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O.C. Food Bank Sees Increase, Projects Greater Need in the Next Few  Months


SECOND HARVEST rolled out its latest and most innovative tool in the fight against hunger in Orange County: the Park-It Market, a walk-up market that delivers fresh, nutritious, free food right to seniors in need. The Park-It Market is a first-of-its-kind, partially-refrigerated, free market for seniors travels Monday through Friday on scheduled weekly visits to 20 local senior centers and low-income senior apartment complexes.  It is a dignified and convenient way for seniors to get the food they need.


BY LAURIE HANSON • August 28, 2020

Second Harvest Food Bank in Irvine is projecting a potential bleak future for Orange County’s food insecure, as partners already report up to a 700 percent increase in need since COVID-19.

“We don’t have exact stats for the need, but we regularly check in with some our partners and they have indicated that they have seen anywhere from 100 to 700 percent increase in demand at their locations since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Second Harvest Director of Marketing and Public Relations Barbara Wartman.

She explained that compared with this same time last year they are now distributing nearly double the amount of food. Between March to July 2019, they distributed 13,279,109 pounds of food and this year same timeframe they distributed 26,462,698 pounds.

To meet the greater need which they believe will only increase in the coming months due to unemployment projections, they streamlined their operations with more shelf-stable and perishable foods given in pre-packed boxes. They also improved efficiencies by eliminating volunteers and facilitated partner accessibility to their warehouse located in the Great Park of Irvine.

As a food bank which differs from a food pantry, Second Harvest acquires food through either donations or by purchasing it. They provide food to more than 300 network partners which include church and school food pantries, after school programs, senior centers, soup kitchens and transitional housing facilities, who then distribute to those in need.

“We are closely tracking the unemployment numbers and other indicators of need so we can project upcoming demand for food and communicate that need to donors and the community,” explained Wartman. “[It is] so they can partner with us to make sure that everyone who needs food will be able to access it.”

Though meeting the greater need is challenging, Second Harvest is fortunate to have many people in the community graciously step up with generous donations. But they see the need only increasing into the holidays due to historic ongoing pandemic unemployment highs in Orange County.

“Although the numbers of those filing for unemployment is going down a bit, many, many people are without work with little chance of finding jobs in the next few months,” Wartman said. “We anticipate that the need will increase through January and then start to slowly go down.”

This time last year, Second Harvest served a little more than 247,000 people. As of last month, that figure was up to 531,843.

“The upcoming holiday season is going to be very grim for a lot of people in our community,” she said.

Since 1983, Second Harvest has been providing food to the hungry of Orange County. They were started by Dan Harney and Tom Fuentes after Harney noticed many people in need in his community.

“At the time, this went against Harney’s own perception that Orange County was a well-off and prosperous place to live,” explained Wartman. “This misperception continues to this day as many people don’t understand the depth of need in this community.”

It is Second Harvest Food Bank’s mission to end hunger in Orange County.

Through more than 300 members in their Partner Network, they provide food to people in need at more than 350 locations throughout the county. Each location has different requirements. Some only ask about the number of people in one’s family while others ask for some form of identification. To find a location near them, people can visit online at www.221OC.org or call 211, and get more information on distribution days and times, plus whatever information, if any, is required.

Second Harvest can always use food or monetary donations from individuals, business, and community groups. To help fight hunger in the O.C. and make a monetary donation, please visit www.FeedOC.org. For a fun, engaging way to give, please visit their Virtual Food Drive website at www.yourfooddrive.org/home.php.


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