Nutrition Newbie: Go Healthy Eating!

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

Every month, I ask our nutritionists for ideas on topics to blog about and I was happy to find out that March is actually National Nutrition Month. What a perfect way to promote good nutrition and highlight our nutritionists’ work in the community.

How would our nutritionists want us to observe this special month? By reminding us to eat healthy and promote healthy eating habits with our loved ones, of course.

It’s safe to say this is our nutritionists’ mantra: to incorporate healthy eating habits into your life, add more fruits and vegetables to your meals. But did you know that the colors of fresh produce can make a difference? When picking fruits and vegetables, choose dark green, orange and red vegetables; these foods include a nutrient that makes you healthier and helps to prevent some types of cancers.

Here’s a recipe* recommended by Karla, one of our nutritionists:

Delicious Greens

  • Leafy greens (rinsed, stems removed and coarsely shredded)
  • Cabbage (shredded)
  • 2 tablespoons garlic (minced)
  • 1 onion (chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • Directions
    1. Rinse greens, remove stems, and tear in small pieces.
    2. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Sauté garlic and onion until light brown, about 3 minutes.
    3. Add greens, cabbage and vinegar and cook briefly, about 3 minutes. Serve hot.

    *Recipe adapted from What’s Cooking.

    Take a risk and try new things – add leafy greens into your pasta, put more vegetables in your meatloaf, or just snack on more veggies!

    Find more ways to add vegetables to your diet at Cooking Matters.

    Looking for ways to celebrate National Nutrition Month at school, at home, or in the community? offers many ideas on how you do exactly that.

    ***Read past Nutrition Newbie posts!

    2015 Hunger Action Summit Recap

    We recently hosted our Hunger Action Summit, an annual forum on local hunger sponsored by Santa Clara University’s Food and Agribusiness Institute, a part of the Leavey School of Business. This year’s theme was, “Food As Medicine: The Intersection of Hunger and Health.” We talked about how anti-hunger advocates can work with health providers to access a basic prescription for good health – nutritious food.

    Our CEO Kathy Jackson asked the audience if they thought of the food bank as a health care provider. The response was split, with many in the audience holding up green cards to say “yes,” while others held up red cards to indicate a “no” response. We were determined to have everyone think of the food bank as a health care provider by the end of the event.

    Here are some summit highlights:

  • S. Andrew Starbird, dean of Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business, presented the 2013 Hunger Index which showed that an estimated 814 million meals were required for all low-income households in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties in 2013. Researchers estimate that these families were able to afford enough food to provide 417 million meals, or a little more than half of their daily food needs. Food-assistance programs provided 221 million meals, leaving a gap of 176 million meals.
  • Lead researcher Courtney Robinson, graduate research assistant at the Food and Agribusiness Institute, presented the “Cost of a Healthy Meal,” a multi-year research project that studies the long-term social, economic, and nutritional value of food for low-income families in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties. Her team found that 30% of the produce eaten daily by research subjects comes from the food bank.
  • A panel discussion featuring Dr. Lisa Chamberlain, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford, and Dr. Rhea Boyd, a pediatrician at Palo Alto Medical Foundation looked at how good nutrition is necessary to establish a foundation for a child’s health, academic achievement, and, ultimately, economic productivity. Dr. Lisa Chamberlain called for incentivizing health providers to screen for hunger. Photographer Karen Ande also participated in the discussion. Her “Who’s Hungry?” photo exhibit was on display at the event and posters and ads featuring photos from the exhibit will appear across North California soon, starting with federally funded health centers.
  • Dr. Hilary Seligman, Associate Professor of Medicine of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at University of California, San Francisco and Core Faculty at Center for Vulnerable Populations at San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, discussed the link between food insecurity and chronic diseases. She noted that 50% of the U.S. population, ages 20-65 years old, will be on food stamps at some point.
  • Robert Greenwald, director of the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation and Clinical Professor of Law at Harvard Law School put forth a clear ‘food as medicine’ framework and he urged the audience to define how services they provide might fit into this framework.
  • The inspiring and powerful event ended with Second Harvest staff handing out “food prescription pads” and apples, reminding everyone that an apple a day keeps the doctor away.

