Local Hunger Fighters: David Cox and Vicky Martin

“Local Hunger Fighters” is a series that spotlights our awesome supporters and staff who help raise awareness of hunger in our community and motivate people to get involved.

Local Hunger Fighters: David Cox, Executive Director, and Vicky Martin, Pantry Coordinator, St. Joseph’s Family Center

How are you helping Second Harvest and our community?
St Joseph’s Family Center is a multi-service agency that is helping Second Harvest Food Bank and our community by operating a full-service food pantry, a daily brown bag lunch program for the unhoused in our community, and a Push Produce distribution to approximately 600 families weekly. We host a CalFresh specialist and a County Services specialist weekly. SJFC distributes food to a variety of offsite locations including migrant living facilities, group homes, and the newest project, the School Pantry program – we’ve assisted the food bank in starting pantries at six school locations in the South County in an effort to get food directly into the households of children. SJFC is a participant in the Grocery Rescue program; we gratefully receive thousands of pounds of quality, fresh food items weekly from 4 Grocery Rescue stores in our community.

What inspires you to give?
We are inspired by the people and families we serve. Hearing the challenges faced by the families and individuals we serve each day, seeing how hard they work just to make it to the end of the month – and some just to the end of the day – watching them receive the services we offer with a grateful heart and a positive attitude, inspires us to work harder to help make the quality of their lives better. Doing for a few what we wish we could do for everyone is what drives all of us at St Joseph’s Family Center.

Why should people care about hunger in our community?
We can all relate to hunger, some of us for shorter periods of time than others, but we all know how an empty stomach feels. Imagine that feeling as being a constant influence in our daily lives. Hunger hurts! Hearing teachers talk of students who come into class agitated, hungry and unable to learn. Knowing that the elderly in our community are on a fixed income struggling to survive while food prices increase. Watching the rents in our area increase dramatically while parents work 2 and 3 jobs just to keep a roof over their families’ heads, leaving very little of their income for other necessities such as food. Seeing our neighbors struggle with food-related health issues. These are all reasons to care. Hunger hurts everyone!

Why do you support Second Harvest?
Second Harvest Food Bank meets people where they’re at. Their direct service approach reduces the barriers to food and nutrition. They are strong advocates for the hungry and the policy changes needed to address the issues surrounding hunger. Their forward thinking approach in finding new ways to reach the food insecure makes them a valuable partner. But most of all, on a daily basis, they are some of the best people to have on your side! Their friendly, positive spirits and sincere concern for the hungry is commendable!

***Want to meet more people working to end hunger in our community? Click here to read past Local Hunger Fighters posts.

From Second Harvest to Second Home

Special Blog Post By: Pat Bohm, Executive Director of the Daly City Partnership and Our Second Home

From parenting classes to kindergarten preparedness, Our Second Home Early Childhood Development Center offers holistic services to young children and their families. Pat Bohm, the Executive Director of both the Daly City Partnership and Our Second Home, blogs about the intersection of food and mental and physical health:

No matter their age, nutrition is important to everyone we serve. Every Monday, we distribute fresh produce from Second Harvest. We also have Second Harvest’s nutritionists on-site a few times a month. Second Harvest and the UC-Extension both host nutrition classes here.

We help kids develop coping and social skills to deal with stressors—moving, parents losing jobs, or inexperienced parents who may not know how to set a healthy table. One of the things we do for these families is connect them with CalFresh, a public food program.

Reliable food can help families function better—it reduces one source of stress in their lives. Maria Huerta, one of Second Harvest’s CalFresh Outreach Specialists, is on-site once a month to sign people up for CalFresh, and we have our own benefits specialist who assists families as well.

Kids are hungry after school. Through our snack distribution with Second Harvest, we’re able to provide them with healthy snacks. It keeps them going—keeps them full and energized so they can do their homework!

Right now, we’re working with a local school and our Second Harvest Community Partnership Manager, Mark Kokoletsos, to develop a Community School Model. We’re hoping it will provide “one stop shopping” to kids and their families.

