Nutrition Newbie: Cans or Cash, Not Candy

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

Special Blog Post By: Elena Hollander, Community Nutrition Manager

At Second Harvest, we love Halloween! Every year, we have so much fun dressing up for our staff costume contest (skits included), decorating the office, and enjoying our staff Halloween party. However, there’s one thing that we don’t love as much – every November through December, our barrels flood with donated Halloween candy. While we truly appreciate the sentiment of giving, there are so many other great ways and foods to give, so this year we respectfully ask that you please don’t give us candy.

Why are we so tough on the treats? Our mission is to lead our community to ensure that anyone who needs a healthy meal can get one. Our clients have told us they prefer healthy food. When asked “If you had more money, what specific foods would you purchase for you and your family?” the top responses were protein (37%), fruit (25%), and vegetables (21%).

Out of the over 1,200 desired food items, there was just one mention of candy. Diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity are critical health concerns for our clients and we are committed to their desire to live healthy, active lives. We hope you can help by donating some of our most-needed foods instead of candy.

You can also help by making a financial contribution. Second Harvest can turn a one dollar donation into the equivalent of two nutritious meals. Check out our donation options here.

Thank you for helping us keep our clients happy and healthy and have a wonderful Halloween!

Giving Time: Yolanda Gutiérrez

“Giving Time” focuses on the invaluable volunteers who donate more than 314,000 hours to Second Harvest each year, more than doubling the size of our staff.

Special Blog Post featuring Yolanda Gutiérrez, as told to Matt Mastrangelo of Second Harvest Food Bank.

I work for a company called QTS, and it has a community impact program where each employee is given 24 hours per year to volunteer within the community, with the charity of their choice. I chose to work with Second Harvest Food Bank because they have programs that work with families and children.  I think it’s important that children are fed properly, so that they’ll grow healthy and can go to school and be able to focus on learning.

After a period of time volunteering with my co-workers, I thought maybe this year we could step it up a notch. I reached out to one of Second Harvest’s Regional Program Managers, and said I was thinking about forming some sort of partnership where QTS employees “adopt” one of the sites and come in every month and help out.

Now everybody at QTS knows that the second Tuesday of every month, we go out to our site. We take turns so that everybody has an opportunity to volunteer, and it’s good. It’s good to be involved in the community and I think it makes everybody feel better about themselves, because they’re contributing.

It’s important to volunteer because I live in a community and I want to be able to support it… and that’s the right thing to do.

***To schedule a team building event at Second Harvest, visit

Second Food Pharmacy Opening in San Mateo County

Food is medicine- nutritious food is essential to good health. That is why Second Harvest Food Bank is working with healthcare providers to improve access to the nutritious foods our clients need to lead thriving, productive lives. In partnership with Samaritan House, we officially opened a second Food Pharmacy in San Mateo County in September. Inspired by the first Food Pharmacy collaboration with Sequoia Healthcare District in January 2016, the San Mateo Free Clinic Food Pharmacy is available to low-income patients with diabetes. These two Food Pharmacies are thought to be the first of their kind in California.

At a Food Pharmacy, patients can “fill” prescriptions for free, nutritious food. What’s unique about this concept is that patients have immediate access to healthy foods where they receive their primary healthcare. Second Harvest Food Bank will keep the Food Pharmacies stocked with fresh produce and other healthy foods and provide nutrition education to help patients and their families eat healthier.

Bart Charlow, CEO of Samaritan House, said, “Food truly is good medicine. But access to the right food at the right time is a major hurdle for low-income families. Our Free Clinic partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank delivers that healthy food to fill a family’s needs right at the source of the medical and nutritional services. No waiting – you just walk across the clinic. That is the critical step to address chronic health issues associated with diabetes.”

Patients with diabetes are referred to the Food Pharmacy program by their clinic physician, who provides them with a prescription for food that can be filled at the Food Pharmacy each week, or whenever they need it most. The goal in the first year at each clinic is to serve 100 patients who will be monitored and evaluated by the clinic to determine how well the program helped them keep their diabetes under control.

