UNFI is the leading national distributor of natural and organic foods and the company donates food to Second Harvest Food Bank two times per week. The Food Bank receives an astounding variety of wholesome food, including fresh eggs, milk, yogurt, cereal, snacks, frozen entrees and other assorted food products. This year UNFI’s total food donations are the equivalent of over 400,000 nutritious meals! This unbelievable amount of healthy food goes a long way to help the Food Bank serve more than 1 million meals per week to our community.
A Second Harvest truck awaiting donations at UNFI's loading dock.
Crystal Brennan, General Manager UNFI Gilroy, answered our questions about UNFI and its support of our work to end local hunger.
Please tell us a little bit about UNFI and your recently opened distribution center in Gilroy.
UNFI is a company of pioneers who Move Food Forward. We are the largest organic and natural foods distributor in North America, every day delivering new choices that shape the foodscape. This year, we’re proudly celebrating our 40th anniversary. Our new LEED® Gold designed, state-of-the-art distribution center in Gilroy is 452,000 square feet and can expand to over 800,000 square feet.
What compels UNFI to give back to the community by donating food?
We do what’s right. And, we believe that companies should contribute positively to the community. Be a good neighbor. It’s who are, and part of what makes us so successful at what we do and why we have fun doing it.
Refrigerated product to be donated to the Food Bank.
Why is UNFI taking a stand against hunger?
The people who founded UNFI did so because everyone deserves access to healthy, sustainable food. For 40 years, we’ve lived our mission – bringing more healthy food options to more people. Our scale gives us the ability to positively impact lives and make a difference in Gilroy and in our other 33 communities across the country. And, our associates love being involved in giving back.
Can you speak to the partnership between Second Harvest Food Bank and UNFI and why it’s important to your company?
The relationship with Second Harvest is very important because we believe everyone deserves access to healthier food options. We’re here to connect food to people – and do the right thing.
UNFI staff loading the Second Harvest truck with food donations.
Do you have anything else to add regarding UNFI’s commitment to end local hunger?
UNFI Gilroy is forming a Helping Hands Committee, a group of associates dedicated to creating meaningful change in the community, who will plan volunteer events to work at the local food pantries, shelters, community gardens, and to clean highways and parks. That is how UNFI Gilroy rolls!
Special Blog Post By: Nicole Martinez, Food Connection Field Manager
In 2009, I graduated from college with a degree in nutrition and was dead set on working in clinical nutrition therapy world. Fate had a different plan and I soon realized how important it is for people to not only nourish their body with healthy food, but to have access to it as well.
I started at the Food Bank as a volunteer in the nutrition department and moved my way up to outreach manager on the Food Connection team. My time at the Food Bank led me away from the clinical realm to a desire to work directly with communities encountering economic and health disparities.
I returned to school and received a Master’s in Public Health. My goal was to expand my knowledge in program planning, evaluation, community organizing, and social justice. Since graduating, I look at my work with the Food Bank in a whole new way. I recognize the social and economic injustices community members encounter more often and work to alleviate those social pressures.
In recent years as an outreach manager, I have managed a fantastic group of Food Connection outreach staff who help serve individuals, families, seniors, and other community partners with free food resources. I work with agency partners who serve diverse populations of ethnic groups in different life situations, from homeless individuals to expectant mothers. I train agency partners and community members to identify those in need and provide access to CalFresh and free food resources.
What I enjoy most is knowing that my work helps people get access to healthy food with pride and dignity. I would be disappointed to see someone walk away with food feeling ashamed and that they have failed in some way. I want the people we serve to know that Food Connection is here to provide compassionate service to people from all walks of life.
During my time here at the Food Bank, I have also become involved with the South County Collaborative. With the Collaborative, I volunteer my time and work alongside other service providers to increase the accessibility, quality, and quantity of health services in Gilroy, San Martin, and Morgan Hill. I was voted in as Vice Chair in 2014 and have continued to promote the mission and goals of both Second Harvest Food Bank and the South County Collaborative.
I want to see the community thrive and prosper in good health with the food they need!
***Need help feeding your family or yourself? Food assistance is available. Contact our Food Connection team.
Special Blog Post By: Tometrius Paxton, Partnership Manager, Team Leader
The Annual Agency Capacity, Programs and Nutrition Learning Conference, hosted by Feeding America, happened last month. This year’s conference had over 500 food bank staff from 35 states! The main purpose of the gathering is to educate fellow food bank staff across the country about programs and best practices that they can immediately implement into their daily practices.
I was one of three panelists selected to participate in a workshop focused on the diabetic and pre-diabetic patients and providing access to healthier food to help manage their medical condition. I presented a case study about Medical Clinic Pharm Pantries and showed fellow food bankers how to set up a food pharmacy program that promotes healthy foods for a medically vulnerable population.
