Second Harvest Food Bank of OC Launches Farming Initiative to Increase Community Access
Driven to provide consistent access to nutritious food for residents in Orange County, Second Harvest Food Bank is exploring new fields of possibility—fields amounting to 45 acres at the University of California Agricultural and Natural Resources’ South Coast Research and Extension Center (South Coast REC) in Irvine, to be exact.
In collaboration with well-known Solutions for Urban Ag Chairman and former California Secretary of Food and Agriculture A.G. Kawamura, earlier this week the Food Bank planted its first cabbage transplants to generate a steady flow of fresh, locally grown produce into the community for its OC pantry network.
Second Harvest Board Chairman Dave Coffaro joined Kawamura, South Coast REC Director Darren Haver and dignitaries including Irvine Mayor Farrah Khan, 45th Congressional District Representative Katie Porter, and District 3 OC Supervisor Don Wagner on site for the ceremonial planting of the first crops.
Also in attendance were members of Second Harvest’s Board of Directors and Nutritional Advisory Board as well as volunteers working the field to transplant approximately 26,000 young cabbage plants. The Second Harvest expects to receive 40,000 pounds of cabbage per week as of November 18 when the first harvest is expected to take place. When all 45 acres are fully planted, they are anticipated to yield over half a million pounds of produce over four months.
“This is a historic day for Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County,” said Coffaro. “Few food banks, if any, have attempted to grow their own food on this large a scale. Our unique good fortune to have access to 45 acres in the heart of an urban center like Irvine where we are able to cultivate an array of crops and supply our food pantry partners with fresh, nutritious produce brings us a huge step closer to making nutritional security a reality for our entire community.”
The Harvest Solutions Farm is the latest component in Second Harvest’s strategy to fuel nutrition security for all. Last year, to stay ahead of COVID-19’s impact on working families, the Food Bank strengthened operations and paved the way for a new focus on pursuing planned nutrition based on consistent access to fresh protein, produce, and dairy—rather than relying on situational nutrition driven solely by donations.
Second Harvest is centering its work on the connection between nutrition and poverty—a space that, as a large regional food bank, it is uniquely positioned to address. The organization has shifted its entire model to prioritizing the weekly purchase and donation of nutritious food to provide children and families with consistent access to nutrient-dense food that can set them up for success in school and at work. Fresh produce is a key component of a nutritious diet.
The farm will be maintained primarily by 40 volunteers during three-hour shifts, starting with one to two scheduled opportunities per week. Volunteers must be at least 18 years of age. Opportunities for youth engagement will be available in the near future.
For more information, visit feedoc.org.