A growing network of food pantries that have evolved to feed Orange County residents during the pandemic are beginning to see a similar funding network arise.

Editor’s Note: As Orange County’s only nonprofit & nonpartisan newsroom, Voice of OC brings you the best, most comprehensive local Coronavirus news absolutely free. No ads, no paywalls. We need your help. Please, click here to make a tax-deductible donation today to support your local news.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously this past Tuesday to approve a $3 million agreement to support Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County and the Community Action Partnership of Orange County to assist with their emergency food distributions through the Social Services agency.

“Food insecurity continues to be the number one ask within the community. 61 percent of our applications are CalFresh applications,” said Debra Baetz, the director of the Orange County Social Services Agency, at Tuesday’s public board meeting. 

“That $3 million funding opportunity to help the food banks is both FEMA and (CARES Act) reimbursable funding, it’s 100 percent federal funding.”

Both nonprofits will receive one time advance payments of $500,000 in their fight against food insecurity. The OC Food Bank is a subsidiary of the Community Action Partnership of Orange County. 

Second Harvest CEO Harald Herrmann said their Saturday pantry costs about $60,000 and serves about 4,500 people every week. 

In February, Second Harvest fed 250,000 people. In April, they fed almost 500,000.

The non-profit will also receive over 30,000 boxes of fresh produce each week through December under a new federal program under the department of agriculture called the Coronavirus Farm Assistance Program.

The $19 billion federal program will use CARES act money to support farmers also hit financially by the pandemic.

“This USDA food is a significant shot in the arm for us and it’s fantastic produce,” Herrmann said.  “It just made our process that much easier in terms of food procurement.” 

He added that the federal support is a good amount of food but it’s only about a third of what they need.

“What was a sprint is now a marathon,” Herrmann said. “But the thing that’s most complicated is unemployment and that’s the thing that scares us the most and that’s what we’re focused on.”

“We’re going to be spending considerably more money on food than we have in the past.”

Herrmann said for the most part donations from corporations, family trusts and individuals funded the food bank’s operations before the federal support.

“Since COVID began, we’ve been running off of our own fundraising efforts,” Herrmann said. “The USDA program and now this CARES funding is the first real federal money to arrive and we’ve been at this for 12 weeks.”

He said that usually the food bank works behind the scenes helping pantries feed the county but because of closures they were forced to the forefront to fight food insecurity. 

Over time they hope to transition back to that role as other pantries are able to meet the demand. Second Harvest is looking to run their Honda Center pantry through June and direct visitors to pantries closer to their homes.

“The reality is that there’s gonna be a lot of families struggling to get back onto their feet because of unemployment and food security will be with us for some time and it’s a baseline need to keep our community healthy,” he said.

Baetz said that the number one ask for high risk seniors is also food.

“We had this week beginning yesterday in South County and today in North and Central launched the Great Plates program so deliveries have begun. Over 900 meals were served yesterday through our partner Age Well, who also assists with who also runs the senior Meals Program for the county,” said Dylan Wright, Director of OC Community resources.

The Great Plates Delivered program is a statewide initiative launched by Gov. Gavin Newsom on April 24 with the purpose of getting meals to adults 65 and older as well as high risk seniors while supporting local restaurants and food providers suffering economically from business closures.

Supervisor Don Wagner criticized the state’s delay in providing guidelines on how to implement the program.

“Isn’t this everything that’s wrong with government?” Wagner asked.

“This is something that the state has crammed down on us that sounds like a great idea but here we are struggling to administer it because we’re late getting guidelines from the state.”

The program will help large and medium sized businesses in the first week than small businesses by week four, Wright said.

“We’re only able to satisfy those guidelines by inviting the people that aren’t really the targets of the government largess I just think it’s a poster child for what’s wrong with the state in the state’s approach,” Wagner said.

For anybody in need of food there are pantries across the county handing it out for free.

These include:

Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County 

Every Saturday from 9 a.m to 12 p.m. at the Honda Center

2695 E Katella Ave, Anaheim, CA 92806

The Vineyard Anaheim Church

Every Wednesday and Thursday from 9-11 a.m. at the church. 

5340 E La Palma Ave, Anaheim, CA 92807

Laguna Food Pantry

Monday-Friday 8:00 am-10:30 am

20652 Laguna Canyon Road Laguna Beach, CA 92651

Yorba Linda Community Center

Every Thursday 8:30 a.m.-9:30 a.m.

4501 Casa Loma Avenue Yorba Linda, CA 92886

The Salvation Army Southern California

Every Monday 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Friday 9:30 a.m.-12:30 a.m.

1515 West North Street Anaheim, CA 92801


Tuesday-Thursday 1-3 p.m.

10200 Pioneer Road Tustin, CA 92782

United Across Borders Foundation

Saturday May 23 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

235 S Pine Dr. Fullerton, CA 92833

For more food assistance options visit 211 OC.

If you operate a drive through food pantry in Orange County and would like our newsroom to be aware of your efforts, reach out to Hosam Elattar at helattar@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.

Since you've made it this far,

You are obviously connected to your community and value good journalism. As an independent and local nonprofit, our news is accessible to all, regardless of what they can afford. Our newsroom centers on Orange County’s civic and cultural life, not ad-driven clickbait. Our reporters hold powerful interests accountable to protect your quality of life. But it’s not free to produce. It depends on donors like you.

Join the conversation: In lieu of comments, we encourage readers to engage with us across a variety of mediums. Join our Facebook discussion. Message us via our website or staff page. Send us a secure tip. Share your thoughts in a community opinion piece.