Checklist: Veggies, Dairy, Grains and … Democracy?

County Election Office Partners with Second Harvest Food Bank to Get the Word Out About Voting

SANTA CLARA COUNTY – There’s always a queue at the popular Second Harvest food distribution events, where clients pluck farmer’s market fare and dry goods from tables laden with the bounty: Leafy greens, loaves of bread, milk, eggs, rice, bananas, spaghetti sauce, pasta and so much more.

Earlier this year, that “so much more” started including vital ingredients in a recipe for civic engagement: Voter registration forms, information on the upcoming election, pamphlets answering the how, when and where questions about casting a ballot, with materials in more than a dozen different languages.


Registrar of Voters outreach staff members show election and voting materials to clients of Second Harvest of Silicon Valley at a food distribution event at Seven Trees Community Center in San Jose.
Registrar of Voters outreach workers talk to clients of Second Harvest of Silicon Valley at a food distribution at the Seven Hills Community Center in San Jose.
A Registrar of Voters outreach staff member holds out a sticker that says "I Registered to Vote Today."
A key point to the outreach efforts is getting people registered to vote. All the needed materials are on hand, and applications can be returned to Registrar of Voters staffers on the spot.

“It’s an election year, and we wanted to make sure that our clients and the broader community had all the information and resources they needed to participate,” said Rachel Monaco, a senior manager at Second Harvest of Silicon Valley. “I reached out to the Registrar’s Office to ask for some advice on what information we should include on the flyer, and from that conversation it just became really readily apparent that there was a lot of opportunity for collaboration.”

Now, the Registrar’s Office sends an outreach team to several food distribution events each week, where they set up a table with the voter materials. Pamphlets are also included in pre-packaged food boxes Second Harvest delivers to clients.

County of Santa Clara Registrar of Voters Shannon Bushey said they have a shared mission with Second Harvest – getting into communities that may be out of the mainstream or disenfranchised.

“People get information in different ways,” Bushey said. “Some may access it through the radio, newspapers, the Internet. Others get information from community organizations, or by direct handouts and communication at events just like this one. The Registrar of Voters and Second Harvest are both reaching out to different communities all over the county; it’s a really wonderful collaboration.”

At the Hank Lopez Community Center in East San Jose just weeks before the November 2022 General Election, a line of about 60 clients formed for the food giveaway. Registrar staff did brisk business, providing voting materials as well as promotional freebies – branded tote bags have proven to be a popular item at the distributions.

“The Registrar’s table is always packed,” Monaco said. “There’s always a huge swarm of people around the table getting information. I really love that it's in multiple languages; it's really meeting the needs of the people that we serve.”

Violet Myers, a Second Harvest client who lives near the Hank Lopez distribution site, collected some crucial election information along with a wagon full of fruits and vegetables.

“This is very important,” Myers said. “I learned where to go register to vote. And then I learned what the voting dates were, and where to go to vote. I’m not the only one – a lot of people don’t know. Voting is very important these days, the way things are. More important than any other time I can think of.”

Registrar of Voters Shannon Bushey said it’s particularly fulfilling to make one-on-one connections with potential voters.

“It’s so exciting to see people coming up, asking questions about registering, or about the upcoming election, and then taking that information home,” she said. “Voting is how you have your voice heard. Everyone is equal when you go to vote, whether you're the President of the United States, you're a warehouse worker, you're a County worker, whoever you are, we all have one vote, we're all equal in that way. And this is the way that everyone can have their voice heard.”

By Eric Kurhi, Office of Communications and Public Affairs


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