Collaborative Works Towards a Hunger-Free Summer

Special Blog Post By: Alisa Tantraphol, Second Harvest Food Bank Associate Director of Strategic Partnerships

A Strong Public-Private Collaborative Works Towards a Hunger-Free Summer

Imagine trying to make ends meet for your family on less than $45,000 per year here in the heart of Silicon Valley. According to the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, that’s about half of what it takes for a family with two young children to be self-sufficient in this region. Yet that’s the reality for the parents of over 140,000 local kids.

During the school year, many of these kids receive free or subsidized meals through the federal free/reduced-price meal program. (Lunches are free for kids living in families earning less than $31,525 per year and subsidized for families of four living on less than $44,863 per year.) Here in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, a staggering 1 in 3 children qualify for this program.

The summer version of this federal student meal program is called the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). But with school budget cuts leading to fewer summer school opportunities in our community, fewer local kids have access to this support during the summer months. A 2014 Stanford study confirmed that summer is the hardest time for local families struggling to put food on the table because they lose access to these critical meals.

In recent years, the YMCA of Silicon Valley has stepped up to sponsor SFSP and trained public library staff on meeting the federal requirements for participating in SFSP. Libraries are a welcoming place for children and offer educational and enrichment activities at locations convenient for families. Reimbursements from SFSP ensure that students have the fuel their bodies need to take advantage of these programs, which can help low-income students enter the new school year at less of a disadvantage to their more affluent peers who spend their summers immersed in stimulating learning environments.

However, because of federal stipulations, SFSP meals can only be provided to children under 18. That meant that library staff often had to turn away parents who were obviously hungry—leaving children feeling guilty about having a meal when they knew their parents were hungry. Staff felt uncomfortable telling parents they couldn’t eat or even share their child’s meal, but had no alternative.

Building on this summertime enrichment model with meals for kids, this past summer, a public-private collaborative worked towards a hunger-free summer for everyone:

  • The YMCA sponsored the federal SFSP program to fund meals for kids at 25 sites throughout the community. Sites included libraries in both Santa Clara and San Mateo counties as well as YMCA locations in low-income areas. The food was prepared by Revolution Foods, whose mission is to create healthy, fresh, real food for schools and families (with no artificial flavors or preservatives or anything fake).
  • Educational and enrichment activities were provided at the summer meal sites. This is especially important because kids experience learning losses when they don’t engage in educational activities during the summer; according to the National Summer Learning Association, more than half of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities.
  • Second Harvest provided meals for adults (funded in part by a grant from the ConAgra Foods Foundation), and student attendance at the summer meal sites increased as a result. With Revolution Foods’ focus on real foods like whole grains and fresh produce, it was helpful to have parents there to encourage their kids to try new, healthy foods — and to begin to establish a life-long habit of healthy eating.
  • Second Harvest supplemented these hot meals by distributing free groceries to families at a pop-up pantry in the Ravenswood City School District in East Palo Alto two Saturday mornings each month. Families received 90 pounds of fresh produce, rice, beans, chicken, milk, cereal, ground turkey, eggs, canned fruits and vegetables, peanut butter, tortillas, and other groceries each month. Thanks to the support of the David & Lucile Packard Foundation, we will be able to continue providing free groceries during the school year for local families in need of food through this school pantry.
  • As one parent whose child participated in the summer meal program commented, “The food has been such a big help to my family. It’s healthy and my children enjoy the food.” Another was so appreciative, her only suggestion was, “I wish this was done year-round.”

    The impact of the Lunch at the Library program this past summer was significant – over 275,000 meals in all for local families in need: 143,628 meals were provided across 25 summer meal program sites—132,392 hot meals for kids (serving an average of 5,822 children every day during the 10 week summer program) and 10,984 meals for adults; and enough groceries to make 132,637 meals thanks to the pop-up school pantry distributions. We also conducted outreach to connect these families with other community resources beyond the summer months. A flyer listing every local food resource was distributed to every student in the district.

