Generous gifts help UCSC shatter fundraising records in holiday food drive

Students, staff, and faculty contributed amply to the Second Harvest food drive; then a donation from the Kliger family put the campus way over the topĀ 

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UC Santa Cruz employees volunteered last year to load food donations at Second Harvest Food Bank.
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Food awaits loading into boxes for donation.

UC Santa Cruz surpassed all previous records during its participation in the annual Second Harvest Holiday Food & Fund Drive, raising the equivalent of 376,099 meals.  

Each year the campus collects food and financial contributions for Second Harvest. Founded in 1972, it was the first food bank in California and is the second oldest in the nation. UCSC’s Staff Advisory Board runs the campus food drive.

The campus’s outstanding performance earned it the President’s Cup award, presented annually to the public institution that raises the most meals during the annual food drive. The County of Santa Cruz and Dominican Hospital have traded off winning the cup for much of the past 20 years. Both organizations are key contributors to the drive. UCSC will be honored at an awards dinner on March 3. 

UC Santa Cruz Chancellor Cynthia Larive, co-chair of this year’s countywide Second Harvest holiday drive, said she was grateful for this year’s strong campus participation but not surprised.

“UC Santa Cruz fosters a culture of giving,” Larive said. “It’s part of our identity. The campus and our affiliates have a deep sense of responsibility and community. We recognize that there is so much need in our community and that Second Harvest has a tremendous impact fighting hunger locally. I am thankful to everyone who helped make this year’s drive an unprecedented success.” 

Campus holiday food drive coordinator Nathan McCall, chair of UCSC’s Staff Advisory Board and manager of HR Business Information Services, called this “a momentous year" for the drive, and a fitting tribute to Second Harvest, which is now celebrating its 50th year of feeding those in need. 

Second Harvest named McCall as one of its three Coordinators of the Year, describing him as engaged, enthusiastic, and with an attention to detail that made UCSC’s food drive a great success.”

Asked to explain why UCSC did so well in the food drive this year, McCall mentioned a generous donation that put the campus over the top. Last year, UCSC raised about $39,000 in its holiday food drive. This year, UC Santa Cruz again raised an initial total of $39,090.

“But then, the Kliger family came in and gave a $35,000 gift and then another $20,000 gift on top of that,’’ McCall said. “It was just incredible.”

McCall was referring to former Campus Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor David Kliger, who retired in 2010, and his wife Rachel Kliger. 

“Everything was almost the same and then there was this massively generous gift,” McCall said. 

This total—nearly $100,000, with the two gifts—translates to 376,099 meals for the drive that began just after Thanksgiving and extended into January this year.

McCall said that he would love to see other donors “pick up the torch” next year and give in response to the Kligers' gift. 

“It’s such a great opportunity for people to realize that they can have an oversized impact with their gifts,” McCall said. 

“The amount of food that has been distributed by Second Harvest has more than doubled since the pandemic because more people are economically vulnerable,” McCall said. “Think of the impact of the past two years on restaurants, to frontline businesses, to brick-and-mortar stores. Think of all those workers who were vulnerable before, who were maybe going to Second Harvest once a week to get some supplements of healthy food, fresh vegetables, and now they’re going there every day.” 

For David and Rachel Kliger, the donation to the food drive was deeply personal, and part of their life philosophy. 

“When Rachel and I did this, we had no intention to be public about it, but if this helps convince others to make contributions to activities they support that would be an extra benefit,” David Kliger said.

“In Judaism there is a concept called tikkun olam, which translates to ‘repair the world,'” Kliger said. "We wanted to use our resources in a way to do this in our local community.”

The Kligers support other causes, including Women in Science and Engineering (WISE), the Seymour Center’s program introducing girls to marine science, and Santa Cruz Hillel. 

But, said Kliger, “The largest component of our giving this year was to support Second Harvest Food Bank since we felt that food insecurity is particularly problematic these days. Before we can solve other problems, we must solve this pressing issue first.” 

Second Harvest Food Bank is known for its efficiency and its ability to stretch every dollar it receives, McCall said. 

Because Second Harvest has built strong and long-standing relationships with food producers, it can buy produce for pennies on the dollar, enabling the organization to feed a family of four for one dollar.  A donation of $1,100 feeds a family of four for a year.

This coming year, UCSC is rolling out a new theme for its fundraiser: "Give what you get." This challenges each donor to give enough money to feed someone else for the whole year.

"Since the Second Harvest Food Bank can buy four healthy meals for $1, and there is 10 months until the height of the next food drive, one community member can feed one other person for a whole year by setting aside $28 per month for the next 10 months," McCall said. "If you get to eat, give that gift to someone else, and give what you get."

If you would like to get involved in next year’s Holiday Food & Fund Drive, please reach out to Nathan McCall: nmccall@ucsc.edu.