Hunger affects residents of all ages everywhere in Orange County. Hungry kids lack the energy and focus to do well in school. Hungry adults struggle to perform at work. Consistent access to nutritious food helps fuel focus, productivity and well-being so everyone can thrive. In fiscal year 2021 we:
POUNDS OF FOOD
INDIVIDUALS PER MONTH
OC PARTNER DISTRIBUTION SITES
WHO HUNGER HURTS THE MOST
At least one in six children in our community are at risk of hunger. In Orange County nearly half of all public school children rely on reduced or free school lunches for their major source of nutrition. And now that school’s out, more kids are going to bed hungry.
Among Orange County’s low-income senior population, 29.4% are food insecure. As they struggle to stretch their fixed incomes, the rising cost of living means many simply can’t afford necessities and are forced to choose between food, rent and medications.
Low-income families and individuals are often one paycheck away from hunger. With sky-high rents and an ever-increasing cost of living, it can be impossible to make ends meet. Despite working long hours, these men and women still can’t afford food, rent and other basic necessities. Single mothers are especially vulnerable because many lack the support and resources to manage work and the needs of their children.
HOW WE HELP
Our Child Hunger Strategy is designed to address the nutritional needs of food-insecure children. Hungry children lack the energy to learn and play. Poor nutrition and missed meals can result in both short-term and lifelong consequences for growing kids, including health issues, behavioral problems, lower grades, higher dropout rates and diminished prospects for higher learning and job opportunities later in life.
NEARLY 50% OF
OC PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENTS
rely on free or reduced-priced lunch programs. The majority of these kids struggle to supplement lunch during summer breaks.
We provide food for children across Orange County through:
- More than 65 elementary, middle and high schools
- Community centers like Boys and Girls Clubs
- Kids Cafe afterschool and summer program locations
- Permanent School Pantries
- Mobile School Pantries
Kids Cafe Program
- Kids Cafes provide free meals and snacks for nearly 2,000 children each week, along with a safe place supervised by trusted staff through a variety of community locations.
- Kids add fresh, nutritious food to their plates that otherwise they would not be able to access.
- Many children rely on Kids Cafe as their last complete meal of the day.
Permanent School Pantries (PSPs)
- Our PSPs aim to destigmatize food assistance and provide a dignified, client-centered approach to serving food-insecure families, children and individuals. Our program model is grounded in compassion – from the pantry environment to method of food selection.
- PSP locations are open 3-5 days per week, offering a variety of fresh, nutritious items (including eggs and milk, protein and nutritious shelf-stable items) supplied by our main Distribution Center each morning.
Mobile School Pantries (MSPs)
- These large-scale, farmer’s market-style distributions on school grounds throughout Orange County offer a conveniently accessible source of food to low-income students and their families.
- Through MSPs, families receive fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, dairy and protein, balanced with the nutritional content of canned food and dry goods.
- Second Harvest Food Bank also partners with the Orange County Health Care Agency to
provide nutrition education and recipes based on seasonal produce items available.
Research shows that 2 in every 5 University of California students are food insecure. In the California State University system, 1 in 4 students often don’t know where they’ll find food for their next meal.
Our College Pantry Program helps students stay in school, graduate and find work at well-paying jobs. We partner with 14 college campuses to provide consistent access to nutritious food, ensuring that all students have enough to eat so they can succeed in their studies.
For many seniors living on fixed incomes, food insecurity is a constant worry. In Orange County, 22% of seniors trying to cover healthcare expenses, medications, the high cost of housing and other basic necessities often find themselves without enough left over for sufficient food. Skimping on meals can lead to negative health consequences. But when seniors eat a nutritious diet, they can lead healthier lives and remain independent for longer.
Our Senior Grocery Program has a clear focus on providing seniors with the fresh, nutritious food they need to meet their unique health and nutritional needs.
Through the Senior Grocery Program, we deliver a variety of fresh, perishable items to participating low-income senior apartment complexes and senior centers throughout Orange County.