***Know someone who needs food? Have them get in touch with our Food Connection team via phone, text message, or web.

Nutrition Newbie: To Juice or to Blend?

“Nutrition Newbie” is a series focused on basic nutrition information and tips.

For a couple of months, my husband was majorly into juicing. He bought loads of fresh produce and when I got home from work, I could expect a nice glass of yummy juice in the fridge for me. I don’t know if it was the challenge of keeping our shelves stocked with fresh produce or the chore of cleaning the juicer, but the juices stopped coming…at least for now.

Karla, one of our community nutritionists, suggested that this month’s Nutrition Newbie post focus on juicing and making smoothies. When I asked her why, she told me that juices and smoothies are all the rage at a time when most Americans only get 59 percent of the recommended amount of vegetables daily and 42 percent of fruits (according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010).

You can’t walk through a grocery store without seeing endless bottles of green juices and fruit smoothies, many of which have hefty price tags. Karla wants you to know that BOTH can be made at home with just a few ingredients at a very low cost.

Karla said she’s constantly asked which is better – juicing or blending? Here’s what she says are a few of the benefits for both:

Both juicing and blending your fruits and vegetables provide nutritional benefits, offering a boost of vitamins and minerals, while strengthening your immune system. They are both easy, fast ways to incorporate the recommended daily amount. However, I do prefer one over the other…

Juices are nutrient-packed, quickly and easily digested to give you that vitamin boost. With juicing, you do leave behind the pulp and the skin, leaving the fiber behind. This process may leave you feeling hungry shortly after due to the missing fiber. Not to mention, juicers can be expensive and require more clean up.

You won’t need special equipment to make a smoothie; an ordinary blender will work just fine. When blending, you are using the entire fruit or vegetable, skin and all, which provides you with the dietary fiber. The nutrients get slowly absorbed, leaving you fuller for a longer period of time. Dietary fiber in your diet is important, and can help you with lowering cholesterol, relieving digestion issues, and helping you maintain a healthy weight.

So if you ask me, I’d have to go with blending a smoothie. You get a filling boost of vitamins and minerals. Not to mention an easy way to add fiber to your diet. I recommend adding greens to your smoothies, such as kale or spinach. Also adding milk (soy, almond, or regular) or yogurt will add some protein. And a banana or avocado can add a creamier texture.

And there you have it – smoothies are the winner with our community nutritionists!

Here’s a favorite smoothie recipe from our community nutritionists:
1 large handful or Kale
½ green apple
1 celery stick
½ banana
½ cucumber
½ cup frozen pineapple

Fill blender with cold water until max line.

***Read past Nutrition Newbie posts!

April Social Media Roundup

“Social Media Roundup” is an ‘ICYMI’ compilation of the top hunger-related news articles and other interesting tidbits posted on our social media profiles.

  • Long Commute to Silicon Valley Increasingly the Norm for Many, KQED.ORG
  • “‘One tech job creates approximately five service jobs,’ said Candace Gonzalez, executive director of the Palo Alto Housing Corp. ‘The pace of jobs has outpaced housing.’”

  • Poverty Rates Near Record Levels in Bay Area Despite Hot Economy, MERCURYNEWS.COM
  • “Double-digit poverty rates in the Bay Area stand in stark contrast to the region’s other economic trends in recent years. Over the 12 months that ended in February, Santa Clara County added jobs at an annual rate of 5.4 percent — the strongest growth in the nation.”

    It's Volunteer Appreciation Month! Veronica, our Volunteer Services Admin Assistant, knows what's up, of course ;)

    A photo posted by Second Harvest Food Bank (@2ndharvest) on

  • Eating the Drought: How Much Water Goes Into Your Meal?, GRAPHICS.LATIMES.COM
  • More than half the food we provide is fresh produce, so the drought could have a huge impact our resources. For a little perspective, check out this interactive article that helps you see how much water it takes to produce the food on your plate

  • It’s Easy to Waste Less Food at Home. Here’s a Simple Guide., MSNBC.COM
  • Great tips on how to cut food waste at home

  • Gwyneth Paltrow’s Food Stamp Experience Versus Reality, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM
  • Whether you like her or not, her single tweet has gotten a lot of people talking about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which we can appreciate. This article does a good job pointing out some facts.

