This is your mindset if you’re the San Diego Food Bank. You know your work is both ongoing and essential, every day. And during a global pandemic, “essential” takes on a whole new level of meaning.
“The community was looking at us to get through this,” says Jim Floros, Food Bank President & CEO. “We needed to be at the top of our game. People want to donate to a successful story. Our messaging has to reflect that.”
As one of the nation’s most innovative Food Banks, that ‘success’ message has been a staple of a dynamic outreach program. In any given month, 2,800 hundred volunteers supported by a network of more than 500 non-profit partners help the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank distribute millions of pounds of food to thousands of people facing food insecurity.
But the sudden health crisis required an immediate pivot. Volunteers hesitated, while demand simultaneously skyrocketed. “We didn’t flinch, because we had built a ship to weather the storm,” said Floros. “We needed to communicate that, quickly.”
He immediately assured the community that there was plenty of food, while instituting aggressive social distancing protocols to ensure volunteer safety. With six months of reserves on hand, the Food Bank was able to serve the sudden surge even as Floros made a personal appeal for more public support in a series of Loma-produced PSAs.
“The response by donors has been fantastic,” says VP of Communications Chris Carter. “In a typical year, we are able to spend up to a million dollars on food. In the past 3 months, we’ve spent five times that.”
Record-breaking donations from people across the region have been both timely and effective—even lifesaving. For every single dollar raised, the Food Bank can provide five meals to families in need.
The old saw that ‘every crisis provides an opportunity’ has resonance here. “We don’t ask for money, we ask for stakeholders,” Floros emphasizes. “This is a marathon. It isn’t ending next month. We’re ready for a two-year fight.”
The long-term battle begins with an escalated focus on infrastructure, critical to supply chain operations like the Food Bank. It includes a new Super Pantry Program, building capacity through grants to 35 non-profit partners and a commitment to what Floros considers the basics: strategic and contingency plans, a strong Board of Directors and transparency.
So are tens of thousands supported by the San Diego Food Bank.