100,000 meals for hungry Silicon Valley families

by Second Harvest of Silicon Valley
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100,000 meals for hungry Silicon Valley families
100,000 meals for hungry Silicon Valley families
100,000 meals for hungry Silicon Valley families
Susan and Kids
Susan and Kids

Even before COVID-19, Second Harvest was responding to a level of food insecurity in Silicon Valley that indicated there was already a crisis, providing groceries to a record number of clients every month. The economic crisis created by the pandemic has pushed many families deeper into poverty and caused others to seek food assistance for the very first time. We are now providing food to 500,000 clients on average every month, twice as many people as we served pre-pandemic.

Since our counties were ordered to shelter in place, Second Harvest has been on the frontline every day making sure that anyone who needs nutritious food can get it. As we have seen the need for food assistance explode, we have also had to quickly overhaul our operations to implement social distancing protocols that keep our clients, volunteers and staff safe, while dramatically increasing our food distribution.

We stayed on course and did all we could to provide food for our clients. Clients always come first. Clients are always focus. And clients are what keeps us going. Today we will share just one client story to connect you to those most venerable and in need.

Susan was working part-time in advertising while also juggling her coursework for nursing school, earning just enough to make ends meet in her multigenerational family, when the pandemic hit and she lost her job.

Susan shares a one-bedroom apartment in San Jose with her mother Maria, her stepfather Martin, her 12-year-old daughter Kaylee and her 5-year-old son Pedsun. Martin, who works in landscaping, is the only member of the household earning a steady income.

At the start of the pandemic, paying bills became incredibly stressful. Meanwhile, with Kaylee and Pedsun in need of supervision and support while they do distance learning in their home, Susan has had to put off her own studying until late at night. Susan’s home business and studying all happen in a corner of the living room, the same room where Maria and Martin sleep. The family does their best to keep Susan company because they operate like a team.

Knowing the challenges her family was facing, Maria decided to attend a free grocery distribution from Second Harvest (the special Alianza de Futbol distribution at Cathedral of Faith) after she had seen a Facebook post about it in November 2020.

The amount of food that the family receives from Second Harvest has amazed them — they call their kitchen the center of their home, and they follow Grandma Maria’s lead in cooking a range of Mexican dishes, including her famous handmade and hand-rolled tortillas.

Before the pandemic, Susan had a side business making personalized items like tumblers and shirts. Now, she has thrown herself into growing her business into a steady source of income. Kaylee also helps out by selling soaps in a variety of creative shapes and colors. With this small business growing and food from Second Harvest, the family is continuing to make ends meet. However, until Kaylee’s and Pedsun’s school resumes in-person instruction, Susan can’t return to work full time because she needs to stay home with her children and support their education.

Kaylee is a stellar student who especially loves reading and writing; she’s working on a book she plans to dedicate to her mom, serves on the student council and is a black belt in karate. Pedsun’s nickname is “Terremotito,” little earthquake, because of his endless energy and warmth. He loves greeting strangers and even picking wildflowers for them.

The continued support of our community is critical because the financial implications of this crisis are far from over, and we don’t expect the number of families who need our help to return to pre-COVID levels anytime soon.

Susan and Kids
Susan and Kids


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Jaime and Atancia
Jaime and Atancia

After 12 months of sheltering in place the economic crisis created by the pandemic has pushed many families deeper into poverty and caused others to seek food assistance for the very first time. Many residents in Silicon Valley have exhausted their financial options and find themselves in a state of increased economic hardship through no fault of their own. The cumulative impact of COVID-19 highlights the problems that existed before the pandemic, which are now compounded by a year of added financial devastation.

When people are impacted by lost income, hard budgetary decisions are often required to make ends meet while putting anything aside for savings becomes impossible to imagine. Because food budgets are flexible – unlike fixed costs such as rent/mortgage, transportation, healthcare, etc. – they are often the first thing to go with finances are tight. Second Harvest is here to ensure thatour clients don’t have to make the heart wrenching choice between providing nutritious food to their families and giving up other necessities.

Jaime was working as a plumber before he was furloughed back in April. He found it frustrating that after years of hard work (the last six as a plumber), he was forced to move back in with his parents. However, Jaime speaks with enthusiasm and a never-ending smile and tells us that life is now about family and coming together.

