provides access to farm-fresh produce and staple foods, as well as nutrition education, CalFresh enrollment assistance, and referrals to community services. Hungry families and individuals may receive nutritious groceries twice per month.
Coordinator Jeanette Arias and volunteers have recently increased the amount of food distributed per visit by 60%. During the next year PVLF expects to provide 8,000 pantry visits serving over 7000 unduplicated individuals. Of the people served through the pantry, 41% of them are children, 77% have incomes below federal poverty level, and 48% are farm workers and their families.
Pajaro Valley Loaves and Fishes has partnered with Lupulo Craft Beer House so that we can all drink great beers and nourish our community at the same time. The event will be on March 22, 5 – 9 p.m. at Lupulo Craft Beer House 233 Cathcart St. Santa Cruz. For more information about this event, please contact Candice Elliott firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are interested in volunteering at Pajaro Valley Loaves and Fishes, please contact Cecilia Cevantes at: pvloavesandfishes.org or 831-722-4144.