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Op/Ed: Ending Hunger in Santa Cruz County

Second Harvest Food Bank is making a final call for donations before the holidays.

By Ryan Coonerty and Rene Schlaepfer

The Holiday Food Drive raises food and funds for a countywide network of agencies that can reach out to every family in need. Sadly, the demand for food has increased 58 percent in the last five years.

Your neighbors, friends and co-workers in Santa Cruz County now receive 500,000 meals from local food providers every month. Nearly half of those helped are children. This is a difficult, but eminently solvable problem.

Second Harvest provides food to 200 local food programs throughout Santa Cruz County where 3,000 volunteers pack and distribute it to hungry people.  

All we need now is the commitment to say that we will no longer tolerate any child going to bed hungry in our community. It takes all people across this county—from north to south, Republicans and Democrats, religious and secular—coming together to contribute what they can. 

Five years ago, when the economy was good, the church raised a respectable 45,000 pounds of food.  Each year, interest has grown. As church members developed new events, enthusiasm and momentum grew and so did their combined contributions. 

This year, Twin Lakes set an ambitious goal of raising $1.40 a day for 10 weeks (a $100 donation) from every man, woman and child in the congregation—the equivalent of 1 million pounds of food. Like everyone else, members of Twin Lakes have been profoundly affected by the economy. Many people couldn’t write checks, so they improvised. They sold old books, household items, saved spare change and sacrificed a meal out.

Six-year-old Travis made homemade kites and sold them door to door, raising an amazing $680. Since Second Harvest can provide four meals for every dollar, he raised enough to provide 2,720 meals!

In giving, the sense of community and meaning of the holidays grew at Twin Lakes Church. Those who contributed, those who needed help and our entire community are stronger as a result.

As your Holiday Food Drive Co-Chairs, we need your help. If everyone gives a little, we can feed a lot. Imagine ending hunger in our county in 2012. Imagine what else we can accomplish when we put aside our differences and focus on the ties that bind us—love for our children, care for our community, and a commitment to each other.

To find out how you can help, visit www.thefoodbank.org.

Ryan Coonerty, Mayor of Santa Cruz, and Rene Schlaepfer, Pastor at Twin Lakes Church, are co-chairs of the Second Harvest Holiday Food Drive.

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