    The Pediatric Advocacy Program at the Stanford School of Medicine conducted a study that validated program assumptions, namely that the program model made it easy for people to participate in the program, compared to accessing other food assistance programs such as CalFresh (food stamps); while over 40% of program participants surveyed had experienced food insecurity in the past year, two-thirds of respondents were not aware of food assistance programs. The Stanford study also noted that adding in the adult meal component helped foster a sense of community among participants.

    For low-income families and individuals who are not connected to other support systems and resources, the Lunch at the Library program has become a trusted source of enrichment, food, and information about other community resources available to address food insecurity. This pilot underscores the potential power of strong public-private collaborative efforts working towards the shared vision of a hunger-free summer for everyone. Our hope is to expand to additional sites with the support of additional collaborators in 2016.

    Local Hunger Fighters: Gloria and Charles Ford

    “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: Gloria and Charles Ford, Friendship Church of God in Christ

    How are you helping Second Harvest and our community?
    We strongly believe in our organization mission to serve and assist those who are less fortunate. It is without a doubt, because of the awesome partnership we have with Second Harvest, that we have been fortunate enough to impact hundreds of thousands of underserved families in our community for the past 40 years.

    What inspires you to give?
    Knowing that we are making a tangible difference in the lives of others truly inspires us to continue to give. Giving back makes us feel good!

    Why should people care about hunger in our community?
    We believe all people should care about humanitarian efforts in our community and around the entire globe. Food insecurity is a major concern for all communities, especially highly populated communities with growing families.

    Charles and I came from very large families. If anyone cares about the effects of hunger, it’s most definitely is us. It is our belief that when people are fed, they can be more productive and a contributing member in society. In addition, families which are fed promote healthy neighborhoods. Besides, we consider it our duty to care and make sure families are fed, especially the most vulnerable family member, the children.

    Why do you support Second Harvest?
    Second Harvest has been such a tremendous blessing to our community as well as to our organization. If it were not for all of the abundant food resources and the numerous in-kind contributions from Second Harvest, we would not have been able to successfully impact thousands of families. We appreciate all of the amazing continuous support and generosity. We not only support Second Harvest, we salute Second Harvest!!

    ***Read past Local Hunger Fighters posts and meet more of our neighbors working to end hunger in our community.

    January Social Media Roundup

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

  • In Defense of Food Stamps: Why The White House Sings SNAP’s Praises, NPR.ORG
  • “The CEA report finds SNAP is best at doing what it’s intended to do: keep people from going hungry. But it also reduces poverty overall. According to the authors, in 2014 the program kept close to 5 million people out of poverty, 2 million of them kids.”

  • Task Force Proposes Food Stamp Improvements to Reduce Hunger in U.S., AMERICA.ALJAZEERA.COM
  • “Even on a budget, the majority of SNAP recipients are unable to make the food stamps last the entire month. Approximately 80 percent of SNAP benefits are redeemed within two weeks of receipt…”

  • Safety Net Reduces Poverty Now and Promotes Opportunity over Long Run, CBPP.ORG
  • “A growing body of research also finds that anti-poverty programs can produce long-term gains for children, thereby promoting opportunity and mobility.”

    Our Food Resources and Inventory team is stepping away from their desks this afternoon to sort oranges! #freshproduce #endhunger

    A photo posted by Second Harvest Food Bank (@2ndharvest) on Jan 21, 2016 at 2:56pm PST

  • Most Americans are One Missed Paycheck Away From Poverty, MTV.COM
  • “According to Bankrate, four in 10 Americans either experienced a major unexpected expense in the last year, or had an immediate family member who did.”

  • The Gravity of the Hunger Problem on College Campuses, THEATLANTIC.COM
  • “…most [college] students are older, low income, raising a family, or attending a community college… ‘The nontraditional student is the new normal.’”

  • 10 Tips for Reducing Food Waste, MOMSKITCHENHANDBOOK.COM
  • We heart infographics! This one has 10 practical tips for reducing food waste in your home.