Nevertheless, Jaime finds affording the Bay Area’s high cost of living challenging. He tells us about struggling with paying his parents’ rent and relatives who have also lost work due to the pandemic. Jaime’s mother and father are both retired. Between getting food from Second Harvest and unemployment benefits, the family is barely managing to pay rent and bills on time.

“Togetherness is what we have after this pandemic. It brought people closer together. There’s no point in being negative toward other people; you’re not going to go anywhere with that. I know people are agitated and irritated just being cooped up in the house…but just calm your voice and say, “It’s gonna pass. Brighter days are coming.” Help each other.”

The economic crisis created by the pandemic has pushed many families deeper into poverty. The public health crisis may end when the vaccine rollout is complete, but the long-term impact of lost jobs, wages, housing, back rent and depleted savings will be felt for many years. As families work to pay back overdue bills over the coming months, your gift helps ensure they can still provide their family with nutritious, home cooked meals. Consider donating today.

Volunteer Maria
Volunteer Maria
Jaime and Atancia
Jaime and Atancia


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In a time of prolonged uncertainty, Second Harvest of Silicon Valley continues to provide something our clients can count on: regular access to nutritious food.

The impact of COVID-19 and subsequent economic downturn has resulted in job loss, wage loss and the depletion of savings, which has led to a significant increase in the level of food insecurity across Silicon Valley. We are now providing food to 500,000 clients on average every month, which is twice as many people as we served pre-pandemic.

The worry of financial instability is always a heavy burden to carry, but it feels especially difficult to bear during the holiday season when struggling families are doing their best to find ways to celebrate. And while the holidays will likely look and feel different for all of us this year, we believe food is something people should be able to count on to bring comfort and joy to their families, even in the midst of upheaval.

Giving food to families, multi-generational households, seniors, veterans or college students offers more than just nourishment, it provides hope, happiness and security. Lifting the burden of food insecurity means there is one less thing for our clients to worry about, and instead they can focus on finding the joy this holiday season. With your support we can continue to give what matters to our community.

 Your gift helps protect the health and wellbeing of our community. It also provides local families the opportunity to preserve and create new traditions that center around food, which is especially important when other traditions may be hard to maintain.

 Your gift will ensure that local families can enjoy a delicious, comforting meal together this holiday season and continue to get the healthy groceries they need in the year ahead.

“When I started going and I saw the food, it was true: vegetables, milk, eggs, cereal. All of that is what we normally eat, and I can take advantage of that. And I do use all of the food. It just benefited me so much, because getting those foods for free can help me pay delayed bills.” – Elizabeth (client).

Thank you for giving local families what matters—the peace of mind that comes with knowing they can get nutritious food when they need it.

“My granddaughter is the world to me, and I just want to hug her. When all of this is over, we got to make up for those hugs that we missed.” – Ernesto (senior client)

Food Distribution Site
Food Distribution Site


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Dear Friend,

You subscribed to email updates from 100,000 meals for hungry Silicon Valley families by Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara & San Mateo Counties, a project on GlobalGiving. Here's the unedited update from the field:

Even during a global pandemic, Guadalupe and her family know that eating a meal together at the dinner table is critical to their well-being. The family is able to come together because of the pre-boxed food they receive from Second Harvest, which is distributed by our partner Urban Services YMCA’s Community Resource Center.

Guadalupe, her husband and their kids live in South San Francisco. When one of her children was diagnosed with autism, she became a stay-at-home mom to help support his development. Once the spread of COVID-19 forced everyone to shelter in place, her husband lost his hourly wages as an Uber/Lyft driver. “We don’t have any income right now,” Guadalupe said.

Guadalupe says her kids especially like getting spaghetti and fruit from the boxes, and her family also loves when she is able to make beans, rice and sauces from the vegetables and spices they receive. What Guadalupe loves is that she has food to give her kids every day.

“What we enjoy the most is the fact that we’re all sitting together, eating together.”

