The first Monday in March is the busiest day of the year at the Second Harvest Food Bank in Watsonville. Once a month the Bank holds a USDA food distribution day, and this one comes as many seasonal workers have just returned to the region. But those waiting in line come from all corners of the community. "We're seeing just dramatic changes, especially in this last year with the meltdown in the economy and people losing their homes. One of things that I think has driven the increase in need this winter more than anything has been the price of gas. It has affected not only filling your tank but has affected the price of milk, the price of food the price of everything, so that has really put the squeeze on our clients," said Willy Elliot-McCrea, Executive Director of Second Harvest.
That need has also put the squeeze on the Food Bank's outdated warehouse where receiving, storing and shipping five million pounds of food a year is a time-consuming juggling act. The warehouse has no shelves, so the pallets of food are stacked on top of each other. "Right now you never know where things are at. You're constantly looking for things, and then if you need to pull the product out of the back, you've got all the product in the front. It's more than crazy. The average pallet that comes here, we move it more than 50 times before it goes out," said Elliot-McCrea. Also, the warehouse is not large enough to store all the perishable donations, so every week truckloads of food are turned away.
Second Harvest is undergoing a $4.3-million expansion project to solve these problems. The project will expand storage, as well as freezer and cooler space to help meet current and future demands. By 2015, Elliot-McCrea estimates demand on the Food Bank will double and they'll be giving out ten million pounds of food a year. With much of the money for the multi-million expansion project secured, Second Harvest is now looking to the community to help raise $500,000 to complete the project. To learn more about Second Harvest and the campaign visit their web site thefoodbank.org.