    Apple employees sorting apples in our fresh produce sort room because apples. #apple A photo posted by Second Harvest Food Bank (@2ndharvest) on Jan 28, 2016 at 3:53pm PST

  • Weighing in on Campus Food Waste, FOODTANK.COM
  • “Weigh the Waste” – a great idea to educate folks about food waste!

  • A Harsh New Hole in the Safety Net, USNEWS.COM
  • “…as many as 1 million people will lose their SNAP (food stamp) benefits this year even though they have low enough incomes to qualify for them… The reason: the return of harsh time limits on SNAP benefits for most adults aged 18-49 who aren’t raising kids and don’t qualify for disability insurance.” Fortunately for us, California’s not one of the affected states

  • How Poverty May Change a Child’s Brain, MAGAZINE.GOOD.IS
  • “By changing those experiences—through preventive measures or interventions—we can change children’s trajectories for the better.”

  • Fresh Fruits and Veggies for Low-Income Diabetics, MERCURYNEWS.COM
  • ICYMI, last Wednesday, we opened a food pharmacy in Redwood City in partnership with Samaritan House and with support from the Sequoia Healthcare District. Believed to be the first of its kind in California, the Food Pharmacy provides nutritious food to low-income patients with type 2 diabetes. The logic: People are more likely to follow a diet that doctors recommend if they can get those foods for free immediately after their appointments.

    ***Don’t miss our past Social Media Roundups.

    Giving Time: Chao-Li Tarng

    “Giving Time” focuses on the invaluable volunteers who donate more than 314,000 hours to Second Harvest each year, more than doubling the size of our staff.

    Special Blog Post By: Chao-Li, Volunteer Site Coordinator

    My name is Chaol-Li Tarng.  I immigrated to the United States from Taiwan 30 years ago.  I got my PhD at the University of Washington in electrical and computer engineering   I’m a Cisco retiree, and currently teach at San Jose State University.  I teach network security.  I teach my students to utilize the security systems we have in place, because many people do not or are sloppy about it.  I teach that if you take a job in network security, to defend from hacking, you’ve got to think like a hacker. I have a desire to know about processes, how things work. This ties directly into how I  found myself volunteering as a site coordinator for Second Harvest for the last decade.

    I was looking for an opportunity to do some volunteer work. Before I did the food distribution I did sorting in the warehouse. Many times I found myself wondering, “who gets the food?” Thinking about the way the food is distributed, because we were asked to sort in a certain fashion and because I’m an engineer, I wanted to really know the whole flow of getting food, from sorting to managing to delivering the food to the client.

    I began the site coordinating at my current location in 2008.  I feel excited every day of a distribution I think it’s a challenge.  I love a challenge. When I get there the first thing I think of is, are we going to get enough volunteers today?  Are we going to kill ourselves again?  I do this once a month, and afterward I feel great.  Physically I’m tired, but that’s great, too.

    So, on the day of a distribution, I organize the volunteers.  I really enjoy the people and the relationships I have with them. Everyone has their own story and I like to hear them. I enjoy listening to all of their stories.

    It’s very rewarding at the end of the day. It’s really, really rewarding. I get this opportunity to do a workout. It’s really good exercise. If I do it, whenever, morning or afternoon, afterward, my whole day is done. I have to sit for the whole day, because I’m so physically tired. But, mentally, I’m so fulfilled.  To see the people get food and smile is really my best reward.

    ***Want to volunteer at Second Harvest? Click here to find out how.

    Nutrition Newbie: A Healthy Heart is a Happy Heart

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

    Special Blog Post By: Alejandra Menjivar, Second Harvest Food Bank Community Nutrition Educator

    Healthy Tips for Good Heart Health

    February is the month to celebrate love and friendship. Many of us show our love and appreciation to our family and significant others on Valentine’s Day by going out to dinner, gifting chocolates and flowers, or saying I love you. February is also Heart Month.  As we celebrate these heartfelt emotions,  I would like to share the following tips to keep your heart healthy.