  • Schools Becoming the ‘Last Frontier’ for Hungry Kids, USATODAY.COM
  • “The classroom has become a dining room as more children attending public schools live in poverty. More than half of students in public schools — 51% — were in low-income families in 2013, according to a study by the Southern Education Foundation.” ‪#‎HungerHurts

  • A Restaurant Owner Left the Most Heartwarming Note…, UPWORTHY.COM
  • “I think we’ve all been in that position where we needed someone’s help and we just needed someone to extend that hand.” So inspiring.

  • A Hungry Gwyneth Paltrow Fails the Food Stamp Challenge Four Days In, WASHINGTONPOST.COM
  • In case you’re keeping tabs, she failed the food stamp challenge. Well, at least she tried…

  • I Would Have Starved Without the Food Bank, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM
  • “However, the reality is, we all have times of need. We all have moments when we have to reach out for help. At that time in my life I was thankful for the food bank. Their services helped feed my mind and body so that I could continue with my education.”

  • Food Waste is a Massive Problem. Here’s How to Fix It., CIVILEATS.COM
  • “Americans throw away an average of 20 pounds of food each month — costing them each between $28 and $43.” Did you watch ‘Just Eat It’ on MSNBC last week?

    *** Did you miss our March Social Media Roundup? Click here to read it.

    Student Band Fights Local Hunger

    RAGAn: Raama, Ajay, Geeta, Akshay, Nitin (L-R)

    We sat down with members of RAGAn,a group of Bay Area high school students who perform classical Indian music, to discuss their fight against local hunger. The students attend different schools, but they recently united for a fundraising concert benefiting Second Harvest. RAGAn includes Raama, Ajay, Geeta, Nitin, and Akshay. Their instruments include mridangam, a South Indian percussion instrument, the veena, a string instrument, and their voices.

    What gave you the idea for the concert?

    AJAY: When we started, we wanted to do one concert as a fun event. Then we got an idea to do something better than that–we could not just do it to play music, but help someone.

    NITIN: We got our inspiration from another group of musicians who held a benefit concert a few years ago. We thought we would take it up a notch and invite different schools to play.

    RAAMA: We wanted audiences to be involved in what they were donating toward. So we invited them to perform and be an integral part of our battle against hunger.

    With so many worthy causes, why did you focus on hunger?

    GEETA: We were wondering what types of local problems there are here. We were oblivious to the fact that some basic needs, like food, aren’t being met.

    AKSHAY: It was shocking to hear that so many people are hungry here, in such an affluent area.

    AJAY: …and we wanted to strike light on that assumption and prove it wrong. In my old neighborhood, I saw poverty and hunger firsthand. I realized that is an issue that has to be taken on.

    NITIN: Growing up in a middle-class family, I don’t feel the hunger that a lot of people feel. Doing this concert opened my perspective to how a lot of people are living.

    RAAMA: Literacy, shelter, and other types of problems are important as well, but they all don’t threaten the lives of millions of humans across the world every single day, in the same way hunger does. Hunger is a problem that no matter how wealthy a nation is, some people face it. So if we put our own energy and time into helping to eradicate that problem, then it probably makes both us and them better for it.

    Why did you select Second Harvest?

    NITIN: As a team, we found Second Harvest and we thought it was the perfect fit. We love that you guys put most of your money towards the actual cause. Your organization was so committed. I used to volunteer in a local food bank; it was a great experience for me, and I could see how much people relied on it. I’d deliver food and help people put it in their cars, and they were so thankful and grateful. What better way to give back than a cause that’s close to us?

