Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County has hired a host of temporary workers as the non-profit prepares for a surge in food needs.
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120 temporary workers were hired to fill volunteer shifts after the food bank had to suspend its volunteer operation at its distribution center amid concerns of spreading the coronavirus.
“We are going to be without volunteers at our distribution center for what could be months, and volunteers have represented 42 percent of our workforce for many, many years,” said Harald Herrmann, the CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank.
The temporary employees come from industries that have been impacted by business closures. Some of them are restaurant workers and some are Goodwill employees.
Herrmann said the idea to hire temporary workers to fill in for volunteers came to him while watching the news and seeing people get laid off or furloughed.
“We’re grateful that those additional hands are out there, but we’re also humbled by the fact that we’re able to provide jobs right now,” Herrmann said.
The part time employees have been split into three rotating teams to sort and pack food.
Some of the employees are assembling 6,500 boxes of shelf stable food a week to be distributed to seniors, low income individuals or individuals quarantined for health reasons and school meal sites.
Second Harvest have also dedicated their Saturday mornings to operating a drive through food pantry for those in need during the Coronavirus pandemic at the Honda center.
Nearly 50 Goodwill of Orange County employees will be working out of the Goodwill Tustin distribution center to pack 10,000 bags of food for the weekly drive through distribution and will deliver food.
The food bank is also utilizing their Harvest Truck Brigade, made up of 200 volunteers with pickup trucks, who are dispatched through text to deliver food from Second Harvest’s Irvine distribution center. An additional 500 field distribution volunteers are also helping get food to those who need it most.
Herrmann anticipates an incoming surge for food needs as more people become unemployed.
“Our unemployment is skyrocketing,” he said. “There’s a lot of people unfortunately out of work and I’ve seen a lot of those people on Saturdays at that drive through distribution.”
Herrmann said the food bank needs $340,000 in donations a week to maintain their food distribution model, pay the addition of temporary workers and feed thousands of people.
The workers make $15 an hour and receive a box of food for them and their family.
However, he said that if the food bank doesn’t have the funding, then the employees can’t work. And if there is no one to pack the boxes then the food bank can’t execute its mission to feed those in need.
“We’re definitely juggling a few balls. We’re fundraising to be able to keep not only the teams in place, but the programs alive to meet the needs that have changed so dramatically over these last four weeks,” Herrmann said.
Some nonprofits like Orange County United Way and Charitable Venture have created pandemic relief funds and are accepting monetary donations to help community based organizations.
“The intent and purpose of that funding is grant funding for local nonprofits serving the needs of the vulnerable in Orange County in response to COVID-19. Nonprofits can apply for these grants at unitedwayoc.org and charitableventuresoc.org,” said Debra Baetz, the director of Orange County’s Social Services Agency at Tuesday’s county board of supervisors’ meeting.
Baetz said United Way and Charitable Ventures’ OC Community Resiliency Fund have received just under $3 million so far.
Donations to Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County can be made online at www.feedoc.org.
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC news intern. Contact him @firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.
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