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30 years of feeding hungry in the county

30 years of feeding hungry in the county

Second Harvest Food Bank recognizes 30 years of seeking innovative, sustainable ways to end hunger in Orange County.

In 1983, the space shuttle Challenger launched a successful maiden flight, Sally K. Ride emerged as the first U.S. woman astronaut in space, and the Internet, as we know it today, was created.  

Closer to home, 1983 is the year the Second Harvest Food Bank got started, the people behind it daring to dream of an end to hunger in Orange County. 

In the 30 years since, Second Harvest has provided more than 329 million pounds of donated and surplus food to local charities. And that food has become more than 274 million meals feeding hundreds of thousands of children and families who, without the work of Second Harvest and its partners, would have gone hungry.  

Todd Hanson, vice president of Donor and Community Engagement at the Orange County Community Foundation, cites the organization’s sophisticated warehousing and distribution system for much of its success. He also lauds Second Harvest’s clear commitment to community partnership.

“Because of the organization’s size and skill, it can leverage large quantities of food that can then be efficiently sent to charities on the ground that get it directly to the people in most need.”

Over the past three decades, the food system has changed dramatically and food banks have evolved, focusing not only on quelling the pangs of hunger but also on investing in the health of the most vulnerable. 

“We now have access to fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy, which are more nutritious, but also more perishable,” says Nicole Suydam, chief executive at Second Harvest Orange County. “We’ve had to modify by adding more refrigeration and freezer space and requiring refrigerated trucks for distribution.”

Second Harvest could never process and distribute the volume of food it does every day without the network of 340 nonprofit partner agencies that distribute food throughout Orange County to the people who need it most. People just like your neighbors, colleagues, friends and families, served by church pantries, shelters, senior centers, rehabilitation centers and homes for abused women and children.

Although a lot has changed over three decades in Orange County, incredibly, hunger – incredibly – remains a present threat to the working poor, children, seniors on fixed incomes, single parents, the disabled, the homeless and individuals experiencing medical emergencies or recent job layoffs. 

Suydam says as many as one in eight people in Orange County don’t know where their next meal is coming from, and that the demand at local food banks jumped during the recession and hasn’t really dropped during the sluggish recovery. “We have a lot of work to do to meet that gap.”

One of Second Harvest’s immediate goals is to boost the number of meals provided per year up to 21 million.

“We are going to create a future where no one goes hungry, ever,” Suydam says. “It will take the collective power of this community to really look at the issue, and know that it exists. We all have a role, and we need to make it a priority that no child goes to bed hungry and no senior will ever have to go without a meal.”

To learn more about how you can join Second Harvest and the 340 partner organizations they work with to end hunger in Orange County, please visit Nonprofit Central at ocnonprofitcentral.org.

Shelley Hoss is president of the Orange County Community Foundation. She can be reached at [email protected]

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