Nutrition Newbie: School Lunch Daze

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

It’s that time of the year when it’s difficult to avoid anything “Back-to-School”-related, especially if you’re at a retail store and see extravagant displays of school supplies. But what about food? Sure you see brand new lunchboxes for sale and a special promotion here and there for snackpacks, but more often than not, the focus seems to be on non-food related items.

Our staff nutritionists told me that the lunches that children bring from home are often missing the vegetables, milk and other healthy items recommended by dietary guidelines. Researchers of a new study of kids’ packed lunches noted this: “Most of the foods we saw were pre-packaged salty snack foods and sugary desserts – we saw much less fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy.”

Try packing kid-friendly healthy foods like:

  • carrot or celery sticks with peanut butter or hummus as a dip
  • cubes of cheese
  • yogurt mixed with fruit
  • trail mix of dried fruits and nuts
  • fruit salad
  • What are you putting into your kids’ lunchboxes?

    *** Check out these nutrition tip cards with recipes, created by our staff nutritionists.

    It’s Time for Our Community to Get Fresh!

    Special blog post by: Madoka Gaspar, Nutrition Program Manager at Second Harvest

    In 2013, the California Department of Social Services awarded funding to the Santa Clara County Social Services Agency to work with Second Harvest Food Bank to provide nutrition education to CalFresh-eligible clients. The purpose of the grant is to encourage CalFresh clients to eat more fresh produce in the following ways:

  • Give nutrition classes, food demonstrations and materials, such as bilingual cookbooks, recipe tip cards, and MyPlate handouts, to CalFresh recipients while clients wait in line at Second Harvest food distribution sites.
  • Provide on-going classes at County Welfare Department benefits program campuses, such as Vocational Services
  • Distribute at least 127,000 produce bags with MyPlate healthy eating tips and graphics printed on them to clients at food distribution sites
  • Recruit pantries to participate in the Healthy Foods Champion train-the-trainer curriculum designed to increase staff and volunteer knowledge in nutrition, food safety, and produce promotion. Nutrition education, produce promotion and food demonstrations are also provided to pantry clients.
  • Participating pantries are grouped by geographical regions in Santa Clara County where they are able to network and train together. The first training was held in June in South County, at Gilroy’s St. Joseph’s Family Services. Staff and volunteers of St. Joseph’s Family Services, Salvation Army of Gilroy, and People That Care took part in a 2-1/2 hour training where they learned what it takes to be a Healthy Foods Champion, the principles of effective communication, and how to pack a healthier pantry bag using MyPlate. Outreach materials, such as posters and poster stands/holders, recipe tip cards and tip card holders, and MyPlate handouts, were given to each pantry to encourage healthy eating and produce consumption at their distributions.

    Almost all the pantries who have agreed to participate in this grant have completed the first training. Dates have already been scheduled for the second training where pantries will learn how to do a food demonstration, taste samples of tip card recipes they will be receiving for fall produce, and how to interpret label dates on packaged foods. This second training should prove to be not only fun, but give pantry staff and volunteers an opportunity to taste how delicious these produce items really are!

    *** Click here to learn more about our work with partner agencies in the community.

    July 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.

    7/1: 2014 Summer Meal Service Sites, California Department of Education
    Find locations in California where youth 18 and under can get a prepared meal or snack this summer. Children don’t need to be enrolled in the youth programs at the locations to receive food. Please share this great resource!

    7/8: The Insane Reason We Waste $162 Billion on Food, Time
    “The USDA’s Economic Research Service estimated that in 2010, we threw out 133 billion pounds of food, which is almost a third of the country’s edible food. That’s embarrassing. It’s also shockingly expensive.”

    7/11: The Kitchn’s Guide to Storing Fruits and Vegetables – Tip Roundup, The Kitchn
    This great post from The Kitchn shows you the best ways to store fruits and vegetables – and avoid food waste! ‪#‎foodiefriday

    7/16: Apartment rents skyrocket in second quarter, putting Silicon Valley at record highs, Silicon Valley Business Journal
    “According to RealFacts, the average apartment rent for all unit types was $2,321 in Santa Clara County, compared to $2,197 in Q1 and $2,128 a year ago. In San Mateo County, the average was $2,470, up $110 from the previous quarter. That compares to $2,284 a year ago, an 8.1 percent increase. Grotjahn said that the latest figures represent the highest rents ever for the area, but they are not adjusted for inflation.”

    7/16: A Mother’s Essay Challenges Assumptions About Poverty, NPR
    An article called, “This is what happened when I drove my Mercedes to pick up food stamps,” has been making the rounds on the internet. While the headline’s inaccurate (the writer was actually enrolling for WIC, not SNAP), the reason why she wrote about her family’s temporary poverty was to teach her twin daughters not to judge people on government assistance.

