Orange County’s two biggest food banks have asked the county for money so they can continue feeding local residents hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and county leaders will consider the question next week.
The Orange County Board of Supervisors will vote Tuesday, Oct. 20, on a late addition to its agenda that would give the food banks another $3 million in federal funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The money would come at a time when tens of thousands of county residents helped by the Orange County Food Bank and Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County are facing the end of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farmers to Families food box program. The USDA had announced in recent weeks that October is the last month the government agency will buy produce, meat and dairy from strapped farmers to send to the nation’s food distributors — a program launched earlier this year in response to pandemic-driven food needs.
Both of the local food banks, a resource for cash-strapped families, are dealing with a continuing rise in the number of people struggling with coronavirus-related economic hardship. Many of the newly hungry are middle class earners who turned to the food distribution system after losing their jobs when companies retracted or shut down completely.
If approved, the county funding would be the second award of local CARES Act dollars to the food banks, which earlier this year evenly divided a $3 million allotment.
Second Harvest is the county’s largest resource for food pantries, church groups and nonprofits that feed the needy. Some 30 community pantries and 10 mobile school pantries who are without volunteers because of COVID-19 might otherwise close if the food bank can’t purchase pre-packed food boxes, said Harald Herrmann, chief executive officer of Second Harvest.
“Another $1.5 million would be a tremendous help as the USDA program comes to an end on Oct. 31 and leaves us without a steady source of food donations and with a shortage of food,” Herrmann said.
Both food banks plan to use the extra money to buy food boxes from other sources, and hope that donors in the community will provide additional support as the holidays approach.
Orange County Food Bank had been getting 120,000 USDA food boxes a month through the Farmers to Families program, said Gregory Scott, president and chief executive of Community Action Partnership – Orange County, which operates Orange County Food Bank.
“The loss of that leaves a huge hole,” Scott said, adding that money from the county will help feed about 50,000 Orange County families over the next couple of months.
Find food resources in Orange County at 211OC.org.
How $1.5 million in food breaks down
- 24,000 pre-packed boxes of grower-direct, fresh produce
- 30,000 pre-packed boxes of shelf stable food
- 187,200 dozen local, farm-fresh eggs
- 1.48 million pounds of food in total
Source: Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County
Source: Orange County Register