    According to the American Heart Association, at the heart of good health is always good nutrition. Healthy food choices will help reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.

    Eat less of the low-nutrient and empty calorie foods and limit saturated fats which are usually derived from animal products like red meat. Instead, choose lean meats such as turkey or chicken breast. Also limit your intake of sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages; your body does not need sugar to function properly. In fact, there’s no recommended daily percent value for sugar. When we consume sugar, we’re adding empty calories and extra pounds that could lead to obesity and reduced heart health.

    Include the following in your diet to make your heart stronger:

  • Fruits and vegetables: They are fresh, filling, and heart healthy. Fruits and vegetables have vitamins, nutrients, and fiber. Make sure that you fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables. If you make it a rule to eat your fruits and vegetables first on your plate, you will get full quicker because of the fiber and you will eat less of the protein and grains on your plate (which is why only 1/2 of your plate is dedicated to protein and grains according to MyPlate Dietary Guidelines).
  • More whole grains and less refined grains: There is a difference between whole grains and refined grains. Whole grains contain layers that carry vitamins and fiber which helps keep us regular, ensures healthy blood flow, and makes us feel full. Refined grains are what you get when you take away the layers that make up a whole grain and you are only left with the starch layer which really doesn’t have much nutritional value. MyPlate Dietary Guidelines recommend that only half of your grains be whole grain. I like to follow the dietary guidelines and one way I do this is when I make a sandwich, I use a slice of whole grain for my top and a slice of white bread as my bottom – this way I can still enjoy both types of grains.
  • I wish you a happy Valentine’s Day and good heart health. I hope this guide helps you make healthy choices. Please share these tips with your family, friends, and loved ones.

    Do you have any ideas on how to maintain a healthy heart? Have you tried any of our suggestions? Let us know in the comments section below!

    Check out the American Heart Association website for more resources.

    ***Check out our past Nutrition Newbie posts.

    Coltrane Donated His 5th Birthday to Help Hungry Neighbors

    While most kids Coltrane’s age wish for action figures and building blocks, Coltrane chose to celebrate his fifth birthday by giving instead of receiving. He decided to help his hungry neighbors in lieu of any gifts. When asked why, he said, “Some people have no food and so they may be very hungry. I don’t want people to be hungry anymore.”

    Supporting his decision, Coltrane’s parents setup an online fundraiser through our website. They set a goal and uploaded a video they recorded of Coltrane asking family and friends to donate the money that they were going to spend on a gift to the Food Bank.

    The online fundraiser was a success and inspired Coltrane to raise even more money by creating a homemade cookies and lemonade stand. Together, the online fundraiser and the cookies and lemonade stand raised an astonishing $1,212, which we turned into 2,424 nutritious meals for our hungry neighbors.

    Join Coltrane and become a volunteer fundraiser.  Pledge your birthday today!

    December Social Media Roundup

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

  • New Census Data: Bay Area Grappling with Poverty, Housing Costs, MERCURYNEWS.COM
  • “…for many residents in the heart of Silicon Valley, the good times didn’t exactly roll. The poverty rate in Santa Clara County jumped from 8.6 percent to 9.9 percent, while the median gross rent went up 20 percent.

  • California’s Economy is Booming, So Why is it No. 1 in Poverty?, LATIMES.COM
  • “…many experts say the official poverty rate fails to account for variations in public benefits and costs of living. A separate federal benchmark, known as the Supplemental Poverty Measure, shows a much higher poverty rate for California: 23.4%, the highest in the nation, according to the most recent data. The rate reflects California’s high — and growing — housing costs.”

  • What Happens When a Family Runs Out of Food Stamps?, WASHINGTONPOST.COM
  • “Toward the end of every month, hospitals in California see a curious uptick in admissions for hypoglycemia, the kind of low blood sugar that can affect diabetics. The pattern, detected in a recent study by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, is almost entirely driven by low-income patients.”