    ***Visit our Hunger Action Summit resource page for presentations, recorded livestream of the event, and more!

    My Personal Experience With Hunger

    Special Blog Post by: Suzanne Liu, Second Harvest board member

    My experience with hunger is a personal one. Two months after my younger brother was born, he got sick. What doctors diagnosed as a common cold was meningitis, and days later my brother passed away. In his grief, my father became addicted to drugs. We lost our company, we lost our home, we lost our family, we lost everything.

    My mother and I moved to a shelter when it was no longer safe. It was scary. I missed my clothes and my toys and my home and my friends. As a picky eater, not being able to choose my snack was terrifying.

    As a mother myself, I cannot fathom my mother’s heartbreak and courage in taking this path. Her drive to have our basic needs met changed the course of our lives. For the next few years, we relied on food stamps.

    My mother’s nursing certification had expired while she helped run my father’s business, so she wasn’t able to find a job. We moved in with my grandparents, and my mother took shorthand classes in hopes of becoming an administrative assistant.

    As grateful as I was, even at the age of 5, I felt embarrassed that the way we paid for food (food stamps) was conspicuously different. We shopped in two groups — must haves (milk and bread) and the rest (crackers and fruit). The worst was putting back the same much-needed item week after week. My mother would tear up. I felt ashamed and imagined I was to blame. I developed strong mental math skills to avoid emotional encounters at checkout.

    Fortunately, my mother secured an administrative job at an allergist’s office and worked a second, and sometimes third, job to support us. We graduated from food assistance, and I studied diligently to become the first in my family to earn a bachelor’s degree. Serendipitously, I joined Google.

    For most of my life my father was homeless. I am profoundly grateful to those who fed my father. Their generosity was the most impactful, precious gift I received. It would have been easy to view him as not worthy, or trust that our family could help when we couldn’t. This generosity lessened the financial and emotional pressure on me so I could focus on school, and taught me the power of compassion.

    Today, though I am fortunate to receive free meals at work, the fear and uncertainty of missing meals never feels far away. It’s something that never really leaves. Only two years ago, I finally stopped sorting the items in my shopping cart. I am thankful each day that I can provide for my family, and feel privileged to do what we can to pay it forward.

    One in three children here is at risk of hunger. In one of the most innovative and wealthiest communities in the country, if not the world, I believe we can do better. We can create the model that ends local hunger.

    ***One in three kids in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties may not be getting enough to eat every day. Please stand up for kids and donate today.

    January Social Media Roundup

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

    1/3: Beyond Holiday Giving: Three Things You Can Do to End Hunger in the U.S., HUFFINGTONPOST.COM
    How will you continue to fight hunger in our community after the holidays?

    1/7: 1 Million Expected to be Kicked Off Food Stamps, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM
    “The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that falling unemployment rates will cause states to lose an exemption they currently have for food stamp recipients. Instead, a three-month federal time limit on nutrition assistance for unemployed adults who don’t have dependents or disabilities will kick in again.


    1/9: Post-Holidays, Resolve to Reduce Your Food Waste, KCET.ORG
    “According to the Environmental Protection Agency, food scraps make up 20% of our landfills, and every year Americans toss more than 35 million tons of uneaten groceries.” Here’re some simple ways you can help change those statistics.

    1/11: Fresh Gets Better: Lessons I Learned from Using Food Stamps, PASTEMAGAZINE.COM
    “My current low annual income makes CalFresh benefits a crucial part of keeping body and soul together. My gratitude went from frivolous to something a little more humble each time I bought an avocado or locally-made baguette at the farmers market.”

    1/13: 5 Things to Know about Upcoming U.S. Dietary Guidelines, PBS.ORG
    What do you think of these potential changes to U.S. dietary guidelines?