Many people who look to Second Harvest and our partners for help are working one and sometimes two jobs, but aren’t able to earn enough to compensate for the high cost of living in Orange County. Even before the pandemic, individuals and families were one or two paychecks away from empty plates, and although we’re slowly recovering from the pandemic, any unexpected expense can tip people into food insecurity.
In fiscal year 2021, our Food Bank distributed almost 60 million pounds of food through our network of more than 250 Community Partner locations, to an average of 490,000 individuals each month. Our partners include houses of worship, schools, after-school programs, senior centers, shelters for the unhoused, soup kitchens and transitional housing facilities, and have hundreds of locations throughout the county.
Why nutrition is important
Healthier families = healthier oc
Nutrition is the key to our community’s well-being. Steady, consistent access to nutritious food increases food security and helps build more resiliency for adults and children. Second Harvest provides nutrient-dense food in convenient and dignified locations throughout the county so that we can set those in need up for success in school and at work.
We forecast the need for food using unemployment projections and community need—minus anticipated donations and rescued food—to provide a nutrition-focused food sourcing model.
In addressing food insecurity through establishing nutritional security, our plan prioritizes the sourcing and purchase of:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
MEAL PLATE/PRODUCT MIX
Our nutrition strategy includes balancing fresh food with the nutritional content of canned food and shelf-stable items.
We intentionally purchase a mix of items to ensure a full and consistent nutrition pipeline. Using the USDA’s My Plate recommendations, we provide nutritious food that can help food-insecure individuals and families maintain good health and energy levels.
THE HARVEST SOLUTIONS FARM
In partnership with the UC South Coast Research and Extension Center (South Coast REC) and local sustainability farming pioneer and Solutions for Urban Agriculture founder A.G. Kawamura, we secured 45 acres for our Harvest Solutions Farm at South Coast REC.
Since the launch in August 2021, our farm has produced over 1.4 million pounds of fresh, nutritious produce that has been distributed to those experiencing food and nutrition insecurity in our community.
Food banks are only part of the solution to hunger. The CalFresh program or SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), also helps food-insecure individuals and families put food on their tables.
CalFresh benefits alleviate financial stress and increase access to healthy food. The program also stimulates the local economy with millions of additional dollars spent on food each month. For every meal the food bank can provide, CalFresh provides nine more.
Foundation for a healthy oc
Consistent access to nutritious food options increases food security and supports enhanced community resiliency. By providing fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, dairy, whole grains and proteins for our neighbors in need, Second Harvest is setting up children and families for success in school, at work and in life.
We increase capacity for self-sufficiency throughout Orange County by helping everyone consistently eat well. As a result, the economy benefits, health outcomes improve and children and families are better prepared for success.
When adults are fueled with nutritious food, they are better equipped to perform at work, pursue career advancement and contribute to the health and growth of our local economy1. Additionally, better academic outcomes for young people create greater opportunities.
Elementary students who eat well have the energy and focus they need to learn and play. Studies show that good nutrition improves attendance, behavior, concentration and academic performance2. Healthy meals each day support growing, learning and achieving.
With healthy food on their plates, children can grow and develop and adults of all ages can reduce their risk of chronic diseases and better maintain socio-emotional well-being and health. In addition, research shows eating a healthy diet and avoiding processed foods and refined sugars can reduce symptoms of depression3.
Food is fuel. When everyone has access to healthy food such as fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, dairy and protein, our community develops a foundation of resiliency on which to build.
1 World Health Organization, Nutrition, 2021; Poor Employee Health Means Slacking on the Job, Business Losses, Brigham Young University Communications, 2012 | 2 Nutrition and Students’ Academic Performance, Wilder Research, 2014 | 3 Nutritional Psychiatry: Your Brain on Food, Harvard Health Publishing, 2020 | 4 Prioritizing Nutrition in the U.S, Journal of the American Medical Association, 2021