Realizing a Dream to Help Feed Our Neighbors

“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: Jim Gallagher, Director of Reaching Out Cathedral of Faith food pantry

How are you helping Second Harvest and our community?
Reaching Out has been helping the community for over 40 years. We have a 16,000 square foot warehouse and we provide groceries to 350 to 500 families each day we are open, which is about 700 to 1,000 families per week. That sounds like so much and it is, but we started to think about the working poor and how they can’t ask for time off of work to come to the pantry. So we started to dream that maybe we could go to them.

Last year, a concerned employee from the Rocketship Si Se Puede Academy came to me and asked if I would help several struggling families. We started talking about all the working poor and how we could help. The mobile pantry was born. After meeting with Second Harvest and telling them my idea, they were not only receptive but very supportive of the whole program. This is groundbreaking stuff. We are handing out groceries to people who work but just can’t make it in this valley. They have to pick up their kids from school so it’s a one-stop shop. The principal of the school said he is already seeing the fruits from this program as the kids are not as stressed out due to food insecurity.

What inspires you to give?
What inspires me is to see kids smile and say, “Yes, we are going to eat tonight.” Sam Liccardo’s’ wife said it best as she used to work at that school, “Jim, don’t stop doing what you are doing. The kids are depending on you.” Now that’s inspiring.

Why should people care about hunger in our community?
We should care about hunger in our community because peoples’ lives depend on it. A little boy or girl can’t go get a job. An 80 year old with health issues can’t go out and work. A mother of 4 kids under 7 can’t afford to buy food after paying for rent, utilities, and transportation. We need to be there to help. Hunger in a community causes all kinds of problems – low test scores, fighting, anger, stress – the list goes on. These are our neighbors.

Why do you support Second Harvest?
I support Second Harvest because they care and help our community. They are an amazing partner, ready, willing, and able to help stop hunger. They do it with integrity, kindness and efficiency. Please help us stop hunger in our community; our neighbors are depending on us.

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

September 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.

9/2: Guess who’s celebrating a 40th Anniversary? Every week during the month of September, we will be celebrating milestones from each decade. In this video, Deborah McGraw, our Donor Services Specialist, tells us about a special event from the 70s. Check out our website for a timeline and picture slideshow:

9/5: Nearly half of Second Harvest clients must make difficult trade-offs on regular basis, MERCURYNEWS.COM
“Within the past year, 47 percent of local clients of Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties have had to make such trade-offs, either by putting off buying school supplies or delaying continued education.”

9/6: Last year, millions of Americans were hungry. Then Congress cut food stamps., VOX.COM
“In 2013, 17.5 million US households were what the US Department of Agriculture calls ‘food insecure,’ according to a new report. That means that at some point last year, a lack of money made it difficult to buy food.”

9/9: Who loves the 80s? We are continuing our mini-series of videos celebrating the Food Bank’s 40th Anniversary. In this one, Jamison Bloechl, our Senior Application Specialist, reveals a milestone technically from the 80s. Go to for more totally awesome milestones.

9/9: The Unemployment Rate In Every State, Before And After The Great Recession, NPR.ORG
Not a full picture, but still interesting

9/12: So What Does Color Have to Do With Health Anyway?, FORVIBRANTHEALTH.WORDPRESS.COM
What does color have to do with our health? A lot! Check out this handy guide. ‪#‎foodiefriday‬

9/14: 21 Brilliant Kitchen Hacks To Help You Cut Down On Food Waste, NEWS.DISTRACTIFY.COM
So many great kitchen hacks that help reduce food waste

9/16: Our 40th Anniversary celebration continues! Manny, Warehouse Manager at our Curtner Center, drops off Michelle, Food Resources Coordinator, to share a milestone about our growth in the 90s. Check out more milestones and a picture slideshow at #SHFB40

9/23: We hope you’ve been enjoying our 40th anniversary Instagram video series. This week, we’ve reached the 2000s! In this installment, Shirley Chang, our Partnership Manager for Santa Clara County, shares a milestone for our Produce Mobile Program. For more memorable events from the Food Bank’s history, visit #SHFB40

9/27: Supermarkets Waste Tons Of Food As They Woo Shoppers, BLOGS.KQED.ORG
“With consumers demanding large displays of unblemished, fresh produce, many retailers end up tossing a mountain of perfectly edible food.” We are working to expand our grocery rescue program, which makes excess, unused food from local grocery stores available to neighborhood pantries, shelters and soup kitchens.

