WATSONVILLE—California State Senator John Laird joined forces with the California National Guard and the Second Harvest Food Bank Friday during a food distribution at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds.
“This is an unprecedented private and public partnership with a huge helping hand from the State of California,” said Willy Elliott-McCrea, CEO of Second Harvest. “We are talking about distributing over 180 million Sate Emergency Food Boxes over the last year. We couldn’t have done this without them and they couldn’t have done this without us.”
Laird, the representative of the 17th District, which contains all of Santa Cruz and San Luis Obispo counties, as well as portions of Monterey and Santa Clara counties, said food need has gone up 70% during the pandemic, an increase he called “monumental.”
“The National Guard has stepped in and made a difference and local donors have stepped in and the state has stepped in, but we have to keep this going,” Laird said. “That’s the real message.”
Laird said he talked to a farmworker at Friday’s distribution, one of dozens that have taken place at the fairgrounds since the start of the pandemic.
“She hasn’t had work for a long period of time, and she said that as she struggles with expenses this mustn’t stop—that it helps her get through every week,” he said. “This is happening everywhere throughout the state. It makes a difference.”
Elliott-McCrea said the event Friday would deliver food to around 1,500 vehicles or more than 2,000 people.
Sarah Morrison, a Watsonville resident, said Friday marked her 10th pickup at a Second Harvest distribution.
“I have four kids so this really helps me,” she said. “When I don’t have food, believe me, this is a great help for the whole family.”
One in four people in California are “food insecure,” said Second Harvest spokesperson Suzanne Willis. That translates to about 10 million people, with Black and Latinx communities taking the brunt of the impact.
While Second Harvest applauded a recent $30 million boost for food banks, they urged leaders for an additional $110 million for the 2021-22 budget to continue the weekly food distributions.