“The Food Pharmacies will help to address the diet-fueled health disparities that are caused by a lack of access to nutritious food,” said Kathy Jackson, CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank. “We know from the 2014 Hunger in America study that one-third of our client households include a member with diabetes, that’s three times the national average. Nutritious food is often too expensive and out of reach for the people we serve. That’s why Second Harvest is so focused on nutrition and the connection between hunger and health. We are working to ensure that everyone has access to the nutritious foods they need to thrive.”

You can watch a KTVU segment about the opening on Samaritan House’s page on Facebook.

Local Hunger Fighters: Donna Duval

“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 Fighter: Donna Duval, Programs & Services Volunteer

How are you helping Second Harvest and our community?
I am helping Second Harvest and our community by volunteering at the Curtner Center in San Jose for almost two years, using my clerical experience. I also pick up trash in my neighborhood while walking my dog.

What inspires you to give your time?
The thing that inspires me to give my time is that I’ve had a great life in my adult years. When I was growing up, my mom raised four kids on her own. Money was always tight. My mom was too proud to ask for help, so we struggled. When I retired from San Jose State University at the end of 2013, I knew that I wanted to give back. I gave myself a year to decide where I wanted to volunteer my time. I decided that a good fit for me would be at Second Harvest Food Bank, helping out in the Program and Services department.

Why should people care about hunger in our community?
The cost of living is so expensive here in the Bay Area. Some people do not have enough money after they have paid their rent to buy food for their family to last throughout the month. If people can’t eat, or feed their children, they could be forced into homelessness or criminal activity.

Why do you support Second Harvest?
I support Second Harvest Food Bank because it has great programs that help a lot of people feed their families. I not only volunteer my time, but I also donate to this organization. I wouldn’t do that if I didn’t believe in their cause.

***Meet more of your neighbors working to end hunger in our community.

September 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.

  • The One Stat That Shows How Hard It Is To Buy A Home in Silicon Valley, BIZJOURNALS.COM
  • “Just how hard is it for young people to buy a home in Silicon Valley? It takes until age 42.5 for the home ownership rate to hit 25 percent in the region — the highest age in the country.”

  • If the Fight for $15 Wins, Fewer Americans Will Go Hungry, TAKEPART.COM
  • “By gradually raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour over the next seven years…more than 1.2 million families would achieve food security, according to Rodgers’ analysis. Among them would be some of the most economically vulnerable, including a significant number of single-parent and minority households.”

  • The Shocking Toll of Teenage Hunger, THEATLANTIC.COM
  • “Food insecurity is widespread among adolescents, the stigma it carries prevents many of them from asking for help, and teens sometimes turn to highly risky behavior…just to get enough to eat.”

  • Skipping Meals, Joining Gangs: How Teens Cope With Food Insecurity, NPR.ORG
  • “[Teens] are more aware of the stigma associated with a free lunch than younger children. They’re also at an age where fitting in is paramount.”

  • Food Stamps May Soon Be Available For Online Shopping, BUSINESSINSIDER.COM
  • “The pilot program is expected to involve a handful of online retailers in up to three states. Government officials expect the program to primarily benefit the disabled, the elderly, and others who have a difficult time leaving home. It could also help those who have little access to healthy food options.”

  • Keeping Food on the Plate, and Out of Landfills, NYTIMES.COM
  • Read four interesting perspectives on what can be done to reduce food waste.

  • An Abbreviated History of School Lunch in America, TIME.COM
  • “Regardless of where one stands on the debate it’s worth remembering that school lunches were once uncontroversial.” Get a quick history lesson about school lunches in America.