Studies show that a healthy diet can help to prevent as well as support the successful treatment of a number of chronic diseases. Prescribing healthy food to patients is a cost effective health care intervention. However, for low-income patients, the cost of healthy food can be prohibitive, making it difficult for them to follow a prescribed diet.
Second Harvest Food Bank and our partner agencies work with medical clinics to address nutrition-related illness and poor nutrition for low-income patients. In partnership with Samaritan House, we opened our first Medical Clinic Pharm Pantry in Redwood City earlier this year.
Here’s how a Medical Clinic Pharm Pantry works. Patients with nutrition-related illness and/or poor nutrition identified by their primary care provider or staff are referred to the Medical Clinic Pharm Pantry. A “prescription” for supplemental food is prescribed to patients to prevent and/or address specific and defined health care conditions. They leave the clinic with a bag of healthy groceries that may include quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, fresh produce, chicken and eggs. Simply put, food equals medicine!
Having this immediate access to healthy foods improves a patient’s ability to maintain proper eating habits recommended by their doctor. This service increases food security and fosters healthy eating!
We’re happy to share that there’s been 100% patient participation in accepting the healthy foods from the pantry. Patients have also reported that they feel empowered to eat healthier. The results have been promising so far and we’re opening a second Medical Pharm Pantry this month in San Mateo!
To learn more about food pharmacies, read about our work with the Samaritan House Free Clinic in Redwood City.
“Nutrition Newbie” is a series focused on basic nutrition information and tips.
Special Blog Post By: Bryanna Peace, Second Harvest Food Bank Nutrition Intern
When you think of healthfulness, what is the first thing that comes to mind? For many, it’s nutrition and at Second Harvest Food Bank, we are so happy to hear that. However, good things come in pairs and that’s why good nutrition and physical activity are two peas in a pod.
Physical activity often falls to the way side as life get busy, especially with work. While some may be moving around for work, it’s people who are at a desk for the majority of the day that often have the lowest reports of physical activity.
Sitting for long periods of time can take a toll on your muscles, metabolism, and brain function. Multiple studies, like those referenced by Dr. James A Levine for Mayo Clinic, show that many of those who sit for extended hours throughout the day without much interruption are at a much higher risk for adverse health effects. These health effects can include weight gain, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and decreased blood circulation, which can impair brain function efficiency. Thankfully, there are many easy ways to prevent these issues altogether.
As mentioned in the article by Dr. Levine, it is important to get up and move around. This can mean standing whenever you take a break or having a standing desk instead of the traditional sit-down one. You can encourage “moving meetings,” where instead of at a table, your meetings take place on a walk and gets your heart rate up. Also, instead of heading to the break room throughout the day, take a lap around the building, or do a few flights of stairs. These are practical ways to add more exercise into the work day.
Another important part of office wellness is stretching. Sitting at a desk can wreak havoc on your muscles, creating a lot of stress and tension. Stretching will aid in the prevention of muscle wasting and increase circulation to help your metabolism and brain function.
Here is a list of a few simple stretches that can be done at your desk that will greatly improve your body wellness:
Sit at the edge of your chair and lift your chest so your back is not slouched. Place both hands behind your head and interlock fingers. Stretch your chest by gently squeezing your shoulder blades together and take deep breaths. Continue this for about 10-15 seconds.
Chin to Chest
Sit at the edge of your chair and lift your chest so your back is not slouched. Extend your legs outward and let your feet rest on your heels with feet slightly flexed. With one hand on the back of your head and one on the base of your chin, tilt your head forward, bringing your chin closer to your chest. Stretch without straining, take deep breaths, and continue for about 10-15 seconds.
Sit at the edge of your chair and lift your chest so your back is not slouched. Bring one leg up and rest the outside of your ankle on the knee of your opposite leg. Allow your raised leg to relax. This may already cause you to feel a stretch. If not, raise the height of your knee by lifting the heel of your foot on the floor. You may also use the base of your chair to raise your knee, as shown in the picture above. Take deep breaths and continue stretching for 10-15 seconds and then switch to your other leg.
Try implementing one of these practices, such as stretching every hour at your desk or taking the stairs, into your work day. As time goes on, continue to add more healthy behaviors and over time your wellness can increase exponentially.
Form a pact with coworkers to encourage consistency or promise yourself a reward, like going out to a movie with friends or family. Find ways to support your efforts to increase body wellness and you’ll find it’s much easier than you think.
Are there other wellness practices you use in the office? Tell us in the comments below – we would love to know!
***Check out our past Nutrition Newbie posts.
Special Blog Post By: Coleen Ju, AmeriCorps VISTA, Volunteer and Resource Coordinator
For the past year, I have had the honorable pleasure of serving as Second Harvest Food Bank’s first ever AmeriCorps VISTA. Working for this amazing organization has been filled with countless memories and lessons learned. My VISTA year of service was focused on on the Food Bank’s Produce Mobile – evaluating the program and creating ways to increase client and volunteer participation.
