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Amazon blessing for the hungry
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Amazon’s decision to locate its online grocery fulfillment center that serves the Bay Area and the Northern San Joaquin Valley in Tracy has increased the amount of fresh produce and dry food goods being distributed to help feed the hungry.
Second Harvest Food Bank that serves as a distribution center for food banks in San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Merced counties has been receiving surplus vegetables and fruit as well as dairy, meat and dry food from Amazon that is nearing the expiration date since the online retailer started their Tracy food operations eight months ago.
The produce is still fresh and good quality but may not meet retail standards in terms of looks and size or may not be moving fast enough to keep veggies and fruit on hand fresh enough to meet Amazon’s delivery specifications. And while dry food items that are nearing expiration dates for “best used by” for food such as cereal, canned goods, and boxed pasta meals, it is still good enough to eat. Food bank personnel are well-versed in how much longer — typically several months — that such food are safe to consume beyond the expiration date.
The Manteca-based Second Harvest operation now supplies more than 100 food banks serving clients through the Northern San Joaquin Valley.
Second Harvest spokesperson Jessica Vaughn told Manteca Rotarians meeting Thursday at Ernie’s Rendezvous Room the majority of those receiving food are the working poor, retired people on fixed income who are seeing health care costs and other expenses eat up their pensions, and people caught in unexpected emergencies such as losing their home in a fire or major medical costs not covered by insurance.
“The demand is actually up,” Vaughn said in spite of the improving economy due to escalating housing costs and other expenses eating into paychecks.
Amazon joins a long list of partners working with the food bank from financial donations, delivery of excessive foods items, or other services needed to keep the on-profit going.
Other  firms that provide food donations  on a regular basis include Kraft, Walmart, Target, ConAgra Foods, C&S Wholesale Grocers, Sysco, Diamond Foods, Bell-Carter Foods, Frito-Lay, Del Monte, Foster Farms, DOT, Food for Less, Save Mart, Safeway, Quaker Oats, Swiss American Sausage, Van Groningen & Sons, WinCo Foods, Trader Joe’s, Seneca, Taylor Farms and more.
In the past year Second Harvest has distributed 16 million pounds of non-perishable items to food banks and 5 million pounds of produce that they have also in part distributed directly to area communities through their Mobile Fresh endeavor.
A decision to acquire an adjoining warehouse to their long-time location on Industrial Park Drive is allowing them to significantly increase their capacity. It also has loading docks as well as racks to substantially increase their efficiency loading and unloading trucks. It used to take two workers 2 hours to unload trucks due to the lack of loading docks. Now it takes one worker 45 minutes.
That’s critical when Second Harvest will be notified on short notice that there is an available truckload of food headed their way.
Because the food comes in big bins such as from Amazon or a mixture of items in one bin such as from store returns, volunteers are needed to either sort or break down produce into smaller packing for delivery to food banks as well as senior brown bag programs and Food for Thought efforts involving schools and organization serving at-risk youth.
Information on volunteer opportunities Monday through Thursday are available by calling 209.239.2091.
Vaughn noted Amazon locating nearby and donating food to Second Harvest “has been a blessing.”

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email