9/28: Food Assistance Programs Can Help Seniors in Need, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM
“Recent statistics indicate only 39 percent of eligible seniors receive SNAP benefits. There are a number of reasons for the lack of participation. Some seniors are too embarrassed or too proud to apply. Others think that if they receive SNAP they will be taking food benefits away from others (which they won’t). Some think it is too difficult to apply for SNAP, and others don’t even know the program exists.”

9/30: It’s the final installment of our Instagram video series celebrating Second Harvest’s 40th Anniversary! Sam, our Food Resources Representative, tells us about a big milestone for our Grocery Rescue Program. For more memorable moments, visit #SHFB40

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

Steadfast Commitment to Helping Neighbors

“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: Beth Clark, Dave Severns Memorial Golf Tournament

How are you helping Second Harvest and our community?
Our organization, the Dave Severns Memorial Golf Tournament, is matching donations to Second Harvest Food Bank during the month of October. Donations up to $500 per person will be matched dollar-for-dollar, for up to a total of $25,000.

Our commitment to ending hunger started with this motto:
“You give us the food/money, we give you the lights, nobody gets hurt….”

That was the motto of the Severns/Pease Christmas Light display here in Sunnyvale. What began as a small project in 1995 branched out to be an animated, solar powered display with over 80,000 computer-controlled lights on 270 different channels, synchronized to music. Planning for the display would take all year – each song took over ten hours to program, let alone stringing all those lights!

Thousands of people would visit from around the Bay Area each year. Rather than charge admission, which was suggested by some, Dave Severns and Andy Pease decided to hold a food and donation drive for Second Harvest Food Bank. And the public was very generous, donating to both.

Very sadly, Dave Severns passed away three years ago after a hard fought battle with cancer. It had been his dream to reach “The Million Pounds Club” for Second Harvest, and he did so in the last year of his life. The organization and all that it does meant so much to him.

A group of Dave’s friends wanted to honor him, and honor his commitment to Second Harvest Food Bank and all the good work that it does. We now hold a Dave Severns Memorial Golf Tournament (DSMGT), where all proceeds are donated to the Food Bank. The first year, we raised over $4,000. Each year it has grown, and last year we raised over $20,000! And so it was a great honor when the DSMGT received the “2014 Community Champion” award from Second Harvest Food Bank this year, and achieved the “Blue Diamond” level. We are so glad to continue his legacy, thanks to the generosity of his family and friends.

As with the Light Display, all individual donations up to $500 are matched by the Severns Family Foundation, capping at $25,000. This year we hope the general community will also donate, in honor of Dave, the Christmas Light Display and Second Harvest Food Bank. The matching offer of course applies!! Help us reach our goal of $25,000 in matching funds for a total of $50,000 – donate today!

Why should people care about hunger in our community? Why do you support Second Harvest?
The group of friends who organize the golf tournament is fortunate. We have jobs that allow us to lead a nice lifestyle here in Silicon Valley. But we know that so many people, hardworking people, do not. Second Harvest is an organization which has a high efficiency rating, and high impact, right here in our home.

With every dollar donated providing two meals, we like how far our money goes – especially since everything is doubled via the Severns Family Foundation!

We know that by giving to SHFB, we give in the best way possible to our community. We have volunteered at the warehouses as well as with fundraising. Each opportunity to give, gives back to us as well.

Nutrition Newbie: Your Brain on Junk Food

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

My co-worker Erin ponders her options

Do you remember that “This is Your Brain on Drugs” TV PSA from the late 80s? It was a startling and effective message to me, then and now. As the Food Bank’s official ‘nutrition newbie’, I can’t help but wonder if a “This is Your Brain on Junk Food” commercial would look pretty similar.

Coincidentally, one of our staff nutritionists told me about a recent Newsweek article that points to research showing high calorie, fatty foods with lots of sugar and salt can be addictive, affecting the brain in ways resembling addictions to cocaine and other drugs. An overload of junk food could also be part of the reason why some people are not interested in trying new fruits and vegetables.

Thankfully, there is good news. A pilot study showed that it’s possible to train your brain to prefer healthy food by actually changing your behavior and following a healthy diet (here’s a CNN article about that). So what are you waiting for? Get on that healthy diet, stat!

