A San Mateo County comeback billboard in San Carlos, Calif., taken July 2020. (Photo courtesy of County of San Mateo Joint Information Center)

San Mateo County supervisors on Tuesday allocated over $6 million of federal funds to address food insecurity for county residents in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As federal funding for the Great Plates Delivered program comes to an end in July, county supervisors approved $3.9 million to continue a similar program.

The supervisors also contributed $2.55 million to the Second Harvest of Silicon Valley food bank to continue providing food assistance to vulnerable communities and to create a grocery delivery program. Second Harvest served about 500,000 people per month since last February, as demand for their services doubled during the pandemic.

Board President David Canepa said that the Great Plates program has been a rescue program for older adults and for small businesses.

“We’ve heard it time and time again, how desperately needed the program is, from the clients whose support networks were cut off by the pandemic and from the clients who were physically unable to cook,” Canepa said.

He said one client had only been eating ice cream for their meals when they enrolled in the program, as that was all they had at the time.

Since its launch last April, the Great Plates program has provided 2.6 million free meals to over 4,500 older adults and high-risk individuals in the county.

While the program was a success, federal funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency or FEMA comes to an end July 9. Yet, about 1,200 adults enrolled in the Great Plates program will still need grocery deliveries or prepared meals, according to a staff report.

The $3.9 million county contribution will fund a contract with the current Older Americans Act program to keep delivering a meal a day to 500 clients, five days a week, for a cost of about $1,950,000 per year.

The $2.55 million contribution for the Second Harvest food bank will fund continued food assistance for vulnerable populations and a grocery delivery program for older adults.

Funding for both initiatives comes from the American Rescue Plan Act.

County staff or Second Harvest staff will contact current Great Plates participants with information on how they can continue receiving food support.

Older adults in need of food assistance who are not enrolled in the Great Plates program can call the county’s Aging and Adult Services helpline at 1 (800) 675-8437 for more information on available services.

Details and staff reports from Tuesday’s meeting are available online at https://sanmateocounty.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=807818&GUID=995619B6-8A6C-48B2-9245-1811A71622B3&Options=info|&Search=.