    GEETA: They say if you’re good at music, you’re good at math. But if I forget to take my lunch to school one day, I get so hungry I can’t focus in math class. I know food is so important. When I told my friends about the concert, they just took out their wallets and gave me five dollars to put it towards Second Harvest. I’m so glad we were able to help kids like us.

    What would you say to other young people who are thinking about donating, hosting a fundraiser, or volunteering?

    AJAY: Find a cause that you find moving. At the end of the fundraiser, you should be feeling satisfied and happy because it’s meaningful to you.

    NITIN: If you’re passionate about something, you can pursue that and use that passion to help others. For me, Indian music is a great way to connect with my culture, express myself, and it’s a great stress reliever. Music is always there to hold me up. Use whatever you have and make the most of it!

    ***Click here to find out how you can help fight hunger in our community!

    Local Hunger Fighters: Angela Waters

    “Local Hunger Fighters” is a series that spotlights our awesome supporters and staff who help raise awareness of hunger in our community and motivate people to get involved.

    Local Hunger Fighters: Angela Waters, Recreation Program Director, City of Daly City

    How are you helping Second Harvest and our community?
    I help by facilitating two programs – Brown Bag and Produce Mobile programs at Lincoln Community Center in Daly City. Between the two programs, we serve 650 residents of Daly City. When a senior, family, or individual asks about food services in the county, I share the programs provided by Second Harvest, including Brown Bag, Produce Mobile, Family Harvest, Snack program, the congregate lunch program for seniors, Daly Community Services Food Pantry, North Peninsula Food Pantry & Dining Center of Daly City, and even the St. Vincent DePaul Food Pantry. Oftentimes, residents are unaware of the number of services provided by the Food Bank.

    I am also a member of the Second Harvest Food Bank Advisory Committee, reviewing potential applicants looking to provide food resources to program participants, non-profits, faith-based communities, and educational institutions. It is fascinating, the number of people that Second Harvest touches throughout both San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties. Without this resource, many families would have to choose between rent, medication, and other basic needs or healthy foods.

    What inspires you to give?
    It is difficult to be on the receiving end of services. When anyone comes to Lincoln Community Center and asks for help, I help them, whether it’s food, services, or programs. I help because someone took the time to help me. If we fail to help fellow man, we are doomed. If I can affect one family or individual, this might inspire that person to do the same when he or she is in a better position to give. A quote from Gandhi is, “We must be the change we want to see.” Giving of time, services, and resources is something that comes full circle. It is simply me treating others the way I would like to be treated. At some point in our lives, we all need help, and as a recipient of assistance for a short period in my life, it is my pleasure to extend the same kindness through giving. The “Golden Rule” is a priority in my life.

    Why should people care about hunger in our community?
    Because it is a basic need among all people. When an individual is hungry, nothing else matters. The laws and rules do not matter. Hurting other people doesn’t matter. They must first satisfy their basic needs of food, shelter, clothing, & safety. When these things are not intact, nothing else matters. Communities must take care of those in need because when people aren’t taken care of, the community may be affected by the actions of those in need.

    Why do you support Second Harvest?
    Second Harvest is an organization that cares for the needs of others. It is an organization that puts its money where its mouth is. When the Food Bank says they are going to attempt to end hunger, I believe that if any group is going to do it, this is the organization that will get it done.

    When I think of my professional world without the Food Bank, I have very little to offer. Second Harvest is all over the City of Daly City; in our school, community centers, non-profit organizations, and faith-based, organizations. Second Harvest employees sit on boards of the schools. It partners with big, medium, and small groups – businesses that move hundreds and thousands of pounds of food every day!

    I support Second Harvest because they are the change I hope to see in our counties, state and world – true pioneers as they continue to grow and change the lives of our communities!

    *Angela Waters received the McCown-Takalo Ending Hunger Advocacy Award at our 2015 Harvest of Knowledge Partner Conference.