Seriously though, perhaps the first step to changing dietary habits is to remember there are healthy alternatives, then proactively choose them over the unhealthy ones. Biting into fresh, sweet fruits and vegetables (like crisp apples and crunchy carrots) can be a much more pleasurable experience than chewing on processed, sweetened, salty and fatty foods (like greasy potato chips or french fries from a fast food restaurant). Repeat after me…choose the apple!

This year, the County of San Mateo will be celebrating Food Day on October 24th with The Big Crunch. Find out how you can get involved and keep an eye on the Get Healthy San Mateo County Facebook page in the next few weeks for more details.

What are some of your tips for saying no to junk food and yes to healthy food?

***ICYMI, check out our last Nutrition Newbie post about packing healthier foods for kids’ lunches.

When I Help My Community, I Help Myself

Special Blog Post by: Sandra, Second Harvest client and volunteer

In the food distribution line at Our Lady of Guadalupe church, Sandra is the first volunteer that hundreds of people meet. Sandra greets every person with a cheerful “good morning” or “buenos días.” She works up a sweat doling out broccoli, carrots, onions, and strawberries to alleviate her neighbors’ hunger. Here’s her story:

I’ve lived in San Jose since I was a teenager. I have one child and I’m also taking care of two young adults who don’t have parents in the states. I’m very involved with my church, Our Lady of Guadalupe. People tell me I’m really good at praying the rosary, so I make time to do that at funerals.

For 28 years, I worked at a dry-cleaning business. I worked my way up to manage 33 employees. But two years ago, I was laid off. I tried to make it on my own, but eventually, I knew I had to get food for my kids.

When I asked for food at my church for the first time, I was crying. I put on my hat to cover my head, I was so ashamed. But after that, I saw a lot of people who were going through the same thing. I felt comfortable.

Ever since, I’ve been volunteering with the food distribution. At my job, I learned a lot of good customer service skills, and that has helped me in my role as a volunteer.

At first, I couldn’t believe how many people in my community depended on the groceries we give out. Every Wednesday and Thursday, hundreds of people come here to pick up food.

Everybody volunteers with a lot of heart. As a volunteer, I try to treat everyone with respect. When I help my community, I help myself.

***One in 10 people in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties receive food from Second Harvest. Find out how you can help.

Jenn Teaches Toddler Son Generosity, Compassion

Jenn is the Annual Fund Officer at Second Harvest Food Bank. A few years ago, Jenn heard one of our clients say that she would skip meals to ensure that her children had enough food to eat. She would go hungry because the hurt she experienced watching her children suffer far outweighed her own hunger pangs.

“Once my son, Winston, was born, I understood her struggle in a way that I couldn’t before,” Jenn says. “I simply couldn’t bear the thought of not being able to nurture my son. Imagining Winston without the food he needs to grow is absolutely heartbreaking and I, too, know I would skip meals so he could eat.”

When Second Harvest introduced a new online fundraising tool that allows supporters to ask their family and friends to donate, Jenn immediately knew she wanted to get Winston involved. Although Winston was only a toddler, Jenn wanted to teach him the importance of giving back to our community and to have compassion for those in need. One day, he may come across a fellow student that does not have a school lunch and her hope is that her son would share some of his own food to help his classmate.

For now, starting a fundraiser was the perfect way to involve Winston in helping others. Second Harvest’s new online fundraising tool made it easy to personalize his page with pictures, spread the word through Facebook and send emails to grandparents, aunts, uncles, and close friends.

Jen was thrilled with the results: “We exceeded our goal of $750 in just 10 days! We were so inspired by the generous support of our family and friends that we decided to raise the goal to $1,000. By sharing Winston’s fundraising progress, videos and stats about hunger, it wasn’t long before we hit our increased goal as well! The information we shared surprised a lot of people and got them asking how they could get involved. With the holidays right around the corner, I’m looking forward to seeing our friends and family follow Winston’s lead by starting their own personal fundraisers.”

Jenn loves being able to educate people about local hunger, build relationships with donors and provide them with opportunities to support our mission. Now she has a new tool to share this passion with her son.

