By Caroline Slivkoff, Second Harvest Food Bank Santa Cruz
At this time of year, when most people are busy shopping for gifts and cooking for holiday get-togethers, the needy in Santa Cruz County have much more immediate concerns; how to pay the bills. What may come as a surprise to some is that in a region seemingly filled with so much abundance, 1 in 4 children in Santa Cruz County are hungry. The area’s high cost of living means that even a two-income family may still not earn enough to make ends meet, forcing difficult choices on a daily or weekly basis.
Pay rent or purchase groceries? Buy shoes or buy medicine? When there is not enough to eat and children go to school hungry, their ability to pay attention and learn can be affected by their lack of nutrition, leading to delays in cognitive development.
The good news is that the community, including local students, is becoming educated about the number of people in our area that are facing hunger, and many are getting inspired to make a difference. Through school assemblies and field trips to the Second Harvest warehouse, students are learning how donated food is received, sorted and distributed to churches, food pantries, soup kitchens and community centers. And, they learn about Second Harvest’s outreach team that connects needy families with food programs that provide healthy food and nutrition education.
But it’s when students learn that 25% of their peers — kids who may very well be sitting next to them in the classroom — struggle with food insecurity, something about the message resonates with them, and many are motivated to take action. Recently, Second Harvest received a donation of several rolls of coins from a first grader who collected spare change to help the hungry. Another young “Hunger Hero” is Dorothy DeLisle, an eight-year-old who made a lasting impression at Second Harvest’s Annual Holiday Food & Fund Drive Kick Off Luncheon when she gave a speech about why she was motivated to raise money and spread the word about Second Harvest.
“It only costs 25 cents to give a meal to a hungry person,” Dorothy explained. “The more people who know about this, the more hungry people can be fed.”
A few days after Dorothy’s inspirational speech, Second Harvest received a donation dedicated to Dorothy. “I am so moved by your helping others at such a young age,” wrote the donor. “Not only did you DO something, but you got others to do something, too. Thank you!”
When 7-year-old Levi Emmert learned that a single dollar donated to Second Harvest provides four healthy meals for the hungry, he told his mom, Kristin, that he wanted to help out, so they came up with a plan. He got permission to set up a table outside of Corralitos Market, made a colorful sign, and served cider to shoppers in exchange for a donation to Second Harvest. Levi’s efforts netted $292.00 for the food bank, which means that the money he collected will provide 1,168 meals for the hungry!
Time is a Valued Donation, Too
In addition to collecting funds and non-perishable food items, students can help out Second Harvest by donating their time. The small staff at the food bank relies on over 3,000 volunteers during the year to assist with a variety of tasks, from office work to helping at outdoor events, to filling food bags. To celebrate her 17th birthday, Zoe Pais called Second Harvest to learn what volunteer opportunities were available, got some friends together from Santa Cruz High School, and spent a morning addressing envelopes in the Second Harvest office. “I wanted do something for the community, and I thought that Second Harvest would be a great place to volunteer.”
Hunger knows no season, and Second Harvest works throughout the year to raise funds and food for the hungry in Santa Cruz County. For those interested in becoming a regular donor, consider becoming one of Second Harvest’s Sustaining Partners. The donation amount and frequency is entirely up to you. n
For information about short-term and long-term volunteer opportunities, visit Second Harvest’s Volunteer page, or contact Bly Morales at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about donating food items & funds, and to learn about current volunteer opportunities, visit Second Harvest Food Bank Santa Cruz online at www.thefoodbank.org or call (831) 722-7110.
Need food? Call the Second Harvest Community Food Hotline (831) 662-0991 Mon – Fri from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm