A handwritten sign outside the Patagonia Senior’s Center where daily meals and weekly vegetables are distributed. Photo by Robert Gay

The Eastern Santa Cruz County Community Foodbank (ESCCCF) in Patagonia has seen a noticeable increase in demand since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, according to Jim Staudacher, president of the organization. The Foodbank operates a weekly vegetable distribution in front of the Patagonia Senior Center on Monday mornings and a monthly distribution of bags of canned and packaged food. They are also available for emergency distribution of food throughout the month. 

For the short term, there is an increased amount of fresh food available, due to the closing of restaurants across the country during the pandemic.

“The vegetable supply for our Monday distribution has been steady and plentiful, with higher quality than usual,” wrote Staudacher. “That might seem like a good thing (it is for our clients) but the reason the vegetables are so nice and available is that there is a supply glut stemming from restaurants and other consumers being closed or unwilling/unable to buy vegetables like usual.”

Staudacher is concerned that the current oversupply will cause growers in Mexico to plant less in the coming months which could lead to future shortages.

“Exactly when the vegetable harvest will wain in Mexico…is guesswork at this point,” he wrote. “We intend to continue distributing vegetables as long as they are available, and people want them…I personally am hopeful we can distribute all the way through May but that is uncertain.” 

The Foodbank saw close to a 100% increase in demand for their supplemental food bags from March to April and anticipate another increase in demand for May. Shortages of nonperishable items, such as flour, however, have made it difficult for them to fill the monthly food bags that they distribute. “Disruptions in the supply chain have made it more difficult for us to purchase non-perishable food in the quantities we need to fulfill our mission. We are working with our suppliers and their distributors to make sure we have enough purchased food available to fill our monthly food bags and future commitments,” Staudacher wrote.

ESCCCF is an independent, nonprofit food bank that depends on grants and donations of funds and food to fulfill its mission. “At this point we are doing well with a noticeable increase in demand for our services,” he  wrote. “However, we anticipate greatly increased demand for our services if this crisis continues.” 

The Foodbank is in need of donations to help defray the cost of purchased food. Although the organization welcomes volunteers, they are not accepting new volunteers at this time to minimize their risk of exposure to the virus, according to Staudacher. “That will change when this crisis passes,” he wrote. 

The most beautiful thing about working with the East Santa Cruz County Community Food Bank, Inc is the unwavering community support we enjoy, uninterrupted since our incorporation in 1994, Staudacher wrote. “Seeing the smiles on the faces of our volunteers and clients and hearing the constant ‘Thank You’ comments is just so heart warming.”