100-Millionth Meal Packed by Volunteers as Part of Operation Feed California
California Chief Service Officer joins volunteers at Sacramento food bank, encouraging Californians to help serve vulnerable members of the community
SACRAMENTO – California Chief Service Officer Josh Fryday and staff joined volunteers at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services today to raise awareness of the critical need for volunteers to keep food banks operational in the face of increased demand since the start of the pandemic. During the visit, they packed the 100-millionth meal served to vulnerable Californians at 36 food banks supported by the state since March as part of Operation Feed California, a new statewide food distribution initiative that has mobilized more than 93,000 volunteers.
“At the start of the pandemic, food banks across the state experienced up to six times the normal demand as volunteer availability dwindled under stay-at-home orders to fight the virus,” explained Fryday. “I thank everyone who has answered the Governor’s call to serve their communities, especially the nearly 800 California National Guard members and other partners placed at food banks across the state.”
Californians are encouraged to volunteer at food banks in their communities by signing up to be #CaliforniansForAll members at CaliforniansForAll.ca.gov.
Operation Feed California
Governor Gavin Newsom took early action to stabilize strained food banks with personnel and logistical support which developed into Operation Feed California, an unprecedented collaboration between nonprofits, state agencies and individuals to keep vulnerable Californians fed through the pandemic.
Operation Feed California is fast becoming a blueprint for full-scale mobilization to sustain critical services during state emergencies and disasters. During COVID-19, it has guided the stabilization of 36 food bank operations in 27 counties, establishing a statewide volunteer ecosystem and coordinating cross-state agency solutions to increase resource deployment, adapt programs and address shortfalls.
This key statewide infrastructure led by California Volunteers is responsible for serving 100 million meals to vulnerable Californians since March 15. Its success is due to the more than 93,000 volunteers generated by food banks, volunteer centers, VOADs, and #CaliforniansForAll members who collectively served nearly 400,000 hours supporting food banks across California since the beginning of June.
California Volunteers partnered with the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and the California National Guard to immediately support food banks in distributing and delivering meals. Over time, nearly 800 state agency representatives and nonprofit partners were deployed at once, including the California National Guard, the California Conservation Corps, Civil Air Patrol-California Wing, AmeriCorps California, the American Red Cross and Team Rubicon. As the operation grew, California Volunteers partnered with VolunteerMatch in May to enhance its digital volunteer engagement platform.
Critical Need for Volunteers
As part of Operation Feed California, California Volunteers has deployed nearly 50 AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) members to more than 25 critical food banks across the state to support a planned drawdown of the California National Guard.
“Our service members have done extremely well supporting our food banks,” said Major General David S. Baldwin, the Adjutant General of the California National Guard. “The Cal Guard is always ready, always there for the well-being of the citizens of the great state of California.”
AmeriCorps VISTA members will develop a long-term sustainable strategy with food banks to meet the continued need brought on by the pandemic and other crises. Volunteers are critical for success and will serve a projected 120 million meals by the end of the year.
“Right now, 10 million Californians don’t know when or how they will next eat, with greater rates of hunger and uncertainty amongst our Latinx and other communities of color. We are incredibly grateful to California Volunteers for stepping in to provide critical workforce support for our food banks since the start of the pandemic — first with the Cal Guard and now with AmeriCorps and #CaliforniansForAll members. This support has been vital to ensuring that food banks are able to continue to meet this unprecedented demand for food,” said Stacia Hill Levenfeld the CEO of the California Association of Food Banks. “Food banks know that high levels of hunger will persist long after the wildfires are put out and the pandemic ends, and remain steadfast in their commitment to feed our communities through this crisis and as we rebuild.”
“Food banks play a vital role in providing food and quality nourishment for families and individuals,” said Blake Young, CEO of Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services. “Without participation from volunteers, we would not be able to fulfill our missions. We cherish our relationship with our volunteers and are grateful for their many contributions.”
Californians interested in supporting the effort to sustain food banks through the pandemic are encouraged to sign up to be a #CaliforniansForAll member. More information can be found at CaliforniansForAll.ca.gov.
Led by Chief Service Officer Josh Fryday, California Volunteers, Office of the Governor empowers Californians to take action to improve their communities. #CaliforniansForAll is a California Volunteers service initiative launched in response to COVID-19 to establish a volunteer corps to support the state’s response to emergencies and disasters.