  • Our Economy is Booming, So Why Are Kids Still Going To Bed Hungry?, TAKEPART.COM
  • “While childhood hunger rates have also improved, two new reports make the case that they have by no means improved enough…”

  • Bay Area Wages Soaring, But Still Can’t Keep Up With Housing Prices, MERCURYNEWS.COM
  • Bay Area wages are soaring…for some

    *** Read our our past Social Media Roundups.

    Food Donor Spotlight: UNFI

    UNFI is the leading national distributor of natural and organic foods and the company donates food to Second Harvest Food Bank two times per week. The Food Bank receives an astounding variety of wholesome food, including fresh eggs, milk, yogurt, cereal, snacks, frozen entrees and other assorted food products. This year UNFI’s total food donations are the equivalent of over 400,000 nutritious meals!  This unbelievable amount of healthy food goes a long way to help the Food Bank serve more than 1 million meals per week to our community.

    A Second Harvest truck awaiting donations at UNFI's loading dock.

    Crystal Brennan, General Manager UNFI Gilroy, answered our questions about UNFI and its support of our work to end local hunger.

    Please tell us a little bit about UNFI and your recently opened distribution center in Gilroy.

    UNFI is a company of pioneers who Move Food Forward. We are the largest organic and natural foods distributor in North America, every day delivering new choices that shape the foodscape. This year, we’re proudly celebrating our 40th anniversary.  Our new LEED® Gold designed, state-of-the-art distribution center in Gilroy is 452,000 square feet and can expand to over 800,000 square feet.

    What compels UNFI to give back to the community by donating food?

    We do what’s right. And, we believe that companies should contribute positively to the community. Be a good neighbor. It’s who are, and part of what makes us so successful at what we do and why we have fun doing it.

    Refrigerated product to be donated to the Food Bank.

    Why is UNFI taking a stand against hunger?

    The people who founded UNFI did so because everyone deserves access to healthy, sustainable food. For 40 years, we’ve lived our mission – bringing more healthy food options to more people. Our scale gives us the ability to positively impact lives and make a difference in Gilroy and in our other 33 communities across the country. And, our associates love being involved in giving back.

    Can you speak to the partnership between Second Harvest Food Bank and UNFI and why it’s important to your company?

    The relationship with Second Harvest is very important because we believe everyone deserves access to healthier food options. We’re here to connect food to people – and do the right thing.

    UNFI staff loading the Second Harvest truck with food donations.

    Do you have anything else to add regarding UNFI’s commitment to end local hunger?

    UNFI Gilroy is forming a Helping Hands Committee, a group of associates dedicated to creating meaningful change in the community, who will plan volunteer events to work at the local food pantries, shelters, community gardens, and to clean highways and parks. That is how UNFI Gilroy rolls!

    Nutrition Newbie: More Grains to Love

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

    Special Blog Post By: Elena Hollander, Community Nutrition Manager, and Luiza Naslausky, Nutrition Education Coordinator

    We have been getting a lot of questions about the whole wheat pasta that we give to clients and so we decided to share why we LOVE whole wheat pasta and whole grains in general. Who knows? Maybe whole wheat pasta is your new favorite go to dish?!

    Here’s why we think whole wheat pasta is an easy, tasty, and healthy option for your family:

    EASY: Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add 1 teaspoon of salt and the pasta. Return to a boil and cook according to package instructions until al dente. Drain. While whole wheat pasta generally takes slightly longer to cook than white pasta (made with white flour), this is not always the case so remember to check the package for instructions! Usually it takes about 12-14 minutes.

    TASTY: Whole wheat pasta is packed with a nutty full flavor. Because of this, it’s best with bold sauces like hearty marinara or sesame ginger in a cold pasta salad. An advantage of whole wheat pasta is the presence of the wheat kernel, which retains its essential hardness when the pasta is cooked. Even when overcooked, whole wheat pasta does not get mushy and soft like white pasta. For this reason, whole wheat pasta is a good option for those cooking multiple dishes at the same time and/or who may be distracted while cooking.

