Santa Cruz Food Bank Seeks Tech Community Support with “Tech Feeds Hope” Initiative
By Susan Lovegren
Chair of Tech Feeds Hope committee, Member of Board of Trustees at Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Cruz County
Special to Santa Cruz Tech Beat
September 29, 2020 — Santa Cruz, CA
Creating a broadened, sustainable support base for our county’s nutritionally-at-risk population requires connecting with people in every possible way.
This is the basic goal of the recently formed Tech Feeds Hope committee at Second Harvest. Their strategy is straightforward – Diversify and broaden giving patterns for the food bank to include a larger percentage of support from technology companies and tech professionals who live, work, visit and play in Santa Cruz County.
While the food bank in Santa Cruz County is a private non-profit, like others in every California county, it draws support from diverse sources. It has seen its tech sector support wane in recent years due to the rapidly evolving tech environment. Management changes, company moves and acquisitions all have had a shrinking effect on tech sector funding behavior. Simultaneously, the tech community has grown in Santa Cruz County, as more people have launched businesses, workers in Silicon Valley moved in or bought second homes and visited to enjoy our coastal, recreational environment.
The Need for Greatly Expanded Support
Second Harvest is experiencing a 100 percent increase in the need for food assistance due to the pandemic’s economic effects. During prior “normal” times in our county, 1 in 5 people faced hunger. For children it’s 1 in 4. Every month, 55,000 local residents typically counted on the food bank to avoid missing meals, empty stomachs, choices between food, housing, medicine and other necessities. Because of the pandemic’s effects and the recent fires, that’s changed drastically.
Food demand doubled since the pandemic hit. Second Harvest and its partners county-wide are now distributing 1.2M pounds of food per month to nearly 100,000 people. Food distribution demand is facing a longer planning horizon than may be accurately visualized. Santa Cruz County also has a higher percentage of essential workers than Santa Clara/San Mateo Counties. Workers in tourism, agriculture, small businesses, students are all feeling the effect of job furloughs and losses which are landing especially hard on communities of color and rural populations who can’t afford to buy the food they harvest. Lastly, with schools reopening remotely, it means many more families needing to provide meals at home for their children.
Second Harvest reaches people in need through its county-wide network of 100+ partner agencies and non-profits and directly through mass food distributions as well as nutritional education at dozens of program sites.
Hunger is not inevitable. The food bank is working harder than ever to feed people and advocates for policies tackling the root causes of hunger. But these efforts all take a strong flow of county-wide support (and beyond) to make it work. Only with adequate food and nutrition can children learn, adults work, and our communities thrive.
Facts driving the exceptional need in Santa Cruz County compared with neighboring Santa Clara County include:
- Average income $78,041 and median home price $905,000 in 2020, (5x yearly income = s approximate maximum mortgage amount) showing that median household income has nowhere the income required to pay for a median-priced home. Only about 13% of our population can afford a home.
- Since Silicon Valley is located nearby, local residents compete for housing with many well-qualified buyers with some of the biggest names in tech.
- 5% higher poverty rate – the second highest rate in California.
- 2% higher rate of uninsured under the age of 65.
- 3% higher levels of disabilities.
- 80% fewer employer establishments.
Tech Community’s Expansion
Today, we have a growing number local tech firms regularly covered by Santa Cruz Tech Beat, and thousands of tech workers residing in the county, owning homes here, commuting over Highway 17 or thankfully, working from home as well. Santa Cruz County is clearly an extension of Silicon Valley’s economy in a variety of ways beyond being only a bedroom or playground.
UC Santa Cruz has highly-respected programs in life and physical sciences and engineering, notably computer science engineering, biomedical sciences, astronomy, physics and biology. UCSC has a strong partnership with Second Harvest of Santa Cruz County. Donations flow from the holiday food drive involving students, faculty and staff. And the food bank supports food pantries at the school.
There’s a world-class tech talent pool in Silicon Valley’s backyard. Essentially, the university is an incubator for biotech with a top-rated engineering program. Many startups and large corporations are seeding new research among brilliant graduate students. Yet, only 6 percent of Second Harvest donations come from tech. Perhaps it’s a lack of understanding about what’s essential at an early age to ensure young minds are receiving the nutrition and support needed to become part of the future workforce.
Lastly, surveys demonstrate that tech employees expect programs and policies supporting social responsibility, social justice, philanthropy and volunteerism. That can and should be a powerful motivation for positive change.
There could be no better time for making a meaningful difference in Santa Cruz County by becoming a founding partner with us on this important initiative. What’s needed from the tech community are multi-year commitments by organizations willing to guarantee a 25K per-year donation. Additionally, donations can also be generated by tech community employees to help provide a stronger safety net for unexpected circumstances as we’re currently experiencing. Employees may also volunteer in our efforts, a tremendously satisfying experience for those who do.
Joining the Tech Feeds Hope initiative is also an effective way of supporting your company’s mission, employees’ expectations and demonstrating a commitment to the county where your team works, lives and plays. But the real key to giving and supporting food assistance, is because it makes you feel good.
To donate, go to, Second Harvest Food Bank’s Tech Feeds Hope.
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