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: bit.ly/kgoF2FB]

    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!

    The Real Safety Net for Our Community

    “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: Denise Boland, Employment and Benefits Director, Santa Clara County Social Services Agency

    How are you and the Santa Clara County Social Services Agency helping Second Harvest and our community?
    Social Services has been fortunate to have had a long standing partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank. We have a symbiotic relationship – sharing the same motivation to assist Santa Clara residents in need. Over time our agencies have partnered together to demystify benefits and encourage those most in need to utilize the services of both programs.

    For the last decade or more, I have co-facilitated the Safety Net Committee with Cindy McCown [Second Harvest Food Bank Vice President of Programs & Services]. With other emergency services partners, we listen for emerging the trends of the community and look for ways to respond with solutions that will enable eligibility clients obtaining overcome real or perceived barriers to the benefits for which they are entitled. Together this group has created flyers and other fact sheets about public benefits as well as shared about available resources.

    Recently, Second Harvest and Santa Clara County have partnered together to have Eligibility Workers work on-site at Emergency Assistance Programs providing CalFresh outreach. At these events, EW’s are able to answer eligibility questions and often are able to assist community members obtain same day benefits. By working together we are able to say “Yes” to at least one program; if not the CalFresh program, they are able to participate in a Second Harvest food resource program.

    During the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding cycle in 2009, Santa Clara County was able to collaborate with Second Harvest on a number of innovative programs. One of my favorite was to expand summer feeding to a summer camp program that combined a Summer Employment program for teens, provided breakfast and lunch for children within a summer play program for children in need. This program was the first time we attempted to combine the summer feeding with a play program. While the funding has long since evaporated, Second Harvest and the program partners have continued a similar program for children in need each year.

    What inspires you to give?
    Finding new ways to partner with community agencies to overcome barriers to families in need. I have been fortunate to have a career in Social Services that centers on our Department’s mantra: Making a difference through people, service and performance.

    Why should people care about hunger in our community?

    It’s hard to imagine in such a wealthy community that hunger continues to exist in Santa Clara County. Hunger negatively impacts all aspects of our society. It harms children’s growth and ability to succeed in school, limits the ability of adults to look for employment or be productive members of society, and harms our seniors’ health and well-being.

    Why do you support Second Harvest?
    Second Harvest is the real safety net for our community: providing healthy food to our most needy members of the community.

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

    November 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.

    11/4: Struggling in the Shadow of Silicon Valley Wealth, USATODAY.COM
    “Throughout Silicon Valley, fences and roads divide the rich from poor, the powerful from the powerless.”

    11/9: My Wages Are Too High For Help But Too Low To Let Me Get Ahead, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM

    11/9: These Sickeningly Beautiful Photos of Rotting Food Remind You How Much Food You Waste, FASTCOEXIST.COM
    “The project was a reminder of a simple fact: One third of all the food grown in the world is thrown away.” What do you think of these photos? Did they make you think differently about food waste?

    11/14: How ‘Double Bucks’ For Food Stamps Conquered Capitol Hill, NPR.ORG
    What if people receiving SNAP benefits were incentivized to purchase fresh produce? The farm bill that passed earlier this year included $100 million, over the next five years, to boost SNAP dollars when they’re spent on fresh fruits and vegetables.

    11/18: Woman Gives Back to Organization that Fed Her Family in Time of Need, ABC7NEWS.COM
    ABC7 News did a wonderful piece on Irene, a client and volunteer of Second Harvest Food Bank. Thank you, Irene, for sharing your story!

    11/19: To End Food Waste, Change Needs to Begin at Home, NPR.ORG
    “‘Food production is not an issue…[We] produce enough food, but we’re throwing away all this food, and a mile away, people don’t have enough.’”



    We're at the #49ers game collecting donations!

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


    @antoine_bethea41 with our CEO Kathy Jackson! #ab41turkeydrive

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


    This also happened this morning during #ab41turkeydrive – thank you @marketoinc!

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

    11/26: How Food and Family Meals Impact Happiness, SOCIALMEDIAWEEK.ORG
    DYK that people who eat 7 servings of fruits and vegetables a day rank highest in happiness and mental health? Get more fun food factoids.


    11/29: Despite Bay Area Boom, a Widespread Need for Food Aid as Holidays Approach, KQED.ORG
    “The cost of living is going up, and that’s really affecting the people we serve,” said Tami Cárdenas, Second Harvest Food Bank’s vice president of development and marketing. “Considering that the economy has improved so much, we hoped the need would not be as chronic and as high.”

    11/30: In Battle Against Food Waste, Rethinking “Use By” Labels, NATIONALGEOGRAPHIC.COM
    “Simple confusion over the wording of the various kinds of expiration dates on food products accounts for a significant percentage of avoidable food wastage… ‘Use by,’ ‘best before,’ and ‘display until’ all have different meanings, but for many consumers the calendar date they see is all that matters.”

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

    Two Parents, One Income

    Like any parents, Patrick and Joy prioritize providing nutritious meals and snacks for their daughter, Angelica. Angelica needs healthy food to fuel her packed (especially for a 6-year-old) schedule: She recites poems to the seniors at church, plays piano, and helps her mom, a kindergarten teacher, tutor kids after school.

    Says Patrick: “We live in a very rich area, but Angelica is our treasure.”

    Affording nutritious food isn’t always easy for families on a tight budget. Patrick has been out of work for the past several years, so the family has fully relied on Joy’s teacher’s salary. Nearly 40% of their income goes toward rent.

    The family first heard about Second Harvest when Joy was pregnant with Angelica. At the time, Angelica was on WIC, a program that provides healthy food to moms-to-be. Since Angelica was born, the food from Second Harvest’s Family Harvest Program and from CalFresh (food stamps) has helped stock the family’s kitchen with fresh carrots, celery, apples and other fruits and vegetables. As a family they enjoy cooking the Filipino foods they love, like adobo chicken and embutido (meatloaf).