    HEALTHY: Whole wheat pasta has fiber, vitamins, minerals, and protein. Its nutritional properties aid healthy digestion and keep you full for longer without spiking your blood sugar, like white pasta. In fact, whole wheat pasta typically has twice the fiber of white pasta. Fiber can help reduce blood cholesterol and is important in regulating bowel function. Moreover, the consumption of fiber can help reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity.

    Whole wheat pasta is a healthy option for consuming grains. According to MyPlate, at least half of all your grains should be whole grains!

    It is also important to mention that grains are divided into two groups: whole grains and refined grains. Whole grains contain the entire grain kernel ― the bran, germ, and endosperm. Examples of whole grains include whole wheat flour, bulgur, oatmeal and brown rice. In contrast, refined grains have been milled, which removes the bran and germ and consequently the fiber, iron and vitamins in the unprocessed grains. White flour, white bread, and white rice are examples of refined grain products.

    Here’s the recipe we’ve been sharing with clients this month that highlights the bold and satisfying flavors of whole wheat pasta with seasonal fresh veggies like carrots and cabbage. Enjoy!

    Caramelized Cabbage with Whole-Wheat Penne and Parmesan

    6 ounces uncooked whole-wheat penne
    2 tablespoons olive/canola oil
    3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
    6 cups sliced green cabbage
    2 carrots, grated
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
    1/2 cup of parmesan cheese
    1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

    1. Bring a large saucepan filled with water to a boil. Add pasta; cook 7 to 9 minutes or until al dente. Drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid.
    2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add garlic to pan; sauté 30 seconds or until beginning to brown. Remove garlic from pan; set aside. Increase heat to medium-high. Add cabbage to pan; cook 6 minutes or until browned and tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in salt, black pepper, and carrots; cook 2 minutes. Stir in pasta, reserved 1/4 cup pasta cooking liquid, and reserved garlic. Stir in lemon rind and 1/4 of the cheese. Divide pasta mixture among 4 bowls. Sprinkle evenly with remaining 1/4 of cheese.

    Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: about 2 cups)

    ***Catch up on our past Nutrition Newbie posts.

    Local Hunger Fighters: Carolyn Alexander

    “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 Fighter: Carolyn Alexander, Director of Operations, Sunnyvale Community Services

    How are you helping Second Harvest and our community?
    I’m pushing our agency to reduce barriers and make food access easier for our low income Sunnyvale residents. Towards this end, Sunnyvale Community Services (SCS) is now delivering 20,000 pounds of produce and groceries per month to four elementary schools with very high populations of low income families. The families are very appreciative. We’ve even received many handwritten thank you notes. To further assist with ease of access, SCS is now open two Saturdays a month for pantry shopping.

    What inspires you to give?
    Everyone in this day and age should have a fighting chance to live a healthy, happy life. Healthy food is a cornerstone of a happy life and I simply want to help make that possible for all of my neighbors. It’s just the right thing to do.

    Why should people care about hunger in our community?
    We should all care about hunger, because a growing number of our neighbors do not have enough money to pay rent and buy healthy food. Food insecurity leads to illness and rising medical costs, poor school performance, crime, and social instability. If we want to continue to call our geographic area a community, we better make sure everyone in our community has enough healthy food to eat and some place to live. It’s pretty simple.

    Why do you support Second Harvest?
    Second Harvest is an amazing partner for SCS. Not only does Second Harvest supply most of our food, but they support SCS with infrastructure investments, industry knowledge, best practices, and community awareness. Second Harvest employees listen to our input and we work on continuous improvement together. I communicate with someone at Second Harvest daily and it is really an amazing partnership.

    ***Meet more of your neighbors working to end hunger in our community.

    Helping People Access Food with Pride and Dignity

    Special Blog Post By: Nicole Martinez, Food Connection Field Manager

    In 2009, I graduated from college with a degree in nutrition and was dead set on working in clinical nutrition therapy world. Fate had a different plan and I soon realized how important it is for people to not only nourish their body with healthy food, but to have access to it as well.

