Friday, March 15, 2013

Learning What Goes On at Second Harvest OC

Second Harvest Food Bank Orange County
8014 Marine Way
Irvine, CA 92618

I have been with my girlfriend Katie for pretty close to four years now. Besides her, one of the things I love the most about her is her family. They are a great, close knit group that has welcomed me into their lives with no hesitation. I might be a handful sometimes, but they never seem to bat an eye. 

One of the members of the family that I have noticed the biggest change in during my close to four years in the family, is Katie's little sister, Emily. When I first came into the picture Emily was still in college, spent many nights on the couch watching TV, and had a strange obsession with Justin Timberlake. Okay, not much has changed, except that she has now graduated college and has a "real" job at Second Harvest Food Bank. I was intrigued to see what went on at a Food Bank, so she was gracious enough to take me on a tour.

We started our tour in the busy parking lot of the food bank. Second Harvest has been located on the old El Toro Marine Base since 2007. The move became necessary after they outgrew their former 53,000 square foot building in the city of Orange. After a long approval process and retrofitting of the warehouse, Second Harvest opened the doors of their new 121,000 square foot building. The facility was definitely busy, as we were standing in the parking lot. Two trucks made their way to the loading docks to drop off food. I was very excited to see the work they do here, so Emily decided to start our tour. 

When the food arrives it comes in on pallets or boxes. The majority of the food that the food bank acquires is from restaurants, grocery stores, food manufacturers, growers, the USDA, and through corporate and individual food drives. 

The food is then placed in milk crates for sorting. This is where the volunteers come in. Groups and individuals check the food for safety, sort and label all the incoming food. Last year the food bank used 10,000 volunteers. Many companies have donated their time at Second Harvest as a way to give back to the community and as a team building experience. 

Once the food is sorted by the volunteers it is then checked into the food banks inventory system, where it can be ordered by Second Harvest non-profit partners. Organizations then have the opportunity to come into the facility to pick it up, or have it delivered to them. 

Some of the sorted food is used in what Second Harvest calls Emergency Food Boxes. These boxes contain staple items, and are distributed to 13,000 families that are in the Emergency Food Assistance Program and the Emergency Food and Shelter Program. Also, once a year they can provide these boxes to 300 non profit agencies, who in turn distribute them to over 22,000 families. Rather remarkable numbers.

One of the newest features at Second Harvest Food Bank is the creation of Izzy's Corner. This area of the warehouse grew out of the necessity that there was no opportunity for children to donate their time helping out at the food bank. The warehouse at Second Harvest is a very active place, so they needed to have a gated area where girl and boy scout troops, church youth groups, and school aged children could help their peers by packing and sorting thousands of pounds of food for children and families in need.

While we were on our tour, Emily was spewing out many staggering numbers. Orange County may seem affluent, but there are 400,000 people who struggle with hunger. Nearly 35 percent of this group are children.  Other groups who struggle are seniors, single parents, the working poor, the unemployed, and the homeless. 

So how can you get involved? Of course Second Harvest Food Bank accepts monetary funds. For every dollar that is donated, they can provide three meals for the hungry. Ninety cents out of every dollar goes directly to feeding the hungry. You may also choose to donate food, whether through an organized food drive or by dropping off fresh produce, canned foods, or other items in their original packaging to the Second Harvest warehouse. Lastly, you may volunteer your time by choosing to sort and label food,  harvest at the Incredible Edible Park by picking weeds and planting seeds, or if you have any other talents that you feel the people at Second Harvest would benefit from, they would love to hear from you. 

As we ended our tour back where we had started, I saw another truck leaving the warehouse. It made me happy that I knew that another truck was on its way to feeding the hungry of OC. It also made me proud to know that our little Justin Timberlake loving, couch sitting family member, Emily was working at a place that is doing so much good for the community. Very proud of you and your coworkers Em. 

For more information about what goes on at Second Harvest Food Bank Orange County, and to find out how you can help them with their great work, click here: 


  1. Wow Mike...thank you do much for posting something about the Food Bank :) I didn't realize you love me so much! you and thank you for your ongoing support! We loved having you visit, hopefully we can have a volunteer family day! Also...this is the best food blog in Orange County!!!!!

  2. This is so great! What an awesome and to-the-point writeup. I feel like it explains so many key aspects of the Food Bank so effortlessly. Thank you for writing this, and bonus shout out to Emily because she works so hard at the Food Bank.

  3. Anonymous(Emily)and Nick - Thank you both for taking the time to show me around Second Harvest. It was a great tour, and awesome to see what goes on here. Keep up the great work guys, and thanks for reading the blog.