Nutrition Education

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Second Harvest Food Bank's Community Nutrition Education program provides low-income families, seniors, and individuals tools to improve their health, nutrition, and wellness. Full-time nutritionists educate partner agencies and clients on a range of nutrition-related topics through technical assistance, workshops, and multi-lingual materials. The Community Nutrition Program has been in operation since 1984.

"The Food Bank has taught me to find ways to vary recipes in order to maximize how I use fruits and vegetables."

-Senior Client in the Brown Bag Program


The first food bank in the nation to add a full-time nutritionist to its staff, Second Harvest Food Bank has long held a vision of maintaining a strong, healthy community where its members have the resources they need to establish long-term healthy eating behaviors. The goal is to also reduce the occurrence of nutrition-related conditions often associated with poverty such as diabetes and obesity. Eating well is a habit; it must be nurtured and encouraged as with any other skill.

Staff nutritionists equip our non-profit agency partners and clients with nutrition education information that teach clients ways to incorporate healthy foods into their diet. Agencies request workshops based on the unique needs of the populations they serve and they access Food Bank nutrition resource centers where handouts and videos are available in many languages. Many partner agencies work with at-risk clients who are especially vulnerable to food-borne illnesses, so we regularly offer food safety and handling classes, including the nationally recognized "Serve Safe" class.

Our educators are deployed directly to food distribution sites at locations such as schools, shelters, neighborhood centers, and community-based agencies, where they provide resources and relevant workshops directly to clients and non-profit representatives. Some of the tools the team employs:

  • Culturally relevant and easy-to-prepare recipes, especially for unfamiliar food items
  • Science-based multi-lingual nutrition, fitness, and wellness handouts and newsletter articles for adults, seniors, and youth
  • Food tastings and food preparation demonstrations with food from the Food Bank
  • Bi-lingual student volunteers and interns who speak to youth and adults about health issues
  • A resource room, stocked with multimedia materials, available to agency partners

To find out more about our volunteer Health Ambassador program, please email


A number of indicators from our 2011 client surveys demonstrate that the Community Nutrition Education program, together with our food distribution programs, is improving the eating habits and overall health of our client population.

  • Of the representative sample of clients surveyed in our direct distribution programs, 88% reported preparing more meals at home, with comments like "(Getting the produce) helps me cook more vegetables and it's very nutritious." Preparing home-cooked meals is not only healthier than eating out frequently, but studies show that children in families that eat together more often have less trouble in school, better diets, and fewer behavioral problems. By providing foods like fresh vegetables that need to be prepared at home, families are spending more time cooking and eating at home together.
  • 53% of the respondents said they had received and either enjoyed the recipe cards or made the recipes. This is about 10,000 people per month who are reading and trying new vegetable recipes.
  • In 2010-11, 382 of our partner agencies attended a food safety training.


For more information, please contact Susan Karlins, MPH, Director of Programs, at 408.266.8866 ext. 346 or email

To join our volunteer Health Ambassador program, please email