    1/17: A Guide to ‘Good’ & ‘Bad’ Carbs, CARE2.COM
    Are you ready to play “Good Carb/Bad Carb”?

    1/18: Suburban Poverty, Hidden on Tree-Lined Streets, PARENTING.BLOGS.NYTIMES.COM
    “My husband and I walk a tightrope in a constant balancing act trying to figure out if we should pay the phone bill or put gas in the car. Surely, we are not the only ones trying to stay afloat in the current economy, but I cannot tell who is walking a path similar to ours.”

    1/22: Majority of U.S. Public School Students Are in Poverty, WASHINGTONPOST.COM
    “The shift to a majority-poor student population means that in public schools, a growing number of children start kindergarten already trailing their more privileged peers and rarely, if ever, catch up.”

    1/23: Food Waste is a Serious Problem in the U.S., HUFFINGTONPOST.COM
    “It is unacceptable that anyone goes hungry when the 70 billion pounds — or approximately 58 billion meals — we waste is more than enough to feed every person facing hunger.” So true.

    1/26: The 10 Least Affordable Housing Markets in the World, TAKEPART.COM
    San Jose is #4 on this list. Are you surprised?


    Our CEO Kathy Jackson urges the Hunger Action Summit audience to think of #FoodAsMedicine

    A photo posted by Second Harvest Food Bank (@2ndharvest) on

    Do you have a Fitbit? Sign up for FitForFood and the calories you burn by being active from February 3 to March 3 will count toward meals for people in need. How’s that for motivation?

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

    Nutrition Newbie: Heart-Shaped Health

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

    This Valentine’s Day, as you fill out cards and gather sweet goodies and flowers for your loved ones, don’t forget to declare love for your own heart by promising to eat foods that keep your heart healthy.

    I asked our Community Nutritionists what their recommendations are for heart-healthy foods and they said to for sure include fruits and vegetables that contain fiber, vitamins, anti-oxidants, and few calories.

    Here are a couple of super easy ways to get those fruits and veggies into your diet:

  • Top a bowl of steaming oatmeal with fresh fruit chunks for breakfast
  • Put a few handfuls of chopped veggies with some low sodium vegetable or chicken broth for a satisfying soup
  • Fruits and vegetables can also be used to make heart-healthy beverages that are yummy alternatives to sugary drinks. Add slices of cucumber, orange or lemon to a glass of water to make a satisfying thirst-quencher. It really can’t get any easier than that.

    Sugary drinks increase the risk of heart disease and other chronic diseases. Santa Clara County Public Health Department offers these recipes for delicious cold-weather beverages that are healthier than sugary beverages (these recipes are also available in Spanish):

    Tea Latte
    - Choose your favorite flavor of tea
    - Steep tea bag in hot water for 2-5 minutes
    - Add plain non-fat or 1% milk, soy milk, or almond milk

    Cinnamon Vanilla Milk (“Horchata”)
    - Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla exact to plain non-fat or 1% milk
    - Sprinkle as much cinnamon as desired and stir
    - Serve warm or add all ingredients and ice into a blender for a blended drink

    Click here for more ideas on how to include fresh, canned and frozen produce in your meals and snacks, courtesy of Fruits and Veggies-More Matters.

    ***Read past Nutrition Newbie posts!

    Teaching Healthy Habits

    Special Blog Post by: Susan, Second Harvest Volunteer Health Ambassador

    Susan has been a volunteer with Second Harvest’s Health Ambassador program since last September. She is a wife and mother of three, a former electrical technician, and soon-to-be graduate with a B.A. in nutrition, and an emphasis on education.

    I’m a San Jose native and I want to go the extra mile for my neighborhood. This is where I grew up, in downtown San Jose, and it’s where I feel most comfortable. Even though my family didn’t have a lot, there was camaraderie. We always had people over and it was an open door setup. As a result, I love to cook and share. I even bring snacks to share at my college.

