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The Need to Feed

Anh-Minh Le | December 14, 2016 | Lifestyle Story City Life

The holidays are the busiest time of year for many charities, and Second Harvest Food Bank is no exception. According to CEO Kathy Jackson, last year, nearly half of the $15.7 million the nonprofit raised was during this season. For 2016, she says: “We have a goal to raise $16 million and 1.5 million pounds of food to help us feed hungry people all year long.” Here, the Stanford alum shares more details on how Second Harvest operates and serves the community.

Where do your food donations come from?
Our food donations are sourced from local and national food donors, retail grocery store donors, produce donors, other food banks, the USDA and our food drives. We’re also a leader in food rescue. In fact, 82 percent of the food donated to us last year was rescued from farms and grocery stores, and, otherwise, might have gone to waste.

And where do you distribute food?
We provide food at no cost through more than 320 community-based organizations at more than 850 local sites, including schools, pantries, soup kitchens and shelters. If there’s a local charity you support involved with meals, they probably receive food from us.

What are some of the volunteer opportunities available?
Volunteers are extremely important to Second Harvest! Last year we leveraged more than 310,000 hours of volunteer service valued at $6.6 million annually, more than doubling the size of our staff. That is the equivalent of almost 150 full-time employees. Rather than paying for that staff, we’re able to acquire and distribute even more food. It’s also important to note how often I hear volunteers talk about how much they gain from the experience. It really is a win-win for everyone. There are so many ways people can support our mission, including participating in food sorts at our warehouses, distributing food at hundreds of sites throughout our two communities, or helping with everything from data entry to educating our clients about nutrition.

Other ways to help?
We need and appreciate everything we get. That includes volunteering time, donating canned or packaged goods, or donating a turkey or chicken during our drive. Our biggest need is also the most obvious, and we’re always very grateful for every financial donation we receive. We’ve built an organization that is very efficient at turning money into nutritious meals, and, for example, $500 will allow us to buy over 1,000 meals. As to what people often don’t think about, I would say it’s our nutrition focus. For those donating foods or beverages, we encourage healthy items and ask people to avoid sodas, candies, chips or even high-sugar juices.

As CEO, what are your long-term goals for Second Harvest?
Our new strategic plan calls on us to provide food to an additional 100,000 people per month, over and above the more than a quarter-million people we already serve; that will take both resources and creativity. Even as the Silicon Valley economy has generated great wealth for a select few, too many others have been left behind. Second Harvest’s vision of a hunger-free community is something I truly believe is achievable—and if not here in Silicon Valley, the epicenter of innovation, then where?

Originally published in the December issue of Silicon Valley

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