I spent months visiting sites and speaking to site coordinators, volunteers, and community members. I worked closely with other departments at the Food Bank and began to familiarize myself not only with the Produce Mobile program, but also with Second Harvest Food Bank as a whole.
Now, as I reflect back on my year of service, I see that the Produce Mobile program is so much more than just a means of providing fresh fruits and vegetables to those in need. It’s a program that clearly embodies Second Harvest Food Bank, representing the values and mission of our organization and us as a community.
Here are the top 5 ways the Produce Mobile program personifies the Food Bank!
1. Open Doors
The Produce Mobile program is everyone’s program. It has a simple self-certification process that allows anyone who needs the help to easily receive it. The welcoming and non-judgmental open door policy directly reflects the Food Bank’s office culture, where titles may exist but barriers do not; where an AmeriCorps VISTA can comfortably talk to a department director about something as simple as Disneyland or as complex as poverty in the Bay Area.
2. Positive Collaboration
The Produce Mobile is an intricate program that relies on collaboration and partnership. Site coordinators and volunteers must work together to serve their community alongside the Food Bank. Similarly, the Food Bank could not thrive and develop new ways to better serve our community without the constant collaborating between individuals and departments.
3. Healthy Food for a Healthy Future
As stated in the name, our Produce Mobiles provide clients with a bountiful array of fresh produce items. The Food Bank is a strong advocate for educating the community on healthy eating habits. Providing fresh fruits and vegetables to our clients is a direct way to increase their chances for a healthy future.
Sometimes our community volunteers are also clients. By working at the Produce Mobiles, they have taken charge of the change they want to see in their lives. Community members have the capacity to develop leadership skills, while doing good for their family and neighbors. This sense of ownership and personal growth can also be seen throughout the Food Bank, ranging from project responsibilities to internal job development.
At the forefront of every program and every project at the Food Bank is the compassion we have for our neighbors in need. The Food Bank’s mission is to lead our community to ensure that anyone who needs a healthy meal can get one and the Produce Mobile does just that. At the Food Bank. we understand that poverty and hunger is still ever present in prosperous Silicon Valley. We care deeply for our neighbors in need and the Produce Mobile program is just one small step in the path to alleviating hunger.
As I get ready to start a new chapter in my life, I look back fondly at everything I’ve done and everyone I’ve met here at Second Harvest. This organization is nothing shy of inspirational and I feel so lucky to have played a small part in its great mission.
Special Blog Post By: Elizabeth Whamond, Director of Business Applications
Hackathons are events where a large number of people get together to code collaboratively. They can last for one full 24-hour period or go on for several days. Usually, hackers come to the hackathons with their own ideas that they want to work on.
As a nonprofit partner of eBay and now PayPal, we were one of the nonprofits selected to “pitch” an idea at the PayPal Opportunity Hackathon last month in San Jose. The PayPal Opportunity Hackathon focuses on building solutions to problems for the selected nonprofits. Coders have the opportunity to build something that has real social impact and brings innovation to nonprofits that may not be able to afford it otherwise. They’re also applying their skills and networking with their peers.
We decided it would be a great opportunity for us, so I signed us up. In the end, there were 12 nonprofits that presented their ideas and about 150 participants on the coding side.
We pitched that we needed a technology solution for all the paper that we’re using at our direct service sites. That sounds easy, but we have some additional challenges at these sites: we only get to borrow the space for a limited amount of time, so we can’t store any computer equipment there; many of these sites don’t have WiFi or cell signals; and these sites are almost exclusively run by volunteers.
We had a LOT of interest in our project. We ended up with three teams wanting to work on our problem. Some projects only had one team working on them.
The many problems presented by nonprofits at the hackathon were all really fascinating. One nonprofit, Understanding Poverty, pitched an idea for a Yelp-type app for social services. Our partner agency Sacred Heart was looking for something very similar to what we were looking to do – to make a registration process electronic. There were international organizations trying to solve issues about locating and communicating with refugees in war-torn countries.
One of our teams ended up winning 1st place! They have 30 days to deliver us a fully working version of the prototype in order to collect the other half of their monetary prize.
There are a lot of amazingly talented young people in our community and many of them are really passionate about giving back. I was really surprised at the number of PayPal staff who volunteered their time to run this hackathon. It’s truly a labor of love for them.
For coders interested in getting involved and helping nonprofits, you can sign up on Devpost to learn about hackathon opportunities. You don’t need to wait until a hackathon comes around to help out a local nonprofit. Go volunteer with an organization that resonates with you and see if they can use your coding skills!