Guadalupe is just one of thousands of clients who visit food distribution sites every month. Second Harvest of Silicon Valley is making sure that is enough food for everyone that needs a healthy meal. Here are some of the challenges Second Harvest faces because of COVID-19:
  • The increase in need: Before COVID-19, there was significant income inequality in Silicon Valley that led Second Harvest to serve an average of 270,000 clients/month. 
    • We served over 500,000 people in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties in April 2020 — that is an 85% increase since the start of the COVID-19 cri
    • In April, we distributed 9.7M pounds of food, up about 45% from pre-pandemic.
  • The fluctuations of the food supply chain: Much like grocery stores, we are impacted by fluctuations in the supply chain, which means that we may not receive certain products in the same timeframe as we did before. We are working creatively to pack boxes with a variety of nutritious staples for our community.
    • We are acquiring protein, dairy, perishables and fresh produce as expected, but are experiencing longer than normal wait times to receive dry good deliveries (rice, pasta, etc.).
    • We are purchasing approximately 40% of our food. Pre-pandemic, we purchased about 25%, the remaining 75% coming from donations.
  • Operational changes: Our former operational and distribution models have been completely redesigned so that we can properly enforce social distancing measures and decrease contact between staff, volunteers and clients.
    • We are now pre-boxing food at our warehouses. Currently, of the total pounds of food we distribute to the community, over 70% is through pre-boxed methods.
  • Before COVID-19, our network of partners hosted a total of three drive-thru distributions. Since mid-March, we have worked hard to bring that number up to over 90.
  • We have quickly expanded our delivery model for homebound seniors and adults with disabilities. Through partnerships with Catholic Charities, Team Rubicon and others, we are delivering food to 6,000 clients in their homes.
  • 116 California National Guard soldiers remain on-site packing boxes and their linguistic experts are assisting our Food Connection Hotline. They are with us through the end of May, and we are lobbying for an extension.
  • With assistance from Cisco, we have secured a 40,000 sq. ft. warehouse from Prologis for six months at no charge. This space allows us to sort and pack more boxes of food.


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Natasha rebuilt her life with the help of nutritious food

Natasha has come a long way in the last year – she had to rebuild her life after escaping an abusive relationship. Unfortunately in doing so she lost everything in the process, except for her two kids –16-year-old Tyler and 6-year-old Kai. Today she is an accountant at a local children’s hospital and looking forward to the future.

Natasha moved to the United States 15 years ago from Russia, where she worked as an accountant. She hadn’t officially been part of the workforce since then, and instead had managed her husband’s business accounts and raised her kids. So when she left her husband, she had nothing to fall back on.

“I had no money and no credit card,” she said. The first thing I worried about was how I was going to feed my kids. That was my main issue – food for my kids. You can’t tell your kids you’re not going to eat today.”

Soon she was connected to Second Harvest of Silicon Valley, and was able to get fresh fruits and vegetables for her family.

But with no money to pay rent, she and her kids were eventually evicted from their home. Fortunately, Natasha was able to move her family into a shelter operated by LifeMoves, one of Second Harvest’s partner agencies.

Unlike most other food banks in the nation, Second Harvest provides food to its partners at no cost, which allows organizations like LifeMoves to concentrate on their core services.

 Natasha said dinner was provided every night at the shelter, and residents were also able to cook their own meals.

 “I was really impressed with the quality of the food,” she added. “I have pretty high standards because I’ve done a lot of research into food and nutrition. There was always plenty of fruits and vegetables, and a pantry with dry goods and canned foods.”

Natasha and her kids were able to move to a townhouse in San Jose after she got a job. But with the high cost of housing in Silicon Valley, they are still only just getting by.

“Housing is so outrageously expensive here,” she said. “Even though they gave me the highest salary they could for the position, it’s still not enough.”

Natasha is grateful for the healthy food she received from Second Harvest.

“Kids don’t need expensive toys and entertainment to be happy,” Natasha said. “But they do need nutritious food. It’s the one thing they can’t live without. They need it to dowhatever they want to do – play and run around if they are little. When they are older, they need it to concentrate on their schoolwork so they can get an education. Nutritious food is important for everything.”


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Organization Information

Second Harvest of Silicon Valley

Location: San Jose, CA - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @2ndharvest
Project Leader:
Donna Peace
San Jose, CA United States

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