    7/19: The New Face of Hunger, National Geographic
    “We sent three photographers to explore hunger in three very different parts of the United States, each giving different faces to the same statistic: One-sixth of Americans don’t have enough food to eat.”

    7/20: 17 Foods You Didn’t Even Know You Could Freeze, The Huffington Post
    Freezing chips and eggs without shells… Mind = Blown

    7/21: #MondayInspiration

    7/28: Our designers at Fern Design Studio came by for a meeting and I got to take a pic of them with their beautiful artwork on our Produce Mobile!

    7/29: This Is What It’s Like To Be A Single Mom On Food Stamps, The Huffington Post
    “I’m trying my hardest to model for my sons how to make their lives what they want them to be, how to achieve their own goals, how not to give up when it’s so hard that you have no choice but to ask for help. How sometimes there are things far more important than your own pride.”

    7/30: At the new stadium for the Hunger Bowl Kickoff Luncheon*! *correction: The event was officially called the Bay Area College Football Kickoff Luncheon

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

    Teaching Families About Healthy Food Choices

    “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: Bao-Chau Le, Volunteer Health Ambassador

    How are you helping Second Harvest and our community?
    I live in the Bay Area and after some research, it’s amazing to discover that there are many families in need of assistance, especially with basic food/grocery. After moving back from grad school in Southern California, I searched for a program where I could volunteer when I had some time off from work. I came across Second Harvest Food Bank and its Health Ambassador program. I live a relatively healthy lifestyle, eating fruits and vegetables, and exercising on a regular basis. So, on a quiet Saturday, I went to the training with a group of diverse individuals. We went out to different sites to educate families about healthy food choices and how those choices impact their overall well-being.

    What inspires you to give?
    I came to the U.S. when I was young and I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to live in the Bay Area. My family and I relied heavily on free community programs and services during our 1st year here. We got groceries from churches, Christmas presents and mini back-to-school shopping sprees from local businesses, to name a few. We even came across free interpretation services that helped us fill out forms for schools and jobs. My family and I were very thankful for that. From then on, I made a promise to myself that I would give back when I have the opportunity.

    I started doing volunteer work during middle school by helping out with school events or singing for the elderly on the weekends. That progressed during high school, college, and grad school through soup kitchens, Saturday health fairs, and clinic work. I believe that you can always help out, no matter how big or small it is. There is always someone that will benefit and appreciate your volunteer service – whether it’s helping to carry groceries for elders or just giving a small amount of time to educate the community about health and wellness. My friends asked me why I continue to volunteer when it’s not counted for school or work. I simply answered, “Because I want to and because there are many people who need others to help them get back on track.” I hope to inspire others to give a bit of their time as well.

    Why should people care about hunger in our community?
    When we say we are from America, many people around world think that we have it all and that life is wonderful. It is in some sense, but sometimes we forget that we are all human and we all have obstacles during our lifetime. I think if you can just close your eyes for a minute and imagine your life without having basic necessities in front of you or even just enough food for you and your family, would you feel overwhelmed and stressed out? Yes! Hunger is actually a big issue, but most people are caught up in their own lives to realize that there are many less fortunate members in the community. Our community needs volunteers, even if it’s just 2-3 hours a week. The impact is tremendous after seeing smiles on the people’s faces because they are very happy to see that even with the busy lifestyles many of us have, we are still able to contribute to the community.

    Why do you support Second Harvest?
    I support Second Harvest because they create opportunities for the community to come together – the young, old, and in between. As long as you have a positive attitude and believe that your time helps the clients, you’re set! Second Harvest helps anyone who is looking for support in their time of need.

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

    Doreen Knows What Children Need to Thrive

    Special Blog Post By: Doreen, partner agency

    My name is Doreen and I work at the YMCA of Silicon Valley. Working with the YMCA’s After School and Enrichment Programs, I get to see firsthand how the food from Second Harvest Food Bank improves the lives of the children in our programs. The weekly truckload of fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, and nuts provides healthy food for kids over the weekend when they are unable to access meals through the Free and Reduced Lunch programs at school.

    The students in our after-school programs rely heavily on the food they receive and look forward to the distribution every week. One child, on the verge of suspension from school, wrote us a letter asking if she would still be able to receive her food since her mom did not have enough for her to eat. Facing suspension, she was still thinking about where her next meal was going to come from. We are so happy that we can fill this void for families through the partnership with Second Harvest and nothing is more meaningful than seeing the excited and grateful faces of the students and their parents when they receive their food.

