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: https://milklife.com/give/donate

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?

    Local Educator Stands Up for Her Students

    Special Blog Post By: Lori, a volunteer site coordinator of Second Harvest Food Bank

    My name is Lori. I first became affiliated with Second Harvest 7 years ago when I was hired by Cabrillo School District in San Mateo County to coordinate a tutorial program. I coordinate the free breakfasts and snack program for students who need it daily. About 2 years ago, I noticed that my students were asking to take home fresh fruit plus additional snack items that I had on-hand. Around the same time, my staff and I found out that there were children in the program who wrote stories about how they wished they had more food at home. I knew that Second Harvest was the best place to start, so I inquired about their Produce Mobile which would serve not only the families of our school, but also the neighborhood at large.

    We now proudly distribute fresh produce to over 100 families each month at our school site. Along with the opportunity to educate my students and families about the importance of good nutrition, we provide recipes to help families cook with unfamiliar foods. If Second Harvest didn’t exist? WOW, my students would really suffer. My program has such a small budget and I would not be able to provide the quality required. We really depend on Second Harvest and couldn’t be more grateful. I can’t say enough about all the staff and volunteers that I have worked with through Second Harvest. They have always been so helpful and a pleasure to work with.

    I explain to my friends and family that even though we live near million dollar homes, we have hunger right here in our community. Like so many other sites and agencies, we just could not do what we do without Second Harvest. Along with providing the food, they also help educate the community about the need that I see with my own eyes every day. Thank you for being one of the many people who learned about local hunger and decided to do something about it.

    ***Stand up for the 1 in 3 kids in our community who are bullied by hunger. Take action today – donate, fundraise, and share!

    April 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.

    4/1: Why I Lie to the Food Pantry, The Huffington Post
    “…there is no check box for ‘barely making it even though we’re working.’” Thank you, Trisha, for sharing your story

    4/5: Debunkifying the Meme: The Welfare Fridge, Poor as Folk
    “If that fridge on the left was actually a SNAP recipient’s fridge, that’s good. It means that SNAP works how it should. The point of the program is to put food in people’s refrigerators.” Well said, Poor as Folk.

    4/6: To the Women Behind Me in Line at the Grocery Store, The Huffington Post
    An open letter from a woman struggling to make ends meet, to a good samaritan that waited behind her in the checkout line.

    4/8: Portraits of Food Stamp Recipients in the Wake of Program Cuts, Time.com
    “These people could be your neighbors, your co-workers, or the person standing behind you at the supermarket.”

    4/9: Out of Work, Out of Benefits, and Running Out of Options, The New York Times
    “What he does not have – and has not had for the last year – is a full-time job. Five years since the recession ended, it is a story still shared by millions.”

    4/13: Portraits of Waste in America, Smithsonian Magazine
    Fascinating photography project that shows what ends up in the trash for a handful of households. A lot of it is food. Have you thought about what you throw away in a single week?

    4/14: Second Harvest Sets Sights on $4 Million to Ensure Silicon Valley Kids Don’t Go Hungry, San Jose Mercury
    “When kids get the nutritious food they need, they are better prepared to learn. They have the energy to pursue their dreams.” – Kathy Jackson, CEO of Second Harvest ‪#‎NoHungerBully‬

    4/15: Stress, Fear, and the Changing Face of Poverty, The Huffington Post
    “The fear and stress of poverty result in depression and stress-related illness. Poverty results in substandard living conditions, a less nutritious diet, malnutrition and hunger.”

    4/18: Our Food Connection team (they answer all calls to our Food Connection hotline) got a much-needed office makeover – goodbye old desks and shelving; hello new paint on the walls! Happy Friday!

    4/20: 6 Foods Nutritionist Experts Won’t Eat, Everyday Health
    My favorite tip & trick from this Everyday Health article: “Change your taste – dilute your foods by mixing half of the bad stuff with half of the good stuff.” If eating healthy foods isn’t your default, how do you get them into your diet?

    4/24: Recession Not Over for Poor: Families Stretch Food to Last, NBC News
    “‘I try not to think about it because it’s hard,’ Kevin, an 8th grader who also volunteers at a food pantry, said of their food challenges. ‘We’re a good family. We’re poor, but that doesn’t stop us.’” ‪#‎NoHungerBully‬

    4/26: 34 Ways to Waste Less Food, Buzzfeed
    Every day is ‪#‎EarthDay‬! Check out these tips on how to reduce food waste, compiled by BuzzFeed.

