Guest Blog Post By: Claire Wagner
May is CalFresh Awareness Month. CalFresh (food stamps) is an important part of the solution to our community’s hunger crisis and a necessary safety net for low-income individuals and families struggling during tough times. The benefits also generate $1.79 in economic activity for every $1 of CalFresh money spent in our region through the support of local businesses.
CalFesh is the number one source of nutritious and affordable food for hungry families in our area. The program issues monthly electronic benefits that make it easy for people in need to make healthy choices because it can be used to buy most foods at many markets and food stores.
Unfortunately, only about half of those who are eligible receive CalFresh. That means thousands of families and individuals in our area are needlessly going hungry. In fact, according to the USDA, California ranks last among all states for participation in the federally run Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) of which CalFresh is a part. In Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties, only about one-half of the people who are eligible are actually enrolled in CalFresh.
Tracey was one of those people who qualified but did not know how to access CalFresh. A divorced mother of two teen boys who both need intensive special education services, her only income is alimony and child support. It had been just enough to make ends meet until it was reduced from $1,500 to $800 per month. Because her rent is $700 per month, there was almost nothing left over to pay for food.
“I’ve done everything I can to find a job and nothing has come along. I’m at the end of my rope,” Tracey told us when she called the Food Connection Hotline. Tracey had a history of volunteering at pantries and other non-profit organizations and she was embarrassed to ask for help for herself. Our staff re-assured her that anybody can experience unexpected turns in life and that sadly, she is not alone. We provided her with a referral to the Produce Mobile and Family Harvest sites in Sunnyvale and then screened her for CalFresh. She and her boys are eligible for $526 per month in CalFresh benefits, and the family no longer has to worry about being hungry.
CalFresh enrollment is critical to our mission to end hunger in Silicon Valley. In addition to performing CalFresh screenings over the phone, we have an extensive outreach program that identifies eligible people and helps them apply. We hope that some day all qualified families can access CalFresh benefits and purchase the food they need to stay healthy. To learn more about the program, go to http://www.shfb.org/calfresh.
Special Blog Post By: Claire Wagner
Our amazing volunteers donate time that is equivalent to the work of 143 full-time staff, valued at $5.9 million. This week, we’d like to introduce you to Nancy, who first started volunteering with Second Harvest in 1992. Nancy recalls that when she came to California, she struggled financially as a single mother of a toddler. During this difficult time, she always knew that the Food Bank would be there if she needed it. And later, she decided to volunteer because she wanted others to take comfort in that knowledge, too.
Nancy is a Senior Operations Manager at Applied Materials, which is the Title Sponsor of the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot. Last year, the event had more than 24,000 participants and raised $750,000 for three local nonprofits, including Second Harvest Food Bank. Nancy has helped to organize the Turkey Trot for the past seven years. “I’m always in awe of how many people come out on Thanksgiving morning. I especially love the younger volunteers who are so excited to be there even though they’re getting up at the wee hours of the morning!”
In fact, Nancy believes that every parent should volunteer and encourage their children to do the same. Each year when Nancy was ready to make her own Thanksgiving food donations to Second Harvest, she asked her son to pick out the turkeys and canned goods. Then they drove to the Food Bank to make the delivery so he could better understand the impact they were having. She believes the experience of giving to others has helped shape her son’s character and guided him to a lifetime of service to others.
Nancy says that volunteering is a “rush” for her, probably not unlike the feeling that keeps runners hooked on racing. “It helps me feel like I made a real difference. And I believe the ripple effect caused by giving has an impact on your family, your friends, and the community as a whole.”
Thank you, Nancy, for helping to make sure Second Harvest can continue to help those in need of food. Would you like to fight hunger, too? We have many volunteer opportunities each week. Learn more at www.SHFB.org/Volunteer.
Special Blog Post By: Claire Wagner
April is National Volunteer Month and we’re celebrating the dedication of our own volunteers, whose efforts are equivalent to the work of 143 full-time staff — valued at $5.9 million! This week, we’d like to introduce you to Randy, a proud Second Harvest volunteer for nearly a decade. As a food sort team leader, he provides training, guidance, and other logistics to dozens of other volunteers at our Bing Center in San Carlos.
Randy is also a champion for Second Harvest in the community. He regularly recruits members of his Kiwanis Club and other groups to participate at Second Harvest. In addition, he serves as a Food Bank Ambassador through the Speaker’s Bureau, representing us at dozens of engagements each year. His appearances have helped generate significant donations of food, money, and time while alleviating the demands on our staff.