***Want to share your passion for fighting hunger like Jennie and Winston? Start a fundraiser today!

Pediatrician Inspired by Her Patients to Fight Hunger

“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: Dr. Lisa Chamberlain, The American Academy of Pediatrics, District 1

How are you helping Second Harvest and our community?
I’ve been drawn to the issue of addressing hunger in our community because of my work as a pediatrician in East Palo Alto at the Ravenswood Family Health Center. Throughout the Great Recession, more and more of my families were struggling to make ends meet and were reporting that they were hungry and skipping meals. As a result I became involved with a few projects, including the “You Can’t Tell By Looking” project and the Summer Lunch Bridge with the Ravenswood School District, where we have distributed over 21,000 meals during the last three summers. Since child hunger spikes in the summer, we decided to focus our giving during that time. The schools and the YMCA have been wonderful partners in this endeavor.

The “You Can’t Tell By Looking” project was spearheaded by my colleague Dr. Lucy Crain and the American Academy of Pediatrics Advocacy Committee, which I co-chair. We were all struck by how this seemed like a huge problem that no one knew about. Dr. Crain wisely thought we should put faces with the story to educate the public, pediatricians, and policymakers about this issue. She secured the pro-bono work of a very talented, professional photographer, Karen Ande, to take the pictures of 20 kids and families at a San Francisco street fair. Half of them screened positive for food insecurity. The take home message, when you view the stunning photos, is that HALF of these kids are experiencing food insecurity and you can’t tell by looking. The exhibit has well received and displayed in San Francisco and will hang in the State Capital this spring.

What inspires you to give?
My patients inspire me to address this issue. They work so hard, frequently working 2 or 3 jobs per family. It’s so hard to make ends meet, especially in this area. As a result, some months they can’t do it. It’s easy to be inspired by hard-working people who are trying to give their kids every opportunity. It’s really the least I can do.

Why should people care about hunger in our community?
I think people should care for two reasons. One, it literally is all around us – the janitors in your school, your child’s teachers’ aides, the person bagging your groceries – many of these people work hard and have a hard time making ends meet; they are skipping meals. Why not help when there are people in need? Two, it’s so easy to do! Second Harvest makes it simple to make a difference right now, today.

Why do you support Second Harvest?
I’m very impressed with the leadership team at Second Harvest – they are statewide leaders, run a well-organized ship, and are working hard to provide healthy, fresh food to all who need it in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties. What’s not to love?

***Click here to find out how you can help feed our neighbors in need.

August Social Media Roundup

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

8/3: These Twenty Young People Are Changing the Food System in Huge Ways, Food Tank
Check out these innovative projects

8/5: What I Learned After Taking a Homeless Mother Grocery Shopping, Babble
“Remembering that statistics represent real people is a vital part of wanting to do something about it. We need to do more than stand aside and shake our heads, grateful it isn’t us.”

8/5: Over the weekend, our own Rina Saavedra, Mark Kokoletsos and Arlene Aquino attended the 94th Anniversary Installation Dinner, sponsored by the SF Host Lions Club, in South San Francisco. Our Programs staff were presented with certificates in appreciation of our partnership with Lions Club members who volunteer and help serve hungry people in our community. Don’t they look dashing?

8/10: 8 Essential Tips for Avoiding Food Waste, The Kitchn
Check out these great tips on how to avoid food waste and make full use of groceries you buy

8/12: 5 Healthy Veggies You Think Are Bad For You – But Aren’t, Prevention
Ok, so I thought iceberg lettuce had no nutritional value. I was wrong.

8/17: 16 TED Talks That Will Make You Smarter About Food, First We Feast
I know what I’ll be watching today

8/19: Why Hungry Seniors Aren’t Getting Enough to Eat, NPR
“When we picture hungry Americans, we may see the faces of children, or single moms. But many of the people who struggle to fill their bellies are beyond age 65.”

8/19: Survey Shows More Working Families Turn to Silicon Valley Food Banks, ABC 7 News
“Buy food, or pay the PG&E bill? That’s a choice some families in Silicon Valley are facing…”

8/20: We’ve got heart-healthy, nutrient-rich tomatoes this #WarehouseWednesday! DYK there are about 7,500 tomato varieties grown for various purposes?

8/23: The Only Food Poor Americans Can Afford Is Making Them Unhealthy, The Atlantic
“To make their budgets stretch further, many people in poverty turn to expired, damaged, or processed items.”

