Food supplies are loaded into the trunk of a vehicle at the drive-by Second Harvest Food Bank pantry

Image from CSUF News

When Cal State Fullerton Master of Public Administration alumna Claudia Keller ’17 started her role as chief mission officer for Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County in January, little did she know that she would soon be leading one of the largest relief efforts in the county’s history, getting groceries and supplies to food-insecure households.

In her role, Keller manages the food bank’s fundraising, advocacy and government affairs efforts, ensuring the organization that serves 250,000 residents each month – in good times – has the resources and reach to prevent hunger in California’s third-most populous county.

Recognizing that COVID-19 would bring a sharp increase in need and a sharp decrease in volunteers and staff, Second Harvest quickly mobilized three initial truckloads of food and hygiene supplies. They immediately let corporate and individual donors know what would be needed if the pandemic impacted the county.

On the Frontlines of Feeding the O.C.

Amidst the coronavirus crisis, Second Harvest team members have a daily 3 p.m. meeting, providing an update on local and national developments, and planning for the needs of the next 48 hours.

“Those huddles have really become a comfort to our team,” says Keller. “Everything is so unpredictable right now, but we know that at three o’clock, we’re all going to meet and bring up the issues we need to talk about.”

Claudia Keller, chief mission officer at Second Harvest Food Bank

Claudia Keller

While typically acting as a distribution center supplying the county’s food pantries, Second Harvest has adapted, stocking more stable shelf foods such as pasta, beans, rice and peanut butter, and delivering large boxes of food to senior centers, partner programs and other sites, including a pop-up food pantry established in partnership with the Honda Center. The pantry at the Honda Center is expected to serve 6,000 households each weekend until the COVID-19 crisis concludes; the pantry also provides jobs for 120 temporary workers, many of whom were recently laid off.

Read more about Keller’s impact, what Second Harvest is doing to keep Orange County fed and some early lessons about emergency preparedness during the pandemic in this CSUF News article.

Or find out how you – as an individual, organization or business – can make a difference in Orange County during the crisis through Second Harvest Food Bank.