  • Are Food Deserts to Blame for America’s Poor Eating Habits?, THEATLANTIC.COM
  • “When it comes to nutrition access, the focus should be on poverty, not grocery-store location.” What do you think?

  • Food Insecurity on Campus: Is Your Ivy Leaguer Starving?, FORBES.COM
  • “…the University of California found that 25% of its 150,000 students across nine campuses have skipped meals for financial reasons.”

  • Will Your Doctor One Day Prescribe Food as Medicine?, WW2.KQED.ORG
  • Charities See Increased Demand for Assistance: Cost of Living Hikes Drives Local Need Higher Than Years Past, SMDAILYJOURNAL.COM
  • “Demand for meals from the food bank which serves San Mateo and Santa Clara counties has increased by 6 percent from this time last year… ‘We are really concerned about the good news about the economy because the community won’t realize there are more people struggling to feed their families than there were a year ago.’”

  • Big Think: Making Food Waste a Social Taboo, WW2.KQED.ORG
  • “And then, there’s the fact that somebody else needs that food… It’s really a moral tragedy that we’re all okay with this.”

  • No Signs of Improving Economy at Struggling Food Banks, WW2.KQED.ORG
  • “The truth is that with all the good news about the economy, the concern is that the community doesn’t realize that there are actually more people seeking help than what was true a year ago.” – Kathy Jackson, Second Harvest Food Bank CEO

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

    Free Seminar: 7 Biggest Mistakes Trustees Often Make

    We’re pleased to present…

    7 Biggest Mistakes Trustees Often Make

    Thursday, January 28, 2016, 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM

    Pond Family Conference Room
    Second Harvest Food Bank – Cypress Center
    4001 N. First Street, San Jose, CA 95134

    Who Should Attend:
    Anyone who has created a trust, is named as a trustee, or is considering establishing a trust.

    Guest speaker and veteran wealth strategist Sandeep Varma returns for this complimentary educational seminar. Both entertaining and informative, Sandeep will share numerous real-life stories that illustrate the responsibilities and liabilities that trustees accept. You will learn the possible problems that trustees face and know how to avoid or remedy them. Sandeep will also identify potential opportunities with a special type of revocable living trust called an IRA Trust. Continental breakfast and light lunch included.

    Seating for this workshop is limited. Please RSVP by January 22 to Jennifer Plumlee at (408) 266-8866 ext. 529 or

    Nutrition Newbie: New Year’s Resolutions Made Easy

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

    Special Blog Post By: Elena Hollander, Second Harvest Food Bank Community Nutrition Manager

    A Quick Guide to Kick Sweet Cravings

    Happy New Year! For many of us, we’re starting off the New Year with a resolution to “eat healthier,” but what does that really mean? One simple and very important way to improve your nutrition is to cut back on sugar. However, it can be tough to stick to the recommended 6 tsp of added sugar a day, especially when the cravings kick in! To help you combat those cravings for a healthy 2016, we’ve developed this quick guide.

    The first step in reducing sugar intake is to understand why that’s important (hint: it isn’t just because sugar adds extra calories that cause weight gain). Sugar may also lead to insulin resistance, which can cause type 2 diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and potentially cancer. Some studies in rats have also shown that sugar may cause hunger even when there was enough to eat because it prevented leptin, a hormone that regulates metabolism and appetite, from working properly.

    Even when we know why it may be unhealthy, it can be tough to cut out sugar, especially when those cravings hit! To beat the sugar addiction, one great trick is to eat whole fruit when you want something sweet. Why? Whole fruit has sugar that’s packed in fiber, which slows down the absorption of sugar in your body and makes you feel full so you don’t eat as much. We took some of the top craving culprits and came up with these satisfying substitutions using fruit.

