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COVID-19 Updates

Second Harvest Food Bank’s Response
to the COVID-19 Pandemic and OC’s Hunger Crisis



Pop-up Drive Thru Food Distribution at the Honda Center

December 2020

Feeding those in need.

Second Harvest, with the help of our generous OC community, continues to do everything we can to alleviate hunger caused by pandemic- related unemployment which has eliminated so many jobs in our community. We’re serving about 500,000 people each month – double the number pre-pandemic – and distributing more than double the pounds of food.

For a comprehensive overview of how we’ve helped newly vulnerable people weather this storm click to view this short 20-minute presentation from our “No Lunch” Lunch, or go to our 2020 Annual Report.


March 2020

A Day I’ll Never Forget.

“I was blown away by the scale of this event. Where are all these people coming from? How did they hear about this so fast? Hundreds of cars winding their way forward patiently waiting for food. Crazy. Faces that I’d seen and or said hello to 45 minutes ago or longer! Families who drove together, parents with young children in the back seat reading or playing with toys, seniors alone and together, college students.

“It is in that moment that I realized we’re only at the beginning of real crisis, and it’s not just COVID-19, it’s a potential crisis of hunger.”

Click here to read the rest of CEO Harald Herrmann’s first-person account of Second Harvest’s first-ever Pop-up Drive Thru Food Distribution at the Honda Center in Anaheim on March 21, 2020.



Our team at Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County has been laser-focused and strategically planning for the anticipated spread of Coronavirus / COVID-19 since late February. We conducted a mandatory all-staff or “all hands” meeting and conference call on March 2nd. We were joined by several pantry members and our public relations team as this began the mobilization of our crisis planning and communication process.

We are taking every precaution to maintain strict hygiene protocols and social distancing during every phase of our operations. We secured a supply of masks, gloves, bulk sanitizer, and rented portable hand washing stations to bolster our existing health and safety infrastructure.

We modified our sick leave policy to protect our staff and their respective families’ well-being as they are our utmost priority, and implemented CDC guidelines on gathering, health and safety best practices which went into effect on 3/2. We recalled our field teams into the Distribution Center on 3/9 where they are now supporting our network by phone and e-mail.


Our management team, along with specialists comprised of some 20+ individuals, have been meeting daily since 3/9 to work our plan and prepare for what is now very real; the closure of public schools and the economic impact of business closures and social distancing. We have the good fortune of having an Emergency Management Consultant volunteering his time and available for our daily “COVID-19 Update” huddles moving forward.


We have made the difficult decision to suspend our Distribution Center volunteer operation in order to further harden our perimeter. We will continue to dispatch volunteers in the field to support food distributions when and where needed. We have briefed our network on CDC best practice guidelines and these food distribution sites will reconvey health and safety protocols on-site as needed.

    We are marshaling a brigade of volunteer-driven pickup trucks that we will text dispatch daily from our distribution center to pantry, senior and school sites. We have begun to collect our list of volunteers and will build to approximately 100+ vehicles in order to prepare for potential demand.
    We will continue to depend on volunteers in the field and have a separate text group of volunteers assembling at the ready to support “Box Drop” sites in the community. We will need several hundred volunteers at the ready.


We have and continue to work an 8-week food crisis plan in anticipation of demand primarily driven by school closures, quarantined seniors and the reduction of our grocery rescue supply.

Our typical turn on inventory lasts approximately 4-6 weeks and we’ve been building upon our base inventory to extend to an 8 to 10-week inventory in preparation for increased demand. While we’ve been grateful to find donated products over the last two weeks, we still need to find more food. We tapped our emergency reserve fund and purchased (2) truckloads of peanut butter, (2) truckloads of quick oats, and secured 400,000 pounds of potatoes which will be delivered weekly for 8 weeks. This totals 550,000 pounds of shelf-stable food with an additional need for 1.1 million more pounds of coverage for our 8-week crisis plan.