8/29: 23 On-The-Go Breakfasts That Are Actually Good For You, BuzzFeed
Aren’t we always looking for easy and healthy breakfast options? This BuzzFeed post has a bunch of those. ‪#‎foodiefriday

8/30: Yes, She’s on Food Stamps and No, You Shouldn’t Judge Her For It, Babble
“Why do people think they have enough information that they can determine the whole picture?”

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

Stan, Local Senior, is ‘Paying It Ahead’

Special Blog Post by: Erin Burns, Creative Manager at Second Harvest Food Bank

On the third Monday of every month – in between his numerous other volunteer commitments, serving as a pastor, and providing for his son and grandson – Stan orchestrates Second Harvest’s grocery distribution for a Daly City community center. He swoops in and out of the line of families, mentally pairing people with the remaining food. He ticks off: Twenty-two more families. Bright red peppers, icy milk gallons, hefty cans of green beans. There’s enough for everyone. Stan nudges a kindergartner and her baby brother out of the path of a swinging door. He approves of a woman’s request to lug an extra watermelon, in lieu of milk, into her bag.

One hundred families cram inside the community center to avoid the unexpected rain, and Stan manages to share a cheerful word with each family.

“I call this paying it ahead,” Stan says. “Second Harvest was an answered prayer for me, and I know it’s an answered prayer for these people here.”

With seven grown children, Stan considers himself the typical dad. Up until a disabling back injury on the job more than 20 years ago, Stan worked as an IT professional, troubleshooting technology problems for companies all over the country. The back injury left him with permanent pain and unable to work to support his family, let alone save for retirement. Nowadays, Stan relies on Social Security to pay his mortgage, and has to look elsewhere to put food on the table for his son and grandson, who live with him.

Stan first learned about the Family Harvest and Brown Bag programs through one of Second Harvest’s partner agencies. He put aside his pride to ask for help. “I’ve learned I can do without a lot, but you can’t do without food. Hence, that’s the reason I applied for Second Harvest. It helped a lot. Still does,” Stan said.

When he started receiving food, Stan asked one of the volunteers how he could help and he didn’t give anyone a chance to say no. He says he was raised to help out when he saw others struggling, and that his own personal hardships enable him to relate to those he is serving: “I have a very great sense of accomplishment when I do something helpful for someone else. And it helps even more that I’ve been there; I’m still there. So I know what the people in line are going through. You treat them the way you want to be treated, because you know they’re there because they have a need.”

Stan has been a dedicated volunteer with Second Harvest Food Bank’s Family Harvest program since 2006. “My son, my grandson, and I didn’t know what we were going to do about food. But then Second Harvest helped us. And then this old seed grew into a garden, because I’ve been able to pay it ahead to others.

“A deacon at another church tells me, ‘You can’t hardly walk.’ But I can always walk to deliver food to somebody.”

*** Together, we can end senior hunger. Help local seniors like Stan and donate today!

Help Us Raise Awareness During Hunger Action Month

Here in America, there is more than enough food to feed every man, woman and child, yet 50 million people face hunger. In Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties, more than 1 in 10 people receive food from Second Harvest Food Bank.

Each and every one of us has a role to play in getting food to those in need.

We are a member of Feeding America, a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks, and together we are taking it up a notch for a month-long campaign. September is Hunger Action Month, a nationwide campaign mobilizing the public to take action on the issue of hunger.

In our “30 Ways in 30 Days” Calendar, we’ve compiled 30 simple things you can do every day during Hunger Action Month. Here is a sampling of actions that you can take:

  • Participate in Hunger Action Day and Go Orange on Thursday, September 4, 2014. Show your support by wearing orange that day or turning your Facebook and Twitter profile orange.
  • Connect with us and find out what hunger looks like in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties– sign-up for our monthly e-newsletter, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.
  • Share the information that you learn from us on Facebook and Twitter and help educate your family, friends, and colleagues.
  • Take the SNAP Challenge and feed yourself using only $4.50 a day. See what it’s like for those struggling to put food on the table by shopping for your meals with the daily average per person benefit provided by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program/CalFresh (Food Stamps).
  • Print and share the calendar with your family and friends!

    Also check out Feeding America’s Hunger Action Month Facebook app for more ways to get involved.

    How will you be participating in Hunger Action Month? Please tell us in the comments section below.