    Once basic needs such as food are met, children are given the opportunity to thrive in school and little by little we can decrease the achievement and access gap. I always tell people that hunger is alive and well here in Silicon Valley, even if you don’t see it on a daily basis. It is important to raise awareness about the hungry children and families I see every day. With your help, we can give these children nourishment and hope for a brighter future.

    *** Learn more about our programs that serve children and others in need of food year-round.

    June 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.

    6/8: 6 Ways to Get More Nutrition from Everyday Foods, Care2
    This Care2 article will make you think twice about peeling the skin off of that potato.

    6/10: Growth Has Been Good for Decades. So Why Hasn’t Poverty Changed?, The New York Times
    “But the reality is that low-income workers are putting in more hours on the job than they did a generation ago – and the financial rewards for doing so just haven’t increased.”

    6/15: Policy Basics: Introduction to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
    Not sure what the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is? Or just need a refresher? Here’s an excellent primer from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

    6/16: How Much Food We Actually Wasted in the United States, Face the Facts USA
    Last year, we rescued 27 million pounds of produce that would have otherwise gone to waste. This infographic makes the connection between food waste and hunger.

    6/18: Cookbooks, Leanne Cooks
    A NYC grad student working on food stamps for her thesis put together “Good and Cheap” – a compilation of recipes for people with limited incomes, particularly those on a $4/day food stamps budget. Download the free PDF.

    6/21: I got my Master’s, couldn’t find a job and lived on food stamps. Now stop calling me a ‘welfare queen’, The Guardian
    “No one wants to worry about being judged as ‘wasteful’ by pundits and policymakers and the people behind you in line for using your Electronic Benefits Transfer card at the grocery store to buy your prepackaged food, because you’re too exhausted from 12 hours on your feet at a retail job and you don’t have the time or the energy to cook.”

    6/22: 27 Ways to Make Your Groceries Last As Long As Possible, Buzzfeed
    Check out these intriguing ways to make your fresh foods last longer.

    6/23: #Repost from @dalycitygov : Fresh produce for clients of #dalycity’s Community Service Center thanks to @2ndharvest

    6/23: A recent Feeding America network survey showed that milk is the top nutritious food or beverage product requested by clients, but nearly half of food banks get fewer than 24 gallons of milk donated per week. Donate to The Great American Milk Drive and your local food bank will receive milk coupons to distribute to their clients:

    6/25: Front office staff of @49ers sorted 27K+ lbs of oranges & corn as part of #49erscommunityday – thanks for your help, neighbors!

    6/29: The Environmental Action Everyone Overlooks: Five Easy Ways to Reduce Food Waste, Ecocentric Blog
    Check out these really simple ways to reduce food waste at home. I need to work on #2.

    Nutrition Newbie: Hydration & Thinking Outside of the Glass

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

    Ah, summer and hot weather go hand in hand. You know what else happens around this time? Constant reminders to stay hydrated, especially if you’re spending a lot of time outdoors. Whenever I hear stories of people fainting from dehydration, I always think, sheesh people, just drink water – is it so hard?

    Okay, I’ll admit, I too am guilty of not drinking enough. But I’ve learned that not everyone should follow that ubiquitous so-called rule of drinking 8 glasses of water every day. The amount of water you need truly is dependent on many factors, such as your size and how active you are. A better way to gauge your hydration levels is to pay attention to your urine color. The darker it is, the more likely you are dehydrated.

    Hydration can be much more than simply having a glass of water within reach. Check out these tips:

  • Eat fruits and vegetables: Tomatoes, carrots, green peppers, watermelon, cantaloupe, grapes, and strawberries are full of water. Check out this infographic that shows you the water content of a variety of fresh produce.
  • Add chia seeds to your diet: Chia seeds can absorb up to 30 times their weight in water, creating a gel-like substance that the digestive system has a hard time breaking down. Sounds bad, but actually it’s not; this allows the body to absorb liquids slowly throughout the process and helps regulate the level of fluid in the body, only absorbing fluids as the body needs. This Eat Life Whole article dives deeper into the many benefits of chia seeds.
  • Jazz up your water: Plain water too boring to keep you motivated to drink it? Drink flavored waters, teas or juices. Add a little flavor to your water with cucumbers, watermelon, ginger, mint leaves, and citrus fruits like lemon or lime wedges. Here are some recipes on flavoring your water from Greatist.

    And now for the “no-no’s”. Avoid:

  • Energy drinks: These drinks contain lots of sugar and stimulants that can be counterproductive to your efforts to stay hydrated.
  • Alcohol: Alcoholic beverages can lead to additional fluid losses. I know it can be hard to say no to a cold beer at a BBQ, so if you must, try to drink one non-alcoholic beverage for every alcoholic beverage. And remember, drink in moderation: the American Heart Association recommends up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.
  • What are your tips for staying hydrated during these warm summer months?

