Santa Cruz County – Employees throughout Second Harvest Food Bank work hard to provide the local community with essential services and programs. In honor of Pride Month, here is a photo of two staff members of the nonprofit who are part of the LGBTQ+ community.
As the Chief Human Resource Officer of SHFB, Mary Casey finds it satisfying to see the direct impact of the work done by the Food Bank and to work in an organization where everyone not only talks but walks. For example, at the massive drive-thru food distribution SHFB organized during the pandemic, the entire staff helped.
“It was all hands on deck; our CFO was directing the traffic,” Casey recalled, getting emotional as she remembered gratitude from community members—some receiving fresh produce for their families for the first time in weeks. Of. “I love the urgency of our work, and how important it is that we’re investing in long-term ‘root cause’ work as well.”
Casey, who lives in Santa Cruz with her partner, two children, and extended family, is committed to helping others. She volunteered with Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest for years.
“I was also Seattle’s 43rd Legislative District co-chair for four years. During the pandemic, my home was a foster family for a wonderful little boy with whom we live close,” she explained.
Knowing what KC values their work helps the community.
“When we bring in new employees, we give them a sort of food insecurity boot camp: a list of articles, podcasts, etc. that cover common misconceptions about who is food insecure in our country, and what food insecurity looks like. Breaks perceptions on a daily basis,” Casey said.
People are often surprised by a 2014 UCLA study showing that 1 in 4 LGBTQ+ adults experience food insecurity.
“When you look at LGBTQ+ individuals who are people of color, this data gets more grim,” Casey said. “Then the number goes up to ‘from 1 in 4 for white LGBT adults, 1 in 3 for African American LGBT adults, 1 in 2 for LGBT Native Americans, and 3 in 4 for Native Hawaiians.’ That data doesn’t match people’s perceptions about the LGBTQ+ community. Public perception is often one of affluence: People think of popular TV or movie characters who wear designer clothes or live in luxurious penthouses. The reality is The LGBTQ+ community is one of the most food insecure demographics in our country.”
Casey commends Second Harvest Food Bank for drawing attention to the fact that “…marginalized groups, including LGBTQ+ communities, suffer food insecurity in large part due to the long-term economic effects of historical and continued discrimination.” more sensitive to it.”
This call is aligned with one of Second Harvest Food Bank’s five core values, equity.
“We Define Equity” [recognizing that] ‘The root causes of hunger are systemic injustices – racism, classism, sexism and more – that create and perpetuate the conditions that perpetuate food insecurity and poverty.’ We work to ensure that everyone has access to the resources they need to succeed, regardless of circumstances, and to foster respect for our shared human dignity,” explained Casey. “Second Harvest serves the entire community: Anyone is welcome to get a meal at SHFB. And it’s worth celebrating—during Pride month, or any month.”
Stephanie Videl joined Second Harvest Food Bank last December as the Food Co-op Program Coordinator for the Family Engagement and Wellness Center in the Pajaro Valley Unified School District. She runs the food co-op program and oversees site operations. The center’s partners include Second Harvest Food Bank plus the Community Action Board, Salud Para La Gente and others. There is a market that provides free groceries and living supplies to PVUSD parents and students, plus they offer CalFresh enrollment support, nutrition education, additional food resources, and a community mass meal delivery on the first Saturday of each month. Huh.
“Space has provided a great sense of relief for parents and families, especially with rising costs of food and overall living,” Videl said. “Serving in this role fills me with joy; Knowing that we are able to give our neighbors and community a sense of comfort is rewarding beyond words. ,
Videl’s identity as a member of the LGBTQ+ community helps inform his work. Because she recognizes the apprehension that many LGBTQ+ individuals have about accessing social services, she works to “…create a welcoming, safe environment on behalf of SHFB” and in all aspects of their lives.
“Unfortunately, discrimination and homosexuality still prevail among employees and recipients of social services; Many transgender bodies do not feel safe in homeless shelters, public health services, etc. It can be hard for the LGBTQ+ community to step into these places without the fear of experiencing these macro-aggressions. SHFB makes it a point to promote safety and inclusion in all that we do. We support our LGTBQI+ community throughout the year.”
Working with student volunteers at the Co-Operation is something that Videl really enjoys.
“A handful of students identify as LGTBQI+. This experience gives them room to exist and helps them feel empowered as they support their community, helping to cope with food insecurity in Santa Cruz County,” Videl said.
Born and raised in Watsonville and Santa Cruz, Videl comes from a second-generation Mexican migrant working-class family.
“Growing up in the region and having direct experience as a person of color living in poverty and using various social services has played a direct role in how I navigate life, work and personal relationships, Videl said.
He is an active community volunteer.
“I do a lot of work related to elimination in the LGBTQI+ space that enhances and supports the advocacy of LGBTQI+ prisoners and raises awareness of the types of violence, transphobia and assault that prisoners experience during incarceration,” he said. “I host educational workshops, run a pen pal/snail mail program, and raise commissioned funds by hosting live entertainment, drag shows, art markets, and concerts in Watsonville and surrounding areas.”
Widel is excited about the cooperative’s future plans. “We look forward to growing our volunteer team and training PVUSD students and parents to drive full cooperation and support with food delivery here and at other food delivery sites,” she said.
In addition, a number of student-centered activities and resource fairs are planned at the PVUSD Family Engagement and Wellness Center.
For more information, visit thefoodbank.org and facebook.com/pvusdwellnesscenter.