It's a shocking statistic: Second Harvest Food Bank provides food assistance every month to one out of every 10 persons in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.
But just as the need for its services grows more acute - with more and more people asking for help - the guardian angel who has watched over Second Harvest in years past seems to have flown away.
Traditionally, the group sees a peak in donations right after Thanksgiving. This year, they saw a dramatic fall-off. It's never happened before.
"That scared us, in fact I would say that almost panicked us," says Second Harvest CEO Kathy Jackson.
Second Harvest sponsors two major food and finance drives during the year. The holiday drive, which began prior to Thanksgiving and ends January 20, provides the organization with nearly half of its revenues for the entire year.
The goal of the holiday drive is $11.3 million and 1.6 million pounds of food.
Yet as of mid-December, the Food Bank has raised just $4.5 million.
Donations of food are down 12 percent.
"We're concerned because of some donor numbness or perceived donor fatigue," says Jackson. "We may not see the flood (of post-Thanksgiving donations) that we saw last year, and frankly, saved our bacon. It's just nerve-wracking right now, as you can imagine."
The number of people Second Harvest serves has increased nearly 50 percent since the recession started in 2007. The Food Bank is providing food to nearly 250,000 people every month – that’s one in 10 people in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.
Cash donations are critical because with its purchasing power, Second Harvest can turn a $1 donation into two meals.
"People can see impact with even small gifts to us," says Jackson. "A dollar, ten dollars, one-hundred dollars, a thousand dollars; gifts of all sizes can have impact."
Interestingly, the largest donor pool for Second Harvest is 40,000-50,000 individuals - not corporations - throughout the two-county region who give to the Food Bank every year and supply about 55-60 percent of the monetary funding.
Corporations supply about 20-25 percent; the rest of the needed monies come from Foundations and a small amount of government funding.
The sluggish economy of the last several years continues to be a challenge for Second Harvest.
"I just ask people to recognize that the tail associated with this recession is going to be a long one," says CEO Kathy Jackson. "While some people are indeed seeing things improve, there are many, many people who have burned through their savings, who find themselves without jobs, and who are literally struggling to put food on the table. Our barrels say it, and we say it: 'Nothing else matters when you're hungry.'"
The most needed food items are protein items like peanut butter, canned tuna and other canned meats, beans, and hearty meals in a can like stew. Pop-top cans are best because many of the people served are homeless or don’t have kitchens.
Second Harvest barrels meant to collect food are located in front of most grocery stores throughout the Peninsula. They're also commonly found in municipal buildings, in many libraries, and in many corporate locations. Food can also be donated at Second Harvest’s 1051 Bing Street location in San Carlos.
Cash donations can be given online on the Second Harvest Web site or by calling 866-234-3663.