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By Lillian Boyd

The Orange County Board of Supervisors this week unanimously approved a proposal brought forth by Chairman Andrew Do and Fifth District Supervisor Lisa Bartlett to allocate $5 million toward local food assistance during emergencies.

“The COVID-19 pandemic increased an already existing food insecurity for many Orange County families,” Do said. “To address the increasing need, Orange County is dedicating $5 million for food assistance and emergency capacity for food and water storage.”

The OC Board of Supervisors unanimously approved $3 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding to the OC Hunger Alliance for the purchase of emergency food and an additional $2 million for food and water storage equipment in the event of a disaster or emergency, contingent upon submitting a countywide strategic emergency preparedness plan.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed a collective need to prioritize pandemic prevention and preparedness,” said Bartlett. “The unprecedented ripple effects caused by the pandemic have had an adverse social and economic impact throughout Orange County. Food is one of the most basic needs, and it is important that we do our part to ensure that food is available to those truly in need.”

According to an analysis report by Feeding America, the overall food insecurity rate in 2019 reached its lowest point since it began to be measured in the 1990s. In 2020, the pandemic wiped out those improvements, increasing food insecurity globally.

Supply chain disruptions due to the pandemic have increased consumer demand, causing food prices to rise steeply. Many individuals who lost their homes and jobs experienced food insecurity for the very first time.

To address hunger in Orange County, Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County, the Community Action Partnership of Orange County/Orange County Food Bank, and Abound Food Care combined forces last year to form The OC Hunger Alliance.

In 2020 alone, Second Harvest and the OC Food Bank experienced a 400% increase in demand, while experiencing a significant decrease in resources. The Community Action Partnership of Orange County/Orange County Food Bank, for example, reported that they received 14,639,213 pounds of donated goods during the last two months of 2020, but only 7,858,822 pounds of donated goods during the first two months of 2021—a nearly 50% decrease.

Through a partnership with Saddleback Church, Do and Bartlett continue to host drive-thru and walk-up food drives for thousands of families in need.

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