    • CHOCOLATE – We LOVE chocolate not only because of the delicious cocoa taste and melt-in-your-mouth texture, but also because it boosts serotonin in the brain, which makes us happy. But did you know you can get those same qualities without the added sugar in a candy bar? We cut up a ripe banana and covered it in unsweetened cocoa powder to get a creamy, sweet and rich chocolate snack. For extra flavor, you can add unsweetened coconut flakes, sliced nuts, cinnamon, or sea salt.
    • ICE CREAM – Again, bananas to the rescue! A few frozen bananas mixed in a blender will turn into a creamy and sweet ice cream in a matter of minutes! Although they are delicious by themselves, they also make the perfect base for tons of other flavors – you can add unsweetened almond milk, vanilla extract, blueberries (especially good for masking the banana flavor if you aren’t a banana fan), or pumpkin puree with winter spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. For more ideas and an instructional video, check out this Huffington Post article.

    • SODA – Did you know that sugary beverages, like soda, are the single largest source of added sugar in the American diet? If you drank one less soda each day during 2016, you would cut out about 3,200 teaspoons of sugar and be about 15 lbs thinner by 2017! If you like the fizzy sweetness of soda, try adding fruit, herbs, or even veggies to seltzer water to create flavors like strawberry lime, cucumber mint, or clementine, which is pictured here. If you like the caffeine, try drinking tea (1 cup of tea has about the same amount of caffeine as two sodas) since it has none of the calories or sugar and may have added health benefits like antioxidants.

    We hope this guide helps you meet the New Year’s resolution of eating healthier in a fast and fun way! Remember, it is a lot easier to use these substitutions when you make sure you don’t have sugary treats at home to tempt you and you have all of the ingredients for these healthy substitutions ready to go! A final word of encouragement is that many people have found that if they really cut out added sugar, the cravings drastically reduce in a matter of weeks so it becomes easier and easier. We know you can do it!

    Do you have any ideas to combat sweet cravings? Have you tried any of our suggestions? Let us know!

    ***Read past Nutrition Newbie posts.

    Local Hunger Fighters: Chiaki Crossman

    “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 Fighter: Chiaki Crossman, Brown Bag and Family Harvest Programs Volunteer

    How are you helping Second Harvest and our community?

    I am providing support for two programs: Brown Bag, for elderly people, and Family Harvest, for families with children under 18 years old. Both programs have a membership system so I do administrative work to conduct both programs smoothly. I update member information in the database, issue membership cards, and renew memberships. As a part of this work, I mainly devote my time to food count reconsolidation. We need to know how much food we provided at each site, and from that number, we need to predict how much food we should order the next month. So I need to figure out those numbers from each site’s monthly report. Besides this, I help with customer service at the front desk. I greet people who donate food or money and issue receipts if necessary, provide information about how to get food, and hand out emergency food.

    What inspires you to give?

    Coming from a relatively economically rich country, Japan, I was shocked to see the difference in the standards of living in this area. Silicon Valley is the capital of the computer industry, so people come for its name value and variety of job opportunities from across the country or all around the world. Although there are many successful rich people here, there are so many people who are earning minimum wage. This is a place where the American dream and grim reality coexist. As a very fortunate immigrant who has the time to care about others, I wanted to support people who need help.

    Why should people care about hunger in our community?

    Because food is the source of energy and nutrition! If you are hungry, you can’t go get a job to earn money, or you can’t go to school to learn something you need to know. Food is very essential, especially providing enough nutrition to our children, our next generation, to establish a better future for our community. Let’s make Silicon Valley not only an IT empire, but also the place where people can have a fulfilling life.

    Why do you support Second Harvest?

    My biggest dream is to feed all hungry children around the world. But, of course, the things I can do is very limited. So I started with the things I can do first: helping to feed people locally. Even in the Second Harvest office, what I am doing now is a very small part, but I feel a connection to the people in our community. Second Harvest is a place that connects people who need help and people who want to help. That’s why I support Second Harvest.

    ***Read past Local Hunger Fighters posts and meet more of our neighbors working to end hunger in our community.