SANTA CRUZ COUNTY—A parking lot at Cabrillo College’s lower Aptos campus was abuzz with activity Thursday as Second Harvest Food Bank Santa Cruz County kicked off its 2021 Holiday Food & Fund Drive.
Community and educational leaders, elected officials, business owners and more attended the “Rally for Hope” to celebrate and learn more about the annual drive, which generates funding for 165 nonprofit food distribution partners. The drive lasts three months, and this year organizers have set a goal of raising five million meals.
The rally offered guests resources and ideas about how to start their own drive, as well as to-go box lunches. A quilt was created and donated specially for the event’s raffle by the South Bay Modern Quilt Guild.
“Today, hundreds of food drives kick off across the country,” said Second Harvest CEO Willy Elliott-McCrea. “At businesses, at schools, at churches, at organizations, in neighborhoods. So this is really a special day.”
McCrea highlighted the direct effect even a single donation makes during the drive—for every $1, four healthy meals are donated.
“Every dollar you raise goes directly to feeding neighbors in Santa Cruz County,” McCrea said. “100% goes to creating and feeding and raising millions of meals for residents who are experiencing food insecurity, including one in every four children. One hundred percent goes to feeding struggling college students and seniors. One hundred percent goes to feeding veterans and working families.”
The co-Chairs of this year’s drive, Santa Cruz County Administrative Officer Carlos Palacios and UC Santa Cruz Chancellor Cynthia Larive, also spoke at Thursday’s event.
“Last year we had a tremendous amount of need … and yet, you folks stepped up and did something that was unprecedented,” Palacios said. “You set a world record for us—you raised the most amount of funds and food that we’ve ever done. It was truly inspiring.”
But Palacios pointed out that even though things are “looking up” in the county, with low infection rates and the economy improving, that need still remains.
“Let’s do it again—let’s set another record,” he said.
Richelle Noroyan, a spokesperson for Second Harvest, said they are predicting slightly more food donations than last year. This has a lot to do with the reopening of schools, which are a big driver of the food they collect through barrel donations.
“But I think people are realizing the power of donating money,” Noroyan said. “We can buy four to five times more food with [monetary] donations. It gives us the ability to purchase wholesale, at cost prices. That gives the food bank the ability to feed even more people.”
Noroyan urged anyone interested to start their own food drive with family, neighbors, colleagues and friends. Virtual campaigns are “super easy” to create, she said.
“I know it looks like we’ve come a long way since this time last year—and we have,” Noroyan said. “But economists are estimating that it could take three to five years for certain people to recover. More people than ever before are food insecure. Our services are essential for people to get through that.”
For information about the 2021 Holiday Food Drive and how to start a campaign visit thefoodbank.org/holiday-food-fund-drive.