SANTA CLARA & SAN MATEO, CA - When Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo (CA) Counties delivers fresh fruits and vegetables to local neighborhood community centers with its new Kenworth diesel-electric hybrid tractor, the expected fuel savings could enable the food bank to provide an additional 14,000 meals annually, according to Refrigerated Transporter.

The Kenworth T370 hybrid recently joined the small fleet of Second Harvest, a primary source of donated, surplus, and purchased food for non-profit agencies. "We're very pleased to add the Kenworth hybrid to our operation," said Pat Ybarra, director of distribution and logistics for Second Harvest Food Bank.

This new vehicle comes at a critical time for Second Harvest. The downturn in the economy has left many families in need. "Over the past two years we've seen an increase of more than 30 percent in requests for our services," Ybarra said. "In our current fiscal year, we anticipate delivering 43 million pounds of food."

According to Ybarra, Second Harvest expects the Kenworth T370 hybrid to save about 30 percent in fuel costs, or about $7,000 annually compared with operating a similarly equipped non-hybrid truck. That new vehicle will enable the food bank to add another 14 locations to its produce mobile program, bringing the total number of individuals served per month to 21,000 under the entire program.

Second Harvest's new hybrid joins six other Kenworth trucks that the non-profit started acquiring a few years ago to replace older units.

In conjunction with the Kenworth T370 hybrid, Second Harvest also added a specially configured 32-foot, 10-bay trailer equipped with a hybrid diesel-electric refrigeration system. The trailer can hold 15,000 to 20,000 pounds of fresh produce at a temperature as low as 30° F. The hybrid tractor-trailer serves as a produce mobile, which is like a farmer's market on wheels.

Symantec, a software company in Silicon Valley, provided Second Harvest with a grant to purchase both the tractor and trailer. "We were encouraged to get a hybrid tractor and trailer to serve as our second produce mobile so that we could save money on fuel costs. All of the cash savings will be put back into the community in the form of food and programs that feed hungry people," Ybarra said.

With 75,000 farms and ranches in California - less than 4 percent of the nation's total - the Golden State contributed nearly 13 percent of the nearly $300 billion worth of U.S. agricultural production in 2007. Yet it's ironic that fresh fruits and vegetables remain unaffordable luxuries for 2.25 million Californians, Ybarra said.