The Produce Hubs are part of Second Harvest’s new dedicated distribution model that is designed to increase efficiency so that more food, particularly produce, can get to the people who need it most. As a result, in the first nine months of this fiscal year, Second Harvest has distributed 3.2 million more pounds of produce than it did during the first nine months of 2010-2011.
“These hubs have increased our access to fresh produce,” said Edita Cruz, executive director of Martha’s Kitchen in San Jose. “The produce is delivered to different neighborhood sites at their peak quality and agencies can pick what we want. It means we can provide more fresh fruits and vegetables to our clients.”
In the past, partner agencies that operate food pantries, soup kitchens, and other food-assistance programs ordered their produce from Second Harvest online for delivery or pickup the next day. Not only did that cause a delay in getting produce out the door, which meant sometimes it wasn’t very fresh, but it also made the distribution process more costly.
“This is part of a mission-driven business model change that is streamlining operations and improving our efficiency so we can deliver more food to our partner agencies and the individuals and families we serve,” said Kathy Jackson, CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank. “Market forces are requiring us to work smarter and do more with less. For example, the cost of food has skyrocketed over the last year. In addition, the rise in gas prices has seriously impacted our business. Because we are one of the few food banks that don’t charge our partner agencies for the food we provide, we can’t pass these costs on to our customers. We have to find ways to reduce the cost of getting the food out the door so we can continue to meet the need. The number of people Second Harvest serves each month has increased nearly 50 percent since the recession started.”
Instead of receiving, sorting, boxing, and delivering the orders, Second Harvest now trucks the produce to the Produce Hubs, where small to mid-sized partner agencies can select what they want. Produce Hubs are held every week at set times and locations. Large agencies with significant storage space still have produce delivered to them.
“The Produce Hubs are hugely important to us as they allow us to provide a wide variety of fresh produce to our clients,” said Mary Watt, executive director of CALL Primrose in Burlingame. “This week we have been able to get broccoli, watermelons, bell peppers, potatoes, onions and strawberries. We are grateful to Second Harvest Food Bank for always seeking new ways to push as much healthy produce out to those in need in our community.”
Second Harvest Food Bank provides food to nearly 250,000 people each month. That’s one in 10 people in the two-county region.
More than half of what the Food Bank distributes each month is fresh produce. In addition to providing produce to its partner agencies, Second Harvest delivers fruits and vegetables to low-income families and individuals out in the community through its Produce Mobile. Produce is also provided through Second Harvest’s Family Harvest program (monthly groceries for families with children) and Brown Bag program (weekly groceries for seniors).
Anyone who is struggling to put food on the table should call Second Harvest Food Bank’s Food Connection hotline at 800-984-3663. To support the Food Bank, visit http://www.SHFB.org or call 866-234-3663.
Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties is the trusted leader dedicated to ending local hunger. Since its inception in 1974, Second Harvest has become one of the largest food banks in the nation, providing food to an average of nearly one quarter of a million people each month. The Food Bank mobilizes individuals, companies and community partners to connect people to the nutritious food they need. Nearly half of the food distributed is fresh produce. Second Harvest also plays a leading role in promoting federal nutrition programs and educating families on how to make healthier food choices. Visit http://www.SHFB.org to get involved.