Our food sourcing team has been navigating a strained supply chain network scrambling to prepare for the increased need for food assistance in our community. We are tracking food supply and with our discounted purchasing power can stretch dollars a long way. Produce costs us an average of 13.5 cents per landed pound, and we are focused on produce with long shelf life like oranges, apples, onions and potatoes. Grocery items like peanut butter, soup, rice and beans, canned tuna, etc. need to be procured and we are purchasing truckloads as soon as funding arrives, literally truck by truck.

37 truckloads of shelf-stable foods are desperately needed in the weeks ahead.

Our Grocery Rescue program which represents approximately 30% of our monthly supply of food, or 800,000 pounds, is at risk due to supply chain constraints and volunteer labor shortages in support of social distancing. To replace this anticipated shortage, we have been actively fundraising to facilitate the procurement of 37 trucks or 1.1 million pounds of shelf-stable foods, our most critical need.

  • Each truckload contains approximately 30,000 pounds of food or 25,000 meals at an average cost of $35,000.
  • We are happy to report that as of today, we have donors who have committed to 17 truckloads and are now COUNTING DOWN from 20!


In anticipation of quarantined seniors throughout the county and the disruption to Kids Cafe meal sites where children receive, in many cases, their most reliable meals while schools are in session, we began boxing up two-week supplemental shelf-stable supplies of food. We’ve been able to ramp up our preparedness inventory for this very at-risk population to over 10,000 boxes and calculate that moving forward we will have some 100+ deliveries to make on a weekly basis serving upwards of 10,000 households. We will continue to pack food boxes weekly, but only with the use of Second Harvest staff on a modified 6-day workweek schedule.



    Of the 1 in 6 children in Orange County that are food insecure, 1,200 of these children have relied on after school meals that are now at risk. We are committed to delivering a 2-week supplemental food box per child/family to these Kids Cafe sites beginning Wednesday and will continue to do so weekly until public schools are back in session.
    We will continue to deliver to our senior sites but with our modified “Box Drop” plan. A Second Harvest truck will deliver food boxes that can be distributed door to door to seniors quarantined in their living quarters.
    We have an incredible network of food pantries and program partners throughout all 34 cities of Orange County that are committed to keeping their existing food distributions going and or modifying their processes in order to meet the changing needs of our community over the days and weeks ahead. We are equally committed to keeping them supplied with food. Currently, 80% of our network has committed to maintaining their ongoing distributions. We are providing guidance to the pantry network to provide prepackaged bag/boxes and drive through pick-ups, appointments as well as home deliveries when necessary.
    The Anaheim Ducks organization has generously offered us their parking lot for a weekly “Pop-up Drive-through” distribution to be held on Saturdays from 9:00 a.m.-Noon. We will have the capacity to serve 500-1,000 families in a drive-up format with a one-week supplemental supply of bagged food. We will need to staff this pop-up site with 40 volunteers working alongside Second Harvest staff.


We are in constant communication with our partner pantries, The Orange County Food Bank, the media and governmental agencies.

  • 211 CALL CENTER: www.211OC.ORG
    We have strengthened our partnership with 211 and are in daily correspondence to monitor our pantry network and the availability of food in real-time. Should anyone need food assistance, please advise them to visit 211oc.org OR ocfoodhelp.org or text their ZIP code to 898-211 for the location nearest them.
    Our website homepage will flex to the needs of our community. Current messaging with hyperlinks for:


Simply put, we need funding to purchase truckloads of shelf-stable food. Spread the word among family, friends and co-workers as every dollar counts during this crisis. We are counting on our community banding together to make sure that all Orange County residents are well nourished and have the best chance of making it through the weeks ahead. Click here to donate.


We are a small but mighty team of 80+ at Second Harvest Food Bank! We have a plan. We have expert, committed individuals working together with us as a team to serve those at risk in our community, and we are committed to keeping “food flowing”.

Stay healthy.



Click here to download a PDF of Harald’s update.

For future updates: Check back on this page. We will update as needed.

The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the best source of information about the COVID-19 pandemic.