“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: Martín Huici at Second Harvest Food Bank
What is your role at Second Harvest?
I am the CalFresh Outreach Coordinator at Second Harvest. I am part of a team that promotes the use of CalFresh and our other food resources in our region. There are several aspects to this work, including developing new partnerships for outreach and CalFresh promotion, providing direct service to clients, and doing presentations to potential beneficiaries and to the staff of agencies with which we partner. One aspect of the work that’s critical is keeping one’s ear to the ground to discover what other leading food banks and nonprofits are doing, and determine how to introduce these best practices into our work.
You recently accepted a fellowship at the Latino Board Leadership Academy. What is the academy and what does the fellowship mean to you and to Second Harvest?
The Latino Board Leadership Academy recruits Latinos and provides training on the fundamentals of board service, with the ultimate aim of placing more Latinos in boards of non-profits whose missions are aligned with their values and interests. The Fellowship will allow me to gain a deep understanding of the workings of a high-performing nonprofit board of directors. This knowledge should balance nicely with my experience as a staff member in a large nonprofit like Second Harvest. The more each side understands the interests of the other, the better each will understand each other’s actions. A more direct benefit of the Fellowship is that I will bring the lessons learned on strategic thinking to bear on my work at Second Harvest.
What inspires you to do this work?
People make the best of the cards they are dealt through effort and perseverance. Working at Second Harvest has underscored for me that those holding 2s and 7s are trying just as hard as those with pocket aces to get ahead, provide for their families, or lead a happier life.
Why should people care about hunger in our community?
First, because hunger is here, all around us, as testified by the existence of one of the largest foods banks in the nation. Second, because a person should always know where their next healthy meal will come from. Third, because a community without enough food, or enough healthy food, is more likely to transmit its own challenges to the next generation. Finally, people should care about hunger in our community because they can do something about it.
***Click here for more information about CalFresh.
For Francene Aquino, age 11, hunger can act just like a bully, “It can take away your lunch.”
Francene lives with her mother and younger sister Arianne (age 9) in the Alum Rock neighborhood of San Jose. The home where they rent a room stands in sharp contrast to the city filled with luxury towers, a sizzling economy, and the miles of bike lanes that connect commuters to high-tech jobs. Yet this same area known for producing innovations in technology is now coping with stagnant wages and skyrocketing housing costs that challenge low-income workers like Francene’s Mom, Arlene.
Even though she works full-time, Arlene struggles to put enough food on the table for her family. A caring mother, she worries about the impact of hunger on her girls. When she was hungry, Francene said that she felt “tired, dizzy and confused” and felt like she “just couldn’t do anything.” Her story is not uncommon. One in three kids in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties, are hungry and often don’t know where their next meal is coming from.
That’s when Francene’s Mom reached out to Second Harvest Food Bank for help. “My kids were overjoyed when I came home with bags full of fruits, vegetables, bread, milk and eggs,” said Arlene. Francene exclaimed, “I like broccoli and eggplants, and there’s milk!” For the first time, in a long time, their refrigerator was not only full but with the right kinds of food. “My girls will be ready for school,” said Arlene.
When Francene heard about Second Harvest’s “Hunger is a bully- Stand up for kids” campaign to raise awareness about child hunger, she was eager to lend her voice. Comparing hunger to a bully was an idea she understood. “Yeah, that makes sense to me! Hunger can make you feel sick and bad. And like how bullying hurts your heart, hunger hurts your tummy and hurts your heart.”
By conquering the hunger bully, things are looking up for Francene. She has more energy to play sports at school and finds it easier to concentrate on learning. She is also looking forward to a science camp in the spring and hopes to one day become a doctor so she can work with children and families.
At Second Harvest Food Bank, we see the devastating toll hunger takes on kids. It doesn’t have to. “Donating is one of the most selfless acts we as human beings can undertake. With your generous giving you are transforming the lives of people most especially children who are hungry,” said Arlene.
***Stand up for the 1 in 3 kids in our community who are bullied by hunger. Take action today!
Special Blog Post By: Jeff Rangel, Brocade
I believe access to healthy food – just like access to air and water – is pretty basic. Advocating for hunger relief is a cause that resonates with people because everyone understands that without nourishment, you can’t do much else. Food is at the core of everything, particularly for children. If kids aren’t nourished, they aren’t learning, growing, or reaching their full potential. They are not developing healthy habits for adulthood. I support Second Harvest because I know my money and my time will be maximized.