Randy even uses his hobby, photography, to help Second Harvest by taking high-quality photos at special events. As he sees it, saving the costs of photographers means more money can be spent on feeding hungry people.
Randy likes to talk about how working with the food bank not only benefits the community but also the volunteers themselves. “Volunteers are fundamental to every step of the food banking process. Our collective efforts mean that more food can get into every neighborhood, to the people who need it most. But the ‘ROI’ doesn’t stop there.”
“My personal growth, well-being, and connection to our community is reciprocated every time I help sort bins of carrots, speak at a corporate fair, or inspire someone else to take on the cause of ending hunger.”
Thank you, Randy, for showing up to help others in so many important ways! Would you like to fight hunger, too? We have many volunteer opportunities each week. Learn more at www.shfb.org/volunteer.
Save the date for this year’s “Stamp Out Hunger” food drive, hosted by your letter carriers on Saturday, May 11! This marks the 21st anniversary of this nationwide food drive, where you can donate food to help local families in need. Helping out is as easy as 1-2-3.
1) Fill a bag with items from our non-perishable most-needed foods list. Here’s a shopping list you can use:
- Meals in a can (stew, chili, soup)
- Tuna and canned meat
- Peanut butter
- Canned foods with pop-top lids
- Low-sugar cereals
- 100% fruit juices in single serving boxes
- Canned fruit packed in juice
- Canned vegetables (low salt)
Please avoid donating items packaged in glass.
2) Leave the bag by your mailbox on Saturday morning on May 11, by 9 am.
3) Your letter carrier will take care of delivering the bags to Second Harvest.
Join us in the largest single-day food drive benefiting Second Harvest Food Bank and other food banks around the country. We look forward to sharing the results with you in May! Thank you for your support!
Please Join Us
Managed by So Delicious
3000 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park
The 7 Biggest Mistakes Trustees Often Make
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
This complimentary educational seminar is entertaining and informative. Enjoy delicious food while guest speaker and noted wealth strategist Sandeep Varma explores real case examples to determine where clients, trustees and successor trustees went wrong and demonstrate the difference that proper planning can make.
Please RSVP to Lily Wong by March 28 at (408) 266-8866 ext. 259 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This workshop is sponsored by Restaurant 3000, managed by So Delicious.
When many of us think of hunger, we tend to think of starving children with protruding stomachs living in third-world countries. In the U.S., the images of hunger that come to mind are often homeless adults standing on street corners with cardboard signs.
The reality is quite different. The hungriest people in our community may not be sickly thin, but actually tipping the scales. Hunger, obesity and malnutrition are intricately connected in the United States.
Low income families not only struggle to earn enough money to put food on the table, but many low income neighborhoods don’t even have full-service grocery stores where healthy food options are available – these areas are often referred to as “food deserts.” Instead families often shop for groceries at corner convenience stores or resort to eating at inexpensive fast food restaurants.
Fast food restaurants are not only prevalent in impoverished areas, but fast food is an inexpensive way to feed a family while also making sure that no-one is left “feeling hungry.”
“When you’re hungry and struggling financially, you’re going to get what you can afford and fills you up,” said Eddie, a Second Harvest Food Bank client. “It’s hard when you work long hours and sometimes feel like the deck is stacked against you.”
One example of this ironic co-existence between hunger and obesity is in Mississippi, the state with both the highest hunger rate (19%) and the highest obesity rate (35%).*
At Second Harvest our first priority is to feed hungry people in our community. However we also don’t want to compound the diet related health issues that many of our clients face. Therefore we have gone out of our way to prioritize the distribution of healthy foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables. Fresh produce is viewed as an unaffordable luxury by our most financially strapped neighbors. We are proud to report, that last year more than half of what the Food Bank provided was fresh fruits and vegetables.
Senior Director of Programs and Services, Cindy McCown, was the first Nutritionist to ever work for a food bank. She was hired on at Second Harvest nearly 30 years ago. “The link between hunger and obesity is subtle,” she says. Under her leadership, Second Harvest helps by distributing healthy foods to low-income households while our Nutritionists educate our clients about healthy eating, providing them with simple recipe cards so that they can learn how to prepare some of the new foods they are trying for the first time.
* Feeding America Fact Sheet, “Food Insecurity, Health and Diet-Related Disease.” (2012)