    For six years, I had a business teaching kids healthy eating habits, mainly in recreational centers. The kids had no idea what different produce was. Things like tangerines drew a blank. This inspired me to go further, to teach kids more about nutrition. Especially with children, this is part of their foundation and, at that age, they are willing to make changes and try things.

    As a Health Ambassador with Second Harvest, often I show up at food distributions and introduce myself wearing a Champions for Change apron. I hand out recipe cards, MyPlate handouts, and stickers. We often want people’s attention before the food distribution happens, so that they can focus more on learning how to prepare the foods. We try to show people how to use the foods that Second Harvest gives out so they don’t go to waste.

    One memory that stands out for me: I met a lady at the Family Harvest site. She was struggling to communicate in broken English, and she shared with me that she works hard as a cleaner. The people she works for asked her to do more, but they don’t want to pay her more. I see it all the time, people struggle and they are trying to get ahead. These are moms who want to do everything for their families. They’re not showing up for a handout.

    ***Want to make a difference and work directly with our neighbors in need? Click here to learn about our Education and Outreach volunteer opportunities.

    We Still Need Your Help After the Holidays

    Thanks to everyone who supported us by volunteering and donating during the holiday season!

    As you know, hunger is year-round and we really encourage you to stay engaged with us. Here are 5 ways you can continue to fight hunger in our community:

  • Join our Monthly Harvest Club and help us plan for the year ahead and allocate resources to make sure our clients have consistent access to nutritious food.
  • Get our two upcoming food and fund drives on your calendar. Our “Stand up for kids” campaign will run from March through May and our Holiday Food and Fund Drive happens October through December. We’ll supply you with food collection barrels, promotional materials, and other tools to make your drive a success.
  • Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date on the latest hunger-related news and resources and help raise awareness by sharing our posts/tweets. September is Hunger Action Month, so please keep an eye on our social media accounts during that time to find out how you can participate.
  • Fundraise for us. ‘Donate’ a birthday, anniversary, or other milestone; start an online fundraiser and have friends and family donate to the Food Bank in your name. Or get creative and host an offline fundraiser, like a bake sale.
  • Do you want to volunteer outside of our warehouses and get out in the community or help out in our office? We have a wide variety of volunteer opportunities for you to consider.
  • Check out our website for more ways to get involved throughout the year!

    Think About a Hungry Kid’s Point of View

    Special Blog Post by: Sean, Second Harvest fundraiser

    For his birthday, Sean came up with a creative way to fight local hunger: he asked his friends and family to donate to Second Harvest. Here are his reflections on giving back to the community -

    Each year on my birthday, I’ve asked my friends and family to support a good cause instead of buying a gift. My family’s been helping me do that for the past ten years. Usually, I donate to marine causes, because I think it’s important to stop pollution in the oceans. But this year, I wanted to do something about local hunger.

    I learned that a lot of kids depend on their schools for breakfast and lunch. In the summer, kids need something to rely on. If I was in their position, I would be afraid of summertime. Most of us have what we need, and we can look forward to the summer.

    My family believes we should pay it forward. It’s essential.

    To other people who are thinking about donating, I’d say to think about it from a hungry kid’s point of view. Put yourself in their shoes. It really comes down to wants and needs: I’m privileged enough to have the things that I want. But there are kids who don’t even have the things they need.

    *** Sean’s act of generosity will translate into 4,012 meals for families in our community! If you’re interested in “donating” your birthday, or another milestone, you can also create an online fundraising page like Sean did. Or click here for more ideas on how you can get involved.

    December Social Media Roundup

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

    12/3: Hunger in Silicon Valley: Study shows families make heartbreaking choices, MERCURYNEWS.COM
    “Nearly half of those we serve have had to choose between education and food… [It's] a terrible choice to have to make, especially when you consider that a good education is the key to getting a decent job.” Read the full op-ed by our CEO Kathy Jackson.