    ***Want to meet more people working to end hunger in our community? Click here to read past Local Hunger Fighters posts.

    Kids: Authors Of Their Own Food Stories – Part 2

    Special Blog Post by: Jessica Washburn, Writer and Food Educator

    In last month’s blog post, I wrote about my work with Second Harvest to facilitate a creative writing class for 5th and 6th graders at the nonprofit after school program, Redwood City Police Activities League. Completed in the fall of 2014, the class used writing as a means to explore the students’ emotions, tastes, and memories around food.

    Why a writing and not a cooking class? I wanted to give students who have experienced food insecurity the chance to express untold stories. As an experienced cooking teacher, I wanted to explore whether or not the knowledge and awareness that can come from a school cooking class could be accessed through a different medium: writing. And, as a professional writer, I was hopeful that the richness of language could be made more exciting and relevant by working with such a tangible and accessible subject.

    In the media, food is often talked about in only economic or scientific terms. There is so much external input to makes sense of, from advertising to the community’s culture in which a person lives. Yet how often do we talk about the actual role food plays in people’s lives? By sharing the creative and nonfiction work of other writers, from Pablo Neruda’s “Ode to an Onion” to a New York Times photo essay on kids’ breakfasts around the world, students learned of the many ways people can experience sustenance. They learned that personal stories of celebration, heritage and hunger can be told through the food we eat (or cannot eat). This exposure, in turn, gave them an opportunity to consider their own preferences and feel empowered to write, or re-write, their own narratives on the role food plays in their lives.

    Please read more examples of their wonderful work below:

    Thanksgiving Memory, by Janet
    We ate food.
    My mom cooked the meal. I helped.
    The table looked like a lot of food.
    The food smelled good.
    The best thing that happened to me this Thanksgiving
    was when I got to be with my family and friends.
    The most surprising thing that happened to me this Thanksgiving
    was when my family came from Mexico.
    I think eating together is
    fun, good and funny.

    Ode to a Fig, by Fabrizzio
    seedful inside,
    fragile outside,
    avocado color
    on the edge.

    Two Haiku, by Naydelin
    As we eat the food
    That brings us joy.
    Join us as we eat our foods.
    That we shall thank god
    for bringing our frown
    UPSIDE Down.

    Walking to the pond
    I spot a duck on my sight
    as I throw a piece of bread to them all
    they made a SPLASH! to eat their bread.

    I Feed…, by Jessica
    I feed my happiness by eating.
    I feed my hunger beans because I don’t like beans.
    There is money for my happiness.
    I feed it by fighting and by being mean for it.
    I buy it for my hunger.
    I throw a soccer ball at my hunger.



    The following examples are class exercises that resonated with my students.

    Food Haiku
    After reading a few samples of haikus and other very short poems (most of which had food as a subject), students sampled different fruits, including strawberries, fresh figs and dried figs. After a class brainstorm of sensory words, students wrote their own haiku-like poems that captured their impressions of the fruit.

    Recipe Poem
    After we had made a few simple snacks together, and the idea of a recipe was understood, students wrote a recipe poem that explores what it takes for a person to be themselves. They identified the “ingredients” and “set of instructions” that they deemed necessary for being themselves.

    Dream Jar Collaborative Poem
    When students would finish an activity early, they were encouraged to write down their dreams, hungers, and wishes, and put them in a jar in the center of our class table. When the jar was full, students were given a random selection of dreams, hungers and wishes and encouraged to compose a poem with them, adding embellishments and stories to each line.

    Spanish-English Poem
    Because many of our students are Spanish speakers, one poem included the class brainstorming 10 – 15 Spanish words that had to do with food and then writing stories that used the brainstormed words, as well as 10 additional English words provided by the teacher.

    Don’t forget to read Part 1 of this blog series by Jessica Washburn!

    *** Jessie Washburn is a writer, food educator and cook based in Oakland, CA. For nearly a decade, she has used writing, gardening and cooking to introduce young people to the connection between food, community, health and land. Her education experience started at the Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley, California and continued at the Montalvo Arts Center and Bay Area Community Resources, where she designed and taught cooking classes at local public schools. She has cooked under some of the Bay Area’s finest chefs, where she developed a keen sense of seasonality and local ingredients. As a writer, Washburn holds an MFA in poetry from Vermont College of Fine Arts and is at work on a collection of poems that addresses themes of food tradition, labor, and appetite.

