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Stories2020-07-30T16:33:36+00:00

Lifting the burden of hunger gives hope

We served over 500,000 people in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties last month – that’s double the number of neighbors who were seeking food than before the crisis.

COVID-19 STORIES 

KIDS

COLLEGE STUDENTS

SENIORS

VETERANS

FAMILIES

NHON, SAN JOSE

Nhon has been working with his hands all his life. Trained as a garment maker in Vietnam, most of his career was spent hand-sewing kimonos for Japanese clients.

Today as Nhon stands in his kitchen in front of a box of supplies, the material he is working with is food, not fabric. Speaking through an interpreter, his voice seems far away. It’s quiet, like silk.

Read the full story ›

TUYET, SAN JOSE

Tuyet made the difficult choice to leave her children in Vietnam in order to take care of her 77-year-old mother who was living alone in San Jose. Receiving food has helped them enjoy nourishing dinners despite the stresses of unemployment and shelter-in-place.

Tuyet has been piecing together part-time work. Serving as her mother’s caregiver means that Tuyet often has to stay at home, and it’s hard to find a full-time job that offers enough flexibility. Proudly sharing that she used to work 30 days a month, Tuyet admits that asking for help is difficult.

Read the full story ›

GUADALUPE, SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO

Even during a global pandemic, Guadalupe and her family know that eating a meal together at the dinner table is critical to their well-being. The family is able to come together because of the pre-boxed food they receive from Second Harvest, which is distributed by our partner Urban Services YMCA’s Community Resource Center.

Guadalupe, her husband and their kids live in South San Francisco. When one of her children was diagnosed with autism, she became a stay-at-home mom to help support his development. Once the spread of COVID-19 forced everyone to shelter in place, her husband lost his hourly wages as an Uber/Lyft driver. “We don’t have any income right now,” Guadalupe said.

“What we enjoy the most is the fact that we’re all sitting together, eating together.”

SPC. JOSH ROBERTSON

Several National Guard soldiers helped answer our Food Connection Hotline calls, including Josh. He shared:

“We got a few calls where clients were very apologetic. They were saying, ‘I’m so sorry to have to ask for this.’ For a lot of them, it was their first time doing anything like this.

I would say to them that there’s no shame in it. That’s what we’re here for; to help you. At the end of the call, they were usually very reassured. But they also said that they’ll definitely pay it forward in the future. An organization like Second Harvest of Silicon Valley is in a good position to start this cycle of helping others.”

RAJESH, VOLUNTEER

Rajesh is a regular volunteer at our Cypress Center warehouse. Before shelter in place began, his wife and daughter went on a trip to India and haven’t been able to return home because of COVID-19 travel restrictions. Rajesh has been volunteering most nights and Saturdays to donate the time he would have been spending with his family.

Rajesh shared:

“By God’s grace I still have a job during this pandemic and I’m healthy. I am doing this for my daughter. I want to show God’s love to others and I want my daughter to see what to do when she grows up.”

MICAELA OCHOA, VOLUNTEER. VICE PRESIDENT OF ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES AT COLLEGE OF SAN MATEO

“Although we were in a distribution line, with masks and gloves, we were also in conversation with each family in each vehicle. We were connecting in order to help and serve others, and developing empathy by asking questions, listening, observing, and learning.”

ONE COMMUNITY IN TIME OF CRISIS

Nhon has been working with his hands all his life. Trained as a garment maker in Vietnam, most of his career was spent hand-sewing kimonos for Japanese clients. Today as Nhon stands in his kitchen in front of a box of supplies, the material he is working with is food, not fabric.

Speaking through an interpreter, his voice seems far away. It’s quiet, like silk.

“We have not been able to find jobs because I am 71 years old and my wife is 68 years old. I am also trying to get my driver’s license, but I need medical treatment on one of my eyes first.”

Before shelter in place began, one of Nhon’s regular outings was taking the bus from his house to San Jose’s first Vietnamese American Community Center, where he and his wife took ESL classes and participated in their food distribution program, which is provided through a partnership with Second Harvest of Silicon Valley.

But once everything started closing, Nhon was stuck – he didn’t feel safe taking the bus to get his food and he couldn’t drive himself. Thankfully, one of Nhon’s former ESL classmates offered to drive him to the food distribution site. He calls this food he’s receiving his savior.

The anticipation of opening a box of food from Second Harvest during this pandemic is a welcomed surprise. What foods will be inside? For Vietnamese clients like Nhon and his wife, sometimes the challenge of receiving unrecognizable American staples offers an opportunity to reimagine them into foods they know and love.

“There were several food items that I am not familiar with, like cheese, celery, tacos and tortillas. My wife tried to mix tuna, chicken, and carrots, and she rolled it up with the tortilla and made a new Vietnamese egg rolls version, which was delicious.”

No items go to waste. Whatever they dream up, they cook, and whatever vegetable they can’t use, they pickle and save for later. The strongest sentiment that Nhon expressed was his appreciation.

“After this shelter in place situation, I plan on taking the written test at the DMV and be able to drive to look for jobs. I really hope to be able to give back to America because America has given my wife and me so much.”

Finishing the interview, Nhon stopped the interpreter and insisted on practicing his English, something he hadn’t been able to do since his ESL classes abruptly ended:

“Thank you so much for hearing my story. Thank you so much for your help.”

TUYET, SAN JOSE

Tuyet made the difficult choice to leave her children in Vietnam in order to take care of her 77-year-old mother who was living alone in San Jose. Receiving food has helped them enjoy nourishing dinners despite the stresses of unemployment and shelter in place.

Tuyet has been piecing together part-time work. Serving as her mother’s caregiver means that Tuyet often has to stay at home, and it’s hard to find a full-time job that offers enough flexibility. Still, she dreams of a career that will provide independence. Proudly sharing that she used to work 30 days a month, Tuyet admits that asking for help is difficult.

One highlight of her recent work is her time at the Registrar of Voter’s office. She treasures conversations where she convinced Vietnamese-Americans to vote. Tuyet enjoys making new connections and encouraging others to harness their political voices.

Nevertheless, these part-time jobs have not