When a series of huge storms was predicted for early 2023, it was clear Santa Cruz County would experience an unprecedented downpour which could lead to heavy flooding. When Second Harvest Food Bank Santa Cruz County became aware of the impending flooding, we mobilized people, trucks and our network of partner agencies and community aid organizations. Once the city of Watsonville and Santa Cruz County declared a state of emergency, evacuation orders were posted. Evacuation centers were established at the fairgrounds, Ramsay Park, the Santa Cruz Civic Center and Cabrillo College, among others. We immediately coordinated efforts with our partner agencies—including Watsonville Salvation Army, Pajaro Valley Loaves & Fishes, Martha’s Kitchen, Grey Bears, Westview Presbyterian and St. Francis Soup Kitchen—to distribute 5,815 meals and 133 “Handy Access Packs.” This was Second Harvest’s collective partnership in action.
Evacuation notices were lifted; evacuees returned to their homes. SHFB organized a new food distribution model: the mobile food pantry. Canvassing hard-hit neighborhoods, going door-to-door, our community outreach team took food to the people who needed it most: senior residents in Watsonville’s Bay Village and others nearby, many unable to leave their homes due to transportation or mobility issues.
Second Harvest delivered and continues to do so. Due to flood impacts and increased food demand, this month SHFB is hosting three drive-up distributions at our headquarters.
The food bank isn’t just about nourishment. In a time of crisis, it feels like disaster response is a part of our team’s DNA. I am proud of how our staff, partner agencies and volunteers came together last month. I believe, along with our staff members and volunteers—who help people of various ages, races and cities—that everyone deserves access to nutritious food. This helps people thrive and in doing so, they can help their families and communities thrive.
Second Harvest Food Bank is not only committed to providing emergency food in time of disasters, but also year-round relief. Anyone needing food, or assistance applying for CalFresh, is encouraged to call the SHFB Community Food Hotline: (831) 662-0991.
Erica Padilla-Chavez | CEO, Second Harvest Food Bank Santa Cruz County
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