    Money is tight for the family, but they budget carefully to make ends meet. Joy is quick to point out that Angelica’s favorite restaurant is “Café Colma—at our house. And the chef is daddy.”

    Last July, on Patrick and Joy’s wedding anniversary, Joy was diagnosed with breast cancer. “If it wasn’t for her hair, no one would have known she was sick,” Patrick says of Joy’s positive attitude. “I can’t tell you how much the food from Second Harvest meant to us. It was one less thing that we needed to worry about. Knowing someone is there to help you, there’s hope—there’s something you can look up for. You don’t feel like you’re left alone.”

    With Joy completing her radiation treatment and Patrick’s employment prospects looking promising, the family’s future is bright. They’re looking forward to the holidays, and not just because of the home-cooked meals. “If nothing had happened to Joy, the holidays would be the same. But this holiday will be something special, it’s like a second life for Joy. There may not be as many gifts this year, but we have so much more to celebrate.”

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

    Nutritious Food is a Basic Need

    “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: Gail Jacobs, Church & Society Committee, Campbell United Methodist Church

    How is Campbell United Methodist Church helping Second Harvest and our community?
    Campbell United Methodist Church (UMC) has a long history of vigorous involvement and response to hunger needs. The church hosts the “Brown Bag” program, a weekly food distribution for low-income seniors. Community volunteers help with two distributions, each serving up to 200 persons a week. Campbell UMC has hosted a Friday program for close to 25 years. The Thursday distribution has been running 5 years. It’s been a great partnership!

    Campbell UMC also provides a venue for the “Family Harvest” program, a monthly distribution to low-income families, which serves approximately 60-75 families per month. Each distribution, whether weekly or monthly, takes about 4 to 5 hours from set-up to clean up, so in terms of space, parking, and utilities, the free use of our space is quite a benefit to Second Harvest and the community.

    Campbell UMC has had groups sorting food at Second Harvest for the past 18 years, and we continue today to organize small groups to volunteer at the warehouse. Last but certainly not least, we collect a steady stream of food donations throughout the year and often run specific drives to highlight the need to keep the Second Harvest barrels full.

    What inspires you to give?
    How can the reality of someone being hungry in our society not motivate us to do what we can? Nutritious food is a basic need — it’s not recreational or optional. It’s necessary. I’ve served food at a local shelter and seen the appreciative faces of those within our communities who need a bit of help – they are not unlike you or me. The fact that my donating some food, money, or time can actually have a positive impact on another person adds purpose to my life and is truly a privilege.

    Why should people care about hunger in our community?
    Everyone needs fuel to function, stay healthy, and survive. Hunger affects productivity, and particularly for children, that gnawing feeling in their tummies affects their ability to concentrate, learn and succeed in school. Second Harvest’s tagline, “Nothing else matters when you’re hungry,” says it all. It’s simple, it’s direct, and it makes you stop and realize that it’s so true.

    Why do you support Second Harvest?
    Personally, bringing food for the barrels or financially supporting Second Harvest Food Bank is something I just need to do. That thought of a parent not eating so their child can, or even more alarming, knowing that so many families in this valley simply don’t have the resources to ensure their children have enough to eat, makes my heart ache. I’m impressed that Second Harvest can stretch my financial donations due to their buying power, and the website is extremely user-friendly. I also appreciate that they support so many other organizations and shelters so I feel my contributions have a broader reach and impact. I lead and organize the volunteer activities at the warehouse for the church as well, and it’s very inspirational to all of us who volunteer. At the end of my volunteer shift, I always feel uplifted and know that my time has been well spent.

    *Special thanks goes to Barbara Wade, Campbell UMC Administrator, for providing much of the history and current information on the various food distribution programs at the church.

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

    Let’s Make Lots of Money – With Your Clicks!

    Sure, there are discounts to be had on Cyber Monday, when online retailers entice you to buy gifts for loved ones and yourself. Then there’s #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to celebrating generosity and to giving to nonprofit organizations that you care about. We are taking advantage of the anticipated high number of people traversing the World Wide Web to earn up to $5,000 from LiveOps, a global leader in cloud-based customer service, and help spread the word about local hunger.

    Yes, we are banking on you being online on Monday, 12/1, and Tuesday, 12/2, so that we can entice you to perform simple actions on social media – like commenting, retweeting, or sharing photos – that will earn us some moola. All of the actions aim to keep us connected, as well as educate your networks about hunger in our community and how they can get involved.

    Here’s the menu of $5 and $10 social media actions for the 2014 LiveOps Social Media Challenge:

    $5 Actions
    • Follow our social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest)
    • Share/RT our Facebook posts and tweets
    • Watch our holiday campaign video

    $10 Actions
    • Respond to question(s) that we post on Facebook and Twitter
    • Take on our Photo Challenge (Monday: #nomnom, #saywhatmatters; Tuesday: #unselfie, #healthy) and post/share the photo on our Facebook Page, on Instagram (please remember that we won’t see your Instagram post if your account is private) or Twitter. Remember to tag us @2ndharvest and include the hashtag.

    So if one of your friends isn’t connected to us on social media decides to follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram on 12/1, then on 12/2, posted a #healthy photo, she’d earn us a $25 donation from LiveOps. Since we can turn $1 into 2 meals, that $25 donation is equal to 50 meals for our neighbors in need. Easy, right?

    Keep an eye on our Facebook status updates, tweets, and Instagram posts on 12/1 Cyber Monday and 12/2 Giving Tuesday. We will prompt you with every action you can take. Be ready to like, comment, share, post, and retweet!