100,000 meals for hungry Silicon Valley families

by Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara & San Mateo Counties
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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
Ernesto
Ernesto

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
Volunteers
Volunteers

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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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Asia
Asia

Asia is pursuing a career in astrophysics and hopes to become a research scientist at NASA someday, but it’s been a long road to UC Berkeley, where she is currently studying for her degree. Five years ago she was homeless and pregnant with her second child. She was working 40 hours a week at a childcare facility, but with the high cost of housing in Silicon Valley, she didn’t earn enough to cover food, rent, child care and other basic necessities. Asia credits much of her success to the help she received from Second Harvest of Silicon Valley and other organizations.

“Second Harvest was crucial,” Asia said. “The thing I really liked about the food bank was the variety it provided, especially because I didn’t have a refrigerator when I was homeless. We had some healthy canned food and some peanut butter. Peanut butter was awesome; we used it a lot. Also veggies and fruit.”

Asia and her husband came to California from Florida five years ago for the promise of a job. When that didn’t pan out, they found themselves without work or a place to live. Asia got a job working at a daycare center, where her son, now six years old, could receive care at a discount.

“The new job required that I begin classes in child development at the local community college,” she said. “That is initially what brought me to Mission College. I worked full time and took six units. Food was a huge issue because we lived between motels and campgrounds as money allowed. We often didn’t have a kitchen.”

Soon Asia was connected to Second Harvest’s monthly grocery distribution at Mission College, where she could receive free food for her family.

“My kids love the food Second Harvest provides,” Asia said. “They’re big fans of corn and peanut butter, of course. Kids love the peanut butter and jelly.”

She added, “My daughter likes everything, like brussel sprouts. She loves brussel sprouts. It’s really cool. I’ve never seen a kid love brussel sprouts so much. I cook them on the stove in some olive oil or butter and just basic salt and pepper. She eats them all. She likes broccoli, too. She’s a fan of carrots. My son likes the fruit and yogurt.”

At first, Asia was working during the day and taking night classes at Mission College. Soon she learned there was a childcare center on campus that charged fees on a sliding scale.

“I was able to enroll my son for a much, much lower fee,” she said. “We moved into an apartment just before my daughter was born, and I was able to enroll her as well under the same family fee. This allowed me to take classes full time and have my children on campus, which was a necessity since I also took the bus for an hour to get to campus.”

Asia added, “It really did mean a lot to have groceries, because when you look at the cost for that, especially when you have kids and you have to buy certain things, it can be really high. It can be $300 or $600 a month at times. That’s a huge expense on top of rent.”

With the high cost of living in Silicon Valley, many college students struggle to pay for school and housing, let alone food, and their futures can be jeopardized when they lack access to the

nutritious food they need to perform well in class. Through its partnership with local colleges, Second Harvest is ensuring that these students – and their families – can get the healthy food they need to thrive.

After attending Mission College for two years, Asia switched her major from child development to astrophysics. “Having access to all of these wonderful resources allowed me to pursue my lifelong interest in astrophysics,” she said.

“Berkeley was always a top choice for me as one of the top schools for astrophysics. I was surprised to get in, but I’ve always worked hard and used the time and resources available to help me focus on my studies. You just have to keep going; keep putting one foot in front of the other.” Asia is currently attending UC Berkeley through a work-study program that provides financial aid.

“I think it’s important that Mission College has resources like the food bank because everybody has a different situation and everybody is going to need some kind of different resource,” she added. “To someone trying out the food bank for the first time who is embarrassed possibly, I would say you should be proud to seek out these resources. You’re going to get to a better place, and it’s going to help you get there.”

Asia
Asia
Mission College Staff
Mission College Staff

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An abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables
An abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables

If Second Harvest hadn’t been providing me with fresh groceries it could have changed my focus. I was trying to repair my life before my son was born. Second Harvest gave me consistent, fresh and healthy nourishment.”

Here at Second Harvest, we serve 87,000 kids each month in the hope that each one can grow up strong and healthy. Alex is a single mother who first received food assistance after learning about her pregnancy. At the time, she was dealing with homelessness and drug use. Enjoying food from Second Harvest through a soup kitchen, in-residence recovery program and grocery distributions, Alex developed a new relationship with her health and nutrition. Now, she has graduated from college and is pursuing a career/further education in criminal justice.

 

Alex’s meals used to consist of visits to the corner store where a snack accompanied a tall can of sweetened tea. When she found out about her pregnancy, she had a self-described awakening. Alex recognizes that overcoming substance abuse requires more than a single decision, but she placed a new importance on health that day.

 

A friend took her to a valued Second Harvest partner, St. Anthony’s Padua Dining Room. Slowly entering the occupied dining hall, Alex felt both comfort and insecurity, joy and shame. She felt ready to leave at any moment, but small details welcomed her in. The smiling faces of the volunteers, home-cooked scents and trays of mashed potatoes and mac n’ cheese provided comfort.

 

Alex’s meals used to consist of visits to the corner store where a snack accompanied a tall can of sweetened tea. When she found out about her pregnancy, she had a self-described awakening. Alex recognizes that overcoming substance abuse requires more than a single decision, but she placed a new importance on health that day.

A friend took her to a valued Second Harvest partner, St. Anthony’s Padua Dining Room. Slowly entering the occupied dining hall, Alex felt both comfort and insecurity, joy and shame. She felt ready to leave at any moment, but small details welcomed her in. The smiling faces of the volunteers, home-cooked scents and trays of mashed potatoes and mac n’ cheese provided comfort.

Learning about our grocery distribution at St. Anthony’s, Alex ordered her boyfriend to find a refrigerator, which they eventually set up in the warehouse they occupied. Alex noted a change in her life where healthy food became a priority, recalling,

“Second Harvest gave me a way to refocus on my nutrition. It was so readily available and free, cooked in my community. Having the Food Bank care about my health forced me to care about my health.”

With a microwave, refrigerator and trips for hot meals, nutritious foods replaced the corner store snacks. Eventually, Alex called her probation officer and asked to enter a recovery program.

On her first day, Alex went “shopping” at our Bing Center where smaller partner agencies visit and pick up any food items they need. Impressed by the organization, scale and efficiency of the warehouse, she recalls a great first impression of Second Harvest.

Back in the kitchen, Alex felt nervous about her first dinner until appetizing smells comforted her. Bell peppers and onions sizzled, and the piquancy of dried spices wafted up from chicken on the grill. Feeling like “the new kid on the playground,” Alex learned that one of the women cooking had prepared these fajitas for her family for years. Breaking bread together formed connections among these strangers and new roommates.

A couple years later after her son was born, Alex started working to provide financial assistance to college students. Living with an El Salvadorian family, Alex bonded with a constantly cooking grandmother. Attending a distribution at a local elementary school, Alex brought back more than enough food to share with her housemates. Dancing together in the kitchen, Alex learned to shape pupusas in time to music with her new friends. Come Christmas time, Alex and her son found their names on stockings on the fireplace.

Saving and working, Alex eventually stopped receiving food from Second Harvest. Recently, she graduated from college and is planning her next steps in a career focused on criminal justice. She purchases the same items she once received at our distributions and recreates her favorite vegetable-filled soups and stews for her son.

(Client Story written by Anthony Shu)

Healthy Mix of Vegetables
Healthy Mix of Vegetables

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Organization Information

Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara & San Mateo Counties

Location: San Jose, CA - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @2ndharvest
Project Leader:
Donna Peace
San Jose, CA United States
$49,981 raised of $75,000 goal
 
436 donations
$25,019 to go
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