    *** Check out our last Nutrition Newbie post about easy ways to get more fruits and veggies in your diet.

    Nathan is Making a Difference and You Can Too

    Special Blog Post By: Nathan, volunteer

    My name is Nathan and I am a senior at Evergreen Valley High School in San Jose. Volunteering and helping others runs in my family. My sister, Tracy, works for Second Harvest Food Bank and helped me get started volunteering at events and food distribution sites. For the past three years I have volunteered for the Applied Materials Silicon Valley Turkey Trot with the Evergreen Valley High School Key Club. The Turkey Trot is a great Thanksgiving Day event where families run or walk together while raising money for nonprofit organizations in our area, including Second Harvest Food Bank. The Key Club really enjoys volunteering for this fun event that brings out so many people in the community for a good cause. I have usually helped out in the registration area, directing people to the correct locations to sign in. I really enjoy doing this because I get to talk with a lot of people and it is a hands-on job.

    The Key Club also volunteers monthly at food distribution sites and I go as often as I can. We have helped distribute food at both the Eastside Neighborhood Center of Catholic Charities and the Washington United Youth Center. Volunteering with Second Harvest has been a great experience and the projects and coordination are so consistent. I really enjoy seeing the happy faces of people when they come through to get food. I know there are people less fortunate than myself and I like being able to assist them in any way I can. It is fun working with my friends in Key Club to make a real difference in the lives of other people, particularly other kids just like me who may not have enough to eat. I hope other students understand that they can make a difference by volunteering their time to help others and that feeding hungry people is important work.

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

    David is Grateful for the Help He Receives

    Special Blog Post By: David, a client of Second Harvest

    My name is David. If it weren’t for Second Harvest Food Bank and the meals I get at Martha’s Kitchen in San Jose, life would be harder than it already is. I’ve been homeless for six years. I’m doing good, but I wish I was employed. I’ve spent a lot of time at local library computers sending out resumes. I have many years of experience as a machinist and engineering tech, but I still haven’t been able to get a job. I’m even taking courses to help keep my computer skills sharp.

    The food at the soup kitchen is nutritious and prepared with loving hands. Sometimes it’s hard to believe how many volunteers come here to serve us. They are friendly and kind. I eat everything on my plate, and I eat it gratefully. What breaks my heart most is to see children go hungry. I wonder what so many of our kids would do without the generosity of the Food Bank and donors like you.

    I just want you to know how much I appreciate your kindness. I don’t know how long I’ll remain in my present economic condition. I’m still floating around, but I’m not giving up. I’m looking forward to a better day.

    *** Help feed our neighbors in need – click here to find out what you can do.

    Nutrition Newbie: Get Fresh With Us

    Fresh produce from our warehouse

    One of my most favorite factoids about Second Harvest is that more than half of the food that we distribute is fresh produce. Prior to joining Second Harvest, I thought food banks only gave out canned food and other non-perishable foods. On my first day, I got a tour of the facilities and when I saw the huge refrigeration area in the warehouse filled with apples, celery, mushrooms, and oranges, I was completely floored.

    June is Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month and I’m going to use this opportunity to highlight the great work that our community nutritionists do to teach our clients the nutritional benefits of the fresh produce they receive from us, as well as how to cook them. They do this by distributing nutrition tip cards in multiple languages (check out tip cards for bell peppers, corn, leafy greens, persimmons, and more) and giving cooking lessons while clients wait in line for their food.

    Fruits and vegetables provide essential vitamins and minerals that our bodies need to function every day. They also can be super filling and help us maintain a healthy body weight. USDA MyPlate guidelines recommend filling half of your plate with fruits and vegetables. Seems like a sensible and easy tip to keep in mind whenever you’re piling on that food, right?

    Here are six simple ways to get more fresh fruits and veggies into your diet:

  • Add extra vegetables (extra tomatoes and lettuce, please) to your sandwich or burger.
  • Keep baby carrots, celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, or snap peas handy as a snack, or to use with your dip or hummus.
  • Invest in a blender and make cool smoothies. Find out what makes a great smoothie in this Anatomy of a Breakfast Smoothie article.
  • Add fruit to your cereal, yogurt, or oatmeal in the morning.
  • Slip veggies into your dishes. Super easy to do with pasta, soup, fried rice. (I like to add chopped spinach and mushrooms to my turkey meatloaf)
  • Salads are the perfect symphony of raw fruit and veggie goodness. These summer salad recipes from two peas & their pod look delicious.
  • How do you get more fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet?