The new year has arrived, not as a savior from the worst 12 months ever, but like a raging hangover, the aftershocks of a year that went a little too off the rails. Coronavirus cases are skyrocketing, lockdown orders remain tight and in costly Silicon Valley, need for help has reached record levels.
But then the silver lining: businesses and other organizations are donating and partnering with nonprofits to fill in the gaps more than ever.
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. joined the fray in August, when the Chico-based brewery pledged to give $1 million, spread out over a year, to nonprofits across the country. One of those nonprofits is Second Harvest of Silicon Valley, the beer-maker announced recently. As one of the largest food banks in the country, Second Harvest is feeding 500,000 people monthly, double the number compared to pre-pandemic times.
So far, Second Harvest has met the need because of partnerships like the one with Sierra Nevada, Leslie Bacho, CEO of the San Jose-based food bank said.
“We are incredibly grateful to Sierra Nevada for helping us provide groceries, and hopefully some reassurance, to so many people right now,” she said. “With so many people in crisis all at once, particularly the low-wage workers who have been impacted the most by the economic crisis, it’s so important that our neighbors get the nutritious food they need.”
Second Harvest will get $25,000 from Sierra Nevada, which is raising those funds through sales of its new West Coast brew, Dankful IPA.
“We’re using beer to draw attention to the program and nonprofits,” Robin Gregory, Sierra Nevada communications director said. “It’s been so eye-opening to see how many people Second Harvest is feeding and how much increase they've seen in their demand.”
Second Harvest distributes food to families’ doorsteps or at a low-touch drive-through location. More than 90 percent of Second Harvest’s funding comes from donations, ranging from individual or corporate partners, foundations and community groups.
And while Second Harvest receives the majority of its food from packers, growers and manufacturer retailers, it still has to purchase “quite a bit more” to meet the demand of people who have become food insecure during the pandemic, according to Bacho.
She hopes the donors’ generosity continues to flow in following the holidays, which is the food bank's peak season.
“One thing I know is so many families and individuals have had their savings completely wiped out during the pandemic. Many have had to defer their rent,” Bacho said. “It’s going to take a long time for so many in the community to recover from this economic devastation, so we’re going to continue to need increased support to continue to serve food to those who need it most.”
Sierra Nevada isn't the only local organization opening its wallet or delivering acts of service in recent months as the pandemic rages on.
The Sharks Foundation partnered with SAP and donated $34,000 to CityTeam, another $300,000 to Second Harvest and teamed with Citizens Equity First Credit Union (CEFCU) to donate $10,000 to the Alum Rock Counseling Center for its annual gift giveaway.
The 49ers partnered with Second Harvest to provide milk donated by Clover and turkey roasts from the players, coaches and their families. The NFL’s front office staff distributed the Thanksgiving staples, along with Second Harvest’s weekly groceries, to about 700 families.
Safeway and Whole Foods partnered with local broadcast media and produced giving campaigns with donations going to Second Harvest.
CityTeam, alongside Micro Focus and Central Christian Church, delivered thousands of food boxes and toys to needy families in the South Bay on Dec. 18, while San Jose firefighters dropped off a $5,000 check to Second Harvest on Dec. 21.
Donations have come from the art sector, too, as Silicon Valley Open Studios launched a virtual art show and fundraising event to benefit Second Harvest.
Golden Acorn Music, an interactive music enrichment program featuring music educators from a variety of backgrounds, hosted its first-ever virtual holiday concert on Dec. 7, donating all of the proceeds to Second Harvest.
Private fundraising and volunteerism has spiked, too. Bellarmine College Prep, which has partnered with Second Harvest for the past 29 years, raised over $20,000 on its food drive this season, tripling its typical contribution.
In October, Second Harvest faced a volunteer shortage and volunteers from the Church of Latter Day Saints have put in over 10,000 hours at the food bank since the start of the pandemic.
“They are on site four days a week, two shifts a week,” Bacho said. “They’ve been a highly productive and constant source of volunteer support and inspiration.”
Same goes for the San Jose Conservation Corps, who have been volunteering for the last several months sorting food. “They are supplied to us through CARES funding through the city of San Jose,” Bacho said.
But the most grassroots effort to date comes from Harrison Haarlow Porter. The eighth-grader at Valley Christian Middle School started his own cookie company, Crumbs for a Cause, in late October when he learned about the climbing need. Since then, he’s donated $2,175 to Second Harvest.