About 20 years ago, the company I was working for hosted a summer BBQ. As we were enjoying our food, the discussion turned to people who don’t have enough food to eat. We ended up turning the BBQ into an impromptu fundraiser for Second Harvest, and I learned how easy it is to make a difference in the lives of people who are struggling. Since that time, it’s been my professional honor to present opportunities for people to make a difference – by coordinating food drives and other activities – I learned very early on not to underestimate what people can do. Who am I to judge someone else’s ability to help? People want to make a difference.
As a corporate affairs leader, I believe it is important to set a goal for a food and fund drive – because you have to know where you’re going in order to get there. Food & Fund Drive coordinators communicate the vital issue of hunger relief and the Drive goal to people and ask them to consider doing something about it. Why is everything goal-oriented? I find the goal clarifies the measure of success for the Drive – it gives teams something to rally behind. I also think it’s important to market a Drive. Coordinators can’t just put up one poster or send one email. Consistent visibility and reinforcement is the key – I put posters around every corner, and a reminder in my email signature. I haven’t heard an employee say, “Stop asking me to give.” But I have heard them say, “Why didn’t you ask me to give?”
For me, fighting hunger is more than holding corporate drives. That’s why my entire family supports Second Harvest. We give and volunteer as a family. In fact, when I became a father, I really began to think about my legacy and the example I wanted to set for my kids. When my twin boys turned 14, they spent their birthday sorting fruit at Second Harvest with several of their friends. They learned not to be careless because that piece of fruit might be all someone has to eat. I could tell that they were proud to bring their friends and expose them to the cause and the impact they can have on others.
We are blessed, so we have a duty to help, and to get the people in our social and professional networks to help as well. Hunger is a cause that people rally around pretty quickly. I’ve never had had family, friends or professional colleagues disagree that we need to invest in hunger relief.
***Inspired to help stop childhood hunger? Check our website in March.
“Nutrition Newbie” is a series focused on basic nutrition information and tips.
Sodium, Let’s Be Frank - I’m Fading Out on You
It’s hard not to notice what commercial holiday happens in the month of February. Pink candy hearts, teddy bears hugging red hearts, heart-shaped boxes holding heart-shaped chocolates… In addition to being the month when Valentine’s Day happens, February is also American Heart Month, to raise awareness of heart disease, the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. Let’s just say it’s a good time to be a little heart-obsessed.
When I asked Janet – my go-to nutritionist at Second Harvest – what are some things I can do to have a healthier heart, she immediately talked about avoiding foods high in sodium because they can increase blood pressure. The vast majority of sodium we consume is in processed and restaurant foods.
Here are some suggestions on how to cut back the sodium:
Know Your Limits: Limit your salt intake to 2,300 mg per day (equivalent to a teaspoon of salt!). If you are 51+ years old, African American, or have high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease, you should limit your salt intake to 1,500 mg per day.
Mind the Labels: When you’re grocery shopping, look for food options labeled as “low sodium,” “reduced sodium,” or “no salt added.” As for checking the sodium content on Nutrition Facts labels, try to choose products with 5% Daily Value (DV) or less; 20% DV or more is high. Compare the sodium in foods like bread, soup and frozen meals (I was surprised by the differences) and choose the ones with less sodium.
Get More Potassium in Your Diet: Your heart’s BFF, consuming potassium-rich foods can lower your blood pressure. The main sources of potassium are fruits and vegetables. Potatoes, beans, bananas, tomatoes, avocados, and spinach are excellent sources of potassium.
Try to Cook More: Cooking from scratch means you’ll know exactly how much salt is going into your dish. Cooking is also a chance to be creative – try substituting spices, herbs, and salt-free blends for salt.
Reducing sodium in your diet is actually a topic that’s near and dear to my own heart. I recently got my blood pressure under control and I try to make all of the above part of my routine. What really made a difference for me was being diligent about checking food labels and making informed decisions at the grocery store. It’s such an automatic thing that I do when I go grocery shopping, I can’t even remember when I started doing it. The little actions add up; you just have to start somewhere.
Our nutritionists access many tools & resources to educate our clients about sodium and other food topics, including the educational materials located here.
***ICYMI: Check out our previous Nutrition Newbie post with tips on how to eat healthier.