APTOS — Second Harvest Food Bank of Watsonville has now entered its most intense two months of the year, when it encourages the community to organize the dozens of local food and fund drives throughout the county, forming the Holiday Food and Fund Drive.
County businesses, civic, community leaders and activists gathered for a luncheon on Thursday at Twin Lakes Church in Aptos to launch the annual campaign.
The drive is Second Harvest’s biggest event of the year, and 100 percent of the food and funds it raises supports food donations to its network of 200 pantries, soup kitchens, recovery centers, assisted living homes, and food and nutrition programs throughout the county.
Dr. Nanette Mickiewicz, president of Dominican Hospital, told the gathering of about 250 people that about one in four children in America lack access to wholesome food.
“We’re excited to spread human kindness,” she said. “Are you prepared to help lives, including your own?”
Willy Elliott-McCrea, CEO of Second Harvest, said the event marks his “favorite day of year.”
“I love the compassion and caring in this room. This is a time to roll up our sleeves and get the community involved,” he said.
At the event, the community heard from speakers such as Plantronics CEO Joe Burton and organizers of past community food drives, shared strategies and ideas, and more.
This year, the food bank has raised its goal for the drive from 4.5 million meals last year to 4.75 million meals, a target that the drive’s co-chairs — Jess Brown, executive director of the Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau, and Martina O’Sullivan, engaged citizen — intend to meet.
“With the stock market at record highs, you might think fewer people need food assistance these days,” Elliott-McCrea said. “Unfortunately, the economic recovery has not done as much for working families, and expensive housing continues to strain people’s budgets. So high numbers of local individuals and families still rely on help from the food bank.”