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The need to feed struggling communities continues

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SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KION) Many people across the country, including here on the Central Coast, still struggle with food insecurity during the ongoing pandemic.

Local food banks say they are still in need of funding. Second Harvest Food Bank in Santa Cruz County says the COVID-19 pandemic led to many more food distributions than they've seen before.

“We’re serving about 95 thousand people in our county and remember, Santa Cruz County is only about 270 thousand people so we’re serving quite a bit of people and the need has not gone down," says Suzanne Willis, Chief Development Officer at Second Harvest Food Bank in Santa Cruz County.

With help from FEMA and other county resources and organizations, Second Harvest says they've been able to continue feeding those most in need including agricultural workers, families with children, the unemployed and even CZU fire victims.

“Every year we start off our base at zero and we have to raise the funds that we need in order to meet payroll, in order to buy the food, in order to have those distributions, our need for funding is continuing, it’s not going to go away," says Willis.

Willis says Second Harvest receives between $5 million and $6 million in funding annually to feed community members in need, but with increasing numbers of people experiencing food insecurity, she says she expects to see the economic impacts of the pandemic and an increase in food distributions for the next 3 to 5 years, which will require long-term funding.

Willis says a portion all funding also goes towards hiring additional staff and volunteers with now more and more people are lining up at food distributions. In the meantime, organizations like Community Bridges in Watsonville are doing what they can to meet demand.

Community Bridges is just one of the locations throughout the county providing food pantry services closer to the people in the community.

“We’re probably seeing about 350 to 400 families, we also run a  summer lunch program every year which is when schools close and we provide lunch for those children who are outside of school," says Community Bridges CEO Raymon Cancino.

Second Harvest says they will no longer have their weekly drive-through food distribution at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk after April. Instead, Willis explains they have what they call Nutrition Homes throughout the county to give people the food they need without having to travel far.

To find out more about food resource or to volunteer or make a donation, visit https://www.thefoodbank.org and https://communitybridges.org

Article Topic Follows: Central Coast

Jocelyn Ortega

Jocelyn Ortega is a multi-media journalist at KION News Channel 5/46.

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