    I started at the Food Bank as a volunteer in the nutrition department and moved my way up to outreach manager on the Food Connection team. My time at the Food Bank led me away from the clinical realm to a desire to work directly with communities encountering economic and health disparities.

    I returned to school and received a Master’s in Public Health. My goal was to expand my knowledge in program planning, evaluation, community organizing, and social justice. Since graduating, I look at my work with the Food Bank in a whole new way. I recognize the social and economic injustices community members encounter more often and work to alleviate those social pressures.

    In recent years as an outreach manager, I have managed a fantastic group of Food Connection outreach staff who help serve individuals, families, seniors, and other community partners with free food resources. I work with agency partners who serve diverse populations of ethnic groups in different life situations, from homeless individuals to expectant mothers. I train agency partners and community members to identify those in need and provide access to CalFresh and free food resources.

    What I enjoy most is knowing that my work helps people get access to healthy food with pride and dignity. I would be disappointed to see someone walk away with food feeling ashamed and that they have failed in some way. I want the people we serve to know that Food Connection is here to provide compassionate service to people from all walks of life.

    During my time here at the Food Bank, I have also become involved with the South County Collaborative. With the Collaborative, I volunteer my time and work alongside other service providers to increase the accessibility, quality, and quantity of health services in Gilroy, San Martin, and Morgan Hill. I was voted in as Vice Chair in 2014 and have continued to promote the mission and goals of both Second Harvest Food Bank and the South County Collaborative.

    I want to see the community thrive and prosper in good health with the food they need!

    ***Need help feeding your family or yourself? Food assistance is available. Contact our Food Connection team.

    August 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.

  • There’s a Hunger Problem in Every County in America – and It’s Solvable, TALKPOVERTY.ORG
  • “For six consecutive years, we’ve conducted a comprehensive study called Map the Meal Gap to improve our understanding of hunger and to fight food insecurity at the local, regional, and national levels. Our most recent analysis shows hunger’s vast reach.”

  • These 4 States Are Doing Something Truly Revolutionary with Food, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM
  • “More urgently, there are millions of families who struggle to afford food, while there are mountains of it decaying in the trash. But these states are changing that, using strategies to keep food out of landfills and get it to hungry families.”

  • The Fight to Use Food Stamps Online, TIME.COM
  • “Regardless of one’s political views about food stamps, if we’re going to be spending money making sure people get free food, we need to make sure that they get access to the healthiest food possible…”

    Out in the warehouse we’ve got onions for miles! #fresh #onions

    A photo posted by Second Harvest Food Bank (@2ndharvest) on Aug 11, 2016 at 4:02pm PDT

  • 75 Percent of Americans Say They Eat Healthy – Despite Evidence to the Contrary, NPR.ORG
  • “Are Americans confused about what constitutes a healthy diet? Do they say one thing, but do another? Or perhaps it’s a matter of portion size: We may be choosing foods that are healthy in moderation, but are eating too much of them.”

  • Why This Food Bank is Turning Away Junk Food, CIVILEATS.COM
  • Love this! We recently adopted a new Healthy Food and Beverage Policy that includes focusing grain purchases on low-sugar whole grains and discontinuing the distribution of candy (which has never been purchased by the food bank, only donated).

  • The Vast Majority of Expiration Dates are Bogus- Here’s How Long Your Food is Still Good, BUSINESSINSIDER.COM
  • Things that make you go hmmm

  • A Day in the Life of a Samaritan: Nonprofit Kitchen Manager Ruby Kaho Helps Serve Hundreds with Donated Food, SMDAILYJOURNAL.COM
  • Great article featuring Samaritan House, one of our many awesome partner agencies!

  • Too Rich to be Poor, Too Poor to Get By, NARRATIVE.LY
  • “Millions of American families have incomes just above the federal poverty level—and the cutoff for many benefit programs—but still just barely eke out a living.”

    *** Read our past Social Media Roundups.