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Orange County Focus

Countywide : Cereal Recall Gives Food Center a Boost

August 20, 1993|GEOFF BOUCHER

The Food Distribution Center's ongoing campaign to feed the needy in Orange County reported a record amount of food distributed last month, due in large part to a major donation of children's cereal that had been recalled from supermarket shelves.

More than a million pounds of food was distributed by the center in July, including about 160,000 pounds of the cereal, center Executive Director Dan Harney said.

Although center officials declined to identify the product, they said the still-edible cereal was recalled because of a potentially hazardous toy in each box.

Volunteers at the center in Orange opened 320,000 boxes of the cereal last month, slitting open the bag inside to remove the toy, resealing the package and sending it on to charities, shelters and hungry families.

"The kids just love it," Harney said.

The cereal and other bulk acquisitions of food made July the most productive month in the 10-year history of the nonprofit food bank, which distributes donated or salvaged food to 250 charity programs.

"Actually, we thought going in that it might be a bad month for us because so much food was headed toward the flood areas across the country. But the cereal was definitely one of the things that did help," Harney said.

The overall month's total of 1,068,200 pounds of food keeps pace with the center's increasing success this year.

Annual distributions are up 15% over those at the same time last year, with the 1993 total closing in on 8 million pounds, Harney said.

Much of the food, such as the recalled cereal, comes from manufacturers via Second Harvest, a Chicago-based national network that acts as a liaison between food producers and food banks.

Second Harvest routed 640 million pounds of food to community programs and agencies in 50 states last year, said Hugh Masterson, the program's spokesman.

Every dollar donated to Second Harvest results in an average of $154 worth of food being passed on to local agencies, Masterson said.

Another source of food for the local center is the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which provides the program with $208,000 in grants this year, money Harney said would translate to almost a million meals for Orange County's needy.

While the food is passing through at a record rate, it is also piling up in ever-higher stacks at the center's warehouse in Orange.

More than 1,300 volunteers this year have helped with the distribution effort, but Harney said more assistance is needed.

"We rely on people for their donations and for their time, and we have a lot of work to do," said Harney, who remarked that an estimated 16% of the county's population goes hungry at least once a month.

The center's efforts feed an average of 180,000 people each month, almost 60% of them children or senior citizens.

For information about volunteering time, donating goods or initiating a food drive, call the Food Distribution Center at (714) 771-1343.

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