    Nutrition Newbie: It’s in the Can

    “Nutrition Newbie” is a series focused on basic nutrition information and tips.

    When I asked our nutritionists for possible topics for this month’s Nutrition Newbie post, they suggested that I write about canned foods. Our nutritionists encounter a lot of people who turn up their noses when offered canned food, but they want to assure people that it’s not all bad.

    Here’s what our nutritionists had to say about canned foods:

    “Whether it’s to eat more nutritiously at every meal, save money by dining out less, or simply to spend more time at the dinner table with family, the solution might be right in your very own pantry.” – Karla

    “Not only are canned foods more convenient and affordable, they are filled with important nutrients such as fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. Canned fruits, vegetables, and beans can also save you time in your favorite home-cooked recipes.” – Susan

    Canned food is a good alternative when fresh fruits and vegetables aren’t available or when you don’t have a full kitchen with all the bells and whistles to prepare a meal from scratch.

    Another major benefit of having canned food in your pantry is their long shelf-life. They are perfect for instant gratification or emergencies.

    Sodium is always a concern about canned food. As someone who has to mind my blood pressure, I proactively look for low sodium options and nowadays there are more of these options. This makes me very happy. (Quick tip: draining and rinsing your canned food can further reduce sodium content by 41 percent.)

    Here’s a recipe that our nutritionists like:

    Corn, Bean, Green Chili Salad*
    1 (15-ounce) can low-sodium corn, drained
    1 (15-ounce) can low-sodium black beans, drained
    1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chilies, drained
    1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
    1 tablespoon lime juice
    1/3 cup sliced green onions
    2 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

    Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl; mix well and serve.
    * Adapted from: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Food and Nutrition magazine.

    For more healthy recipe ideas, visit the Champions for Change website.

    ***Read past Nutrition Newbie posts!

    Share Your Childhood Food Memories on Social Media

    As part of our Stand Up for Kids Campaign, we’re asking you to share your childhood food memories on social media from April 21 through May 4. It’s a chance for all of us to think about and share some food memories that we may not have thought about since we were kids. Or maybe you ate something yesterday that brought you back to your elementary school cafeteria or your 13th birthday party. In any case, we want to see your photos and read your stories!

    With our social media campaigns, we’re always aiming to tap into your creativity and have fun. With this particular effort, we also want to underscore that every child deserves to have good food memories and encourage people to help feed 100,000 local kids every month by donating foods on our child-friendly foods list.

    Keep an eye on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages starting Tuesday, April 21, for #foodmemories posts that will prompt you to tell us about foods that made you feel a certain way or to share your experiences with foods on our most-needed child-friendly foods list. We’ll have other surprises too!

    ***Get more involved in our Stand Up for Kids campaign by making a monetary donation, or organizing an online fundraiser or a food drive. Click here to learn more.

    Our Own March Madness

    In March, we launched our Stand Up For Kids campaign, produced two major conferences to share best practices with our agency partners, and are rolling out a hunger awareness initiative developed to connect more people to nutritious food. We’ve planned special events, mobilized thousands of volunteers, and engaged more and more people in the work of local hunger relief.

    Yet somehow during this time, in the month of March we shattered two all-time records, both for pounds of food brought in to Second Harvest and also for physical pounds distributed by the Food Bank. We:

    1. Collected 6.3 million pounds (prior record from last October was 6.17 million pounds).
    2. Distributed 6.0 million pounds (prior record, also from last October, was 5.7 million pounds).

    While nearly half of the total was fresh fruit and vegetables, we also provided vast quantities of highly desirable protein and dairy items to hungry families locally.

    Our staff, volunteers and supporters have responded to our communities’ needs with creativity, professionalism and tremendous effort. THANK YOU for your commitment to make things better for our neighbors in need.

    ***Find out how you can help end local hunger today.