    CA Secretary of Agriculture Karen Ross #CAGrown #farmtofoodbank

    A photo posted by Second Harvest Food Bank (@2ndharvest) on

    [KGO Radio produced this segment about the "Farm to Food Bank Month" kick-off event:]

    12/5: Exhibit highlights hunger in Bay Area: Photos show it’s hard to tell a child is hungry, SMDAILYJOURNAL.COM
    “Of the 20 children photographed in this exhibit, 10 screened positive for food insecurity and 10 came from food secure families.” This powerful photo exhibit will be at the Mercy Center Art Gallery in Burlingame through 12/31.

    12/10: Google Donates $1 Million To Food For Bay Area Families, Largest Single Donation Ever, SANFRANCISCO.CBSLOCAL.COM
    We are so excited to share this good news: we received a donation of $1.3 million from Google (that’s equivalent to 2.6 million meals for families in need throughout the year). Thank you, Google, for your support and dedication to ending hunger in our community!

    12/11: Bay Area Food Banks Push for Holiday Donations to Help Feed the Hungry, NBCBAYAREA.COM
    “If you were to take Levi’s Stadium and fill it up four times over, that’s the number of people receiving some of their food from Second Harvest,” said Tami Cardenas, Second Harvest Vice President of Marketing and Development.


    12/14: Side-By-Side Photos Of What Rich And Poor Eat Reveal ‘Glaring Disparities’ Worldwide, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM
    Talk about putting things in perspective

    12/18: Best Food & Cookbooks of 2014, GOODREADS.COM
    Here’s a list of this year’s top food books and cookbooks, chosen by readers. Have you read any of them?


    12/23: These Portraits Remind Us Not Everyone Is Feasting This Holiday Season, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM
    “Hunger doesn’t care if you’re from the wealthiest nation in the world or the poorest.”

    12/28: What 2,000 Calories Looks Like, NYTIMES.COM
    Be aware (and beware!) of meals from fast food restaurants that contain a full day’s worth of calories

    12/30: Another Bite at the Apple: How SNAP Is Making Us a Healthier Nation, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM
    “As the largest program in the U.S. government’s food safety net, SNAP represents a powerful mechanism through which Americans’ diets might be improved.”

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

    Nutrition Newbie: Let’s Get Physical & Healthy

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

    It’s that time of the year to ponder and put together a list of New Year’s resolutions. How do you want to challenge and improve yourself in 2015? For many, eating healthy, losing weight, and staying fit are at the top of the list. It’s fun and amusing to see the increased amount of people at the gym during those first weeks in January (yes, I have been known to be one of those people).

    I asked our community nutritionists if they have any advice to offer our readers who want to shed some pounds and be healthier. Do they recommend any particular diets? Is there one simple thing that people can start doing right now? Instead of whipping out a glossy magazine featuring the latest diet craze, our nutritionists pointed me to two recent research studies (they can be so cerebral) and offered these two tips:

  • Get active – A recent study in the American Journal of Medicine: Lack of leisure-time physical activity linked to increased obesity, particularly in young women, prompts us to consider our sedentary lifestyles. While exercise may not be enough to lose excess weight, it’s critical to helping people maintain their weight and keep from gaining.
  • There’s no one diet that fits all – The Stanford Prevention Research Center is investigating the possibility that some people do better on a low carbohydrate diet while others benefit more from a low fat diet. So if you’re considering a dietary change to lose weight, think about what might’ve been helpful in the past before charging ahead with the latest fad diet. It’s interesting to note that Stanford’s low carb diet can be vegetarian and include tofu and healthy oils instead of bacon and burgers. Likewise, their low fat diet does not include low-fat cookies or other sugary foods. Actually, neither diet includes sugary drinks or refined carbohydrates! Eliminating those categories (such as soda, sugary teas, donuts, cookies, cake and candy) is part of any successful plan to becoming trimmer.
  • Be sure to check out the many free MyPlate tools for weigh management and physical activity.

    *** Click here to read past Nutrition Newbie blog posts!