“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: Jennifer Puthoff, Director of Child Care and After School Programs, YMCA of Silicon Valley

How are you helping Second Harvest and our community?

Through access and opportunities! Now in our 7th year, the YMCA of Silicon Valley’s meal program is part of a year-round effort to fight child hunger in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties by making healthy meals and snacks available to students participating in after school and summer programs, with an emphasis on reaching underserved communities where the need is the greatest.

In the past few years, we’ve been able to expand the program to reach even more kids in need by helping community partners – including the San Mateo County Library System, San Jose City Libraries, Boys and Girls Clubs of Silicon Valley, and Gilroy Parks and Recreation – provide healthy meals and snacks to their participants as well. As a result, we now serve approximately 333,669 nutritious meals and snacks to 101,896 youth at 42 community sites every year.

None of this would be possible without funding and support from the Walmart Foundation, USDA Summer and After School Meal Program, Stanford School of Medicine, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, Revolution Foods, and the California Summer Meal Coalition.

In addition, our partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank has taken this effort to a whole new level. Through Kids NOW (Nutrition on Weekends), we are able to distribute healthy food for kids from low-income families to take home with them on the weekend. In addition, the Produce Mobile Program literally delivers free fresh produce to community sites for any families or individuals in need.

Together, these efforts are critical to helping nurture the physical, mental and social-emotional development of all youth in our community so they can continue to be healthy and thrive.

What inspires you to give?

My inspiration comes from the overwhelming support we receive from families and youth in the community and the gratitude they express for our assistance. Hearing how we made a difference in their life, simply by providing a healthy meal, is truly impactful.

Jennifer Puthoff (far right) was part of a community collaboration that provided over 143,000 meals to children and their families this summer.

Why should people care about hunger in our community?

Proper nutrition is critical to a child’s development. Not having enough of the right kinds of food can have serious implications for a child’s physical and mental health, academic achievement and future economic prosperity.

Even in an area as prosperous as Silicon Valley, there are far too many families who are barely making ends meet and struggling to provide nutritious meals for their children. For these families, proper nutrition often starts and ends with the child’s school lunch program. And that’s why these types of programs are so important.

Why do you support Second Harvest?

There is great strength in numbers – and the power to make a difference. No one organization can fight hunger alone and our partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank helps us reach even more families and children in need. Nonprofits, community organizations, foundations, and government entities must come together if we’re to overcome childhood hunger in our community and we look forward to pursuing collaborations that will help us realize this goal.

***Click here to meet more people working to end hunger in our community.