    4/28: #MondayInspiration

    4/29: Hunger in Silicon Valley: It’s Real, and it’s a Learning Handicap, San Jose Mercury
    “In a region as wealthy as ours, which relies on its young people to help fuel and further technological innovation, it’s a scandal that one in three children is too hungry to learn.” ‪#‎NoHungerBully‬

    4/29: This is how you organize 125+ staff for a company picture

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

    First My Child, and Then Me

    Special Blog Post By: Norma, a volunteer and client of Second Harvest

    My name is Norma and I live in South City with my son Armando. He’s 12 and in 7th grade. I work at Marshalls part-time. I lost my partner several years ago and have struggled to keep enough food on the table. At that time, I had no idea where I was going to get enough food to feed my son. I remember the moment when I opened my refrigerator door and it was completely empty and I mean empty. I thought, “What am I going to feed my son?” Second Harvest’s food programs were there for me and my son. The empty fridge was full and you could see his face light up. He was happy, just happy. “Finally, we have food Mommy!” I’m just thankful. I’m really thankful.

    I want the best for my son. I want him to have a good life. The food we get from the Food Bank also means that I have some money to buy him stuff that he needs for school, and clothes, you know how kids grow so fast. You need a lot of stuff for school for them nowadays. Like all the books, notebooks, pencils. It all adds up. My son likes school and he’s a great artist. With Legos, he can build a two story house, so I think, “There’s my architect.” I want him to get good grades in math and I know that he can’t learn and grow without enough healthy food on his plate.

    When I started volunteering for the Family Harvest program, I was grateful and figured if I receive food, why not help others. I’ve been a volunteer now for a couple of years and encourage others to go and see if they qualify. “It’s easy and you’re not taking a risk.” You can get a good amount of food. And it’s good food that’s going to last you a month. You’ll get chicken, rice and beans and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. Armando loves the peaches, apples, pears, watermelon, cantaloupe, he tells me, “Mommy, look at all this fresh fruit!” They give us healthy snacks, like trail mix, peanut butter, pretzels, granola bars, which are good for my son and teaches him how to eat healthier and better. It’s enough to feed my family the healthy food they need to live a decent life.

    But not enough people go for help. They’re scared. They’re worried that they are not going to qualify or that it will hurt their immigration status. When people ask me if they should apply, I tell them, “Yes, do it for your kids.” The Food Bank is here and they will help you out. I mean how many times have we said, “First our kids and then us.” That’s how I feel. First my child, and then me. As long as he has a roof over his head and food in his belly, then I’m a happy camper. I’m so grateful to have food for my family and a chance to help others. Thank you, thank you so much for the food you provide and for helping us to live with hope and dignity.

    ***Stand up for the 1 in 3 kids in our community who are bullied by hunger. Take action today – donate, fundraise, and share!

    Nutrition Newbie: Stress, Be Gone!

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

    Dear Stress,
    I recently found out that April is Stress Awareness Month and I’ve really thought about how much you affect me. You make my heart and brain ache with worry and you tense up my muscles. Sometimes you cause unsightly cold sores on my face. You’re part of the reason why I have to monitor my blood pressure. And then you somehow manage to invade my eating habits. One of the many things that I’ve learned from our nutritionists at Second Harvest is that eating the right healthy foods can make a big difference. So, Stress, I’d be ‘stressed’ if I were you.
    xoxo (not), m.s.

    Sometimes when I’m stressed, I’ll poke around in the fridge or pantry for something to eat that will make me feel good right in that moment. Unfortunately, I don’t always pick healthy foods when I’m stress-eating. Oftentimes, I’m just looking for something fast or comforting, which unfortunately tends to be foods loaded with fat, sugar, and salt (mmm, orange crunchie thingies…). And sometimes it’s hard to stop eating once I start chomping on these thingies. I blame my brain for being fooled.

    I asked Janet, one of our community nutritionists, if she had any tips to combat stress and she really encouraged trying not to binge eat. But if you’re craving something, you should feel free to eat a little bit of it (like a square of chocolate). Janet always does a great job of not stressing me out. :)

    Here are some other nutrition tips that I found in my research about stress and nutrition:

  • Decrease your caffeine intake – Caffeine raises the levels of stress hormones in your body and can make the damage done by chronic stress worse. Caffeine can also make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep.
  • Consume foods rich in iron and folate – Foods like lean red meat, raisins, and spinach can help reduce stress-related fatigue.
  • Eat complex carbs that boost levels of serotonin – Eating foods like warm oatmeal, whole grain cereals, breads, and pastas can be calming. Complex carbs also help stabilize blood sugar levels.
  • Eat regularly; don’t skip meals – This is crucial to keeping energy levels up and your brain focused. If you’re stressed and not eating, you might also start feeling ‘hangry’ and then eat too much when you have a moment to actually eat something.
  • Try not to associate stress with food – Feel stressed? Avoid going to the kitchen. Go for a walk around the block. Take a deep breath and go to your happy place.
  • How do you combat stress? Please share your tips in the comments section below.

    *** Check out our last Nutrition Newbie post about canned foods and why our nutritionists think canned food is “pretty underrated.”