‘Hunger Fighters’ honored for advocacy
Posted: Thursday, Mar 8th, 2007
Register Pajaronian


Soquel resident Phil Kaplan weaves messages about fighting hunger into physical education classes at Cabrillo College, while Live Oak resident Jennifer De Toy inspires hundreds of employees at Plantronics to join a food drive each year. Both are Hunger Fighters of 2007— individuals who will be honored for their commitment to combating poverty and hunger tonight by Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Cruz and San Benito counties at a ceremony at Temple Beth El in Aptos at 6:30 p.m.

According to Lee Mercer, education and outreach director at Second Harvest, De Toy was an obvious choice for the team of elected officials and media representatives that selects the winners. With the help of De Toy, 42, an annual food drive at Plantronics has garnered more than 1,350,000 pounds of food for the agency.“There wasn’t even a question that she stood out in terms of motivating people to contribute tons and tons of food,” Mercer said.De Toy said she got involved in organizing the company’s food drive when she began working as human resources manager at the Santa Cruz manufacturing company in 2000. Her interest grew as she learned more about the way Second Harvest works, she said.“At first it was about my work, then when I got to visit, I got hooked on the organization,” she said. “The concept of a warehouse is just remarkable. Without Second Harvest, many of our service agencies would be spending much more of their budget on food.”

As for Kaplan, Mercer said his dedication to social justice exemplifies the mission of Second Harvest.“He has a very strong sense of personal responsibility, he believes in creating a better world and he integrates that into his athletics,” Mercer said.Kaplan, 60, a former competitive volleyball player who teaches hiking and volleyball at Cabrillo College, started a series of summer tournaments he calls “No Attitudes Allowed Volleyball” to combat what he saw as an elitist attitude in the sport and to teach athletes about issues like poverty and hunger.Both at the tournament and at Cabrillo College, Kaplan asks people to bring canned goods in order to participate. He also distributes food directly to homeless residents and begins all physical education classes with a discussion on social justice issues and activism.“I’m just always looking for ways to make something happen with my students,” he said. “It’s just really fun and it’s a great way to get my students involved.”
Other top winners in the annual holiday food drive who will be honored by Second Harvest are Plantronics, Central Coast Alliance for Health, Cisco Systems, the County Of Santa Cruz, Driscoll’s Strawberry Associates, Granite Construction, PG&E, Seagate Technology, Twin Lakes Church and the University of California, Santa Cruz.
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(Published in 3/8/07 edition)