There are two, main components to smoothly distribute food for Second Harvest of Silicon Valley. Obviously having enough food to cover the need is job No. 1, and Second Harvest currently has a handle on that —as tenuous as it may be.
The second, and equally important component, is having enough volunteers to help with the distribution and it is in this area the Second Harvest of Silicon Valley finds it needs help.
“It’s been a huge concern from the beginning and we’re especially starting to feel it now,” said Leslie Bacho, CEO of Second Harvest of Silicon Valley, which has warehouses in San Jose and San Carlos. “Things are getting busier for everyone and we have seen a decline in volunteers at our sites.”
Second Harvest connects with more than 300 partners throughout both San Mateo and Santa Clara counties to distribute food and while Bacho said there is need for volunteer help to pack food boxes in the organization’s warehouses, it is also looking for volunteers to staff the more than 130 drive-thru food distribution sites in the counties.
“These drive-thru sites are very volunteer dependent,” Bacho said. “The (shortage of) volunteers in the field have just gotten more severe in the last month. … Many of these sites have half the amount of volunteers needed for the work.”
And there is plenty of work that needs to be done. Bacho said her organization is still serving upward of half a million people a month and the amount of food required to meet that need has doubled. At one point, Bacho said the National Guard was helping to fill food boxes in Second Harvest warehouses to distribute to its partners.
“We’re continuing to serve 500,000 people a month. The decline has been only a smidge. We gave out 6 millions pounds of food (per month) before the pandemic. We’ll be over 12 million pounds this month,” Bacho said. “The need (for help) at our facility and our distribution sites remains. After the pandemic hit, we brought in the National Guard, 150 (members), five days a week. That was at the peak. Now we have 10 (National Guard members).”
Bacho said the best way to get involved is to go the Second Harvest website, www.shfb.org and click on the “volunteer” button, where people can sign up as individual or a group. There are a number of different volunteer opportunities and those interested in helping can choose how and where they want to volunteer.
“Through our website, you can sign up directly with one of these distribution sites. Then you can find a day and time that works for you,” Bacho said.
She said this is a perfect opportunity for younger people to get involved in volunteer work as kids as young as 14 can sign up. Kids between the ages of 14 and 17 must have a signed, electronic permission slip on file at least 48 hours before volunteering. Second Harvest also asks that people of “high risk populations” not sign up at this time, but Bacho said that doesn’t stop some people.
“We still do have a lot of hard-core seniors who are not going to be stopped, which we’re grateful for,” Bacho said.
Bacho said she was pleased to see communities step up and help out earlier in the pandemic and is hoping that there are more willing to pick up the baton and continue the race.
“I was pleased in the months that followed (the initial shelter-in-place order) we saw a strong response from volunteers,” Bacho said. “We anticipate this level of need for the foreseeable future. It’s going to take a while to recover from this level of insecurity.”
For more information about Second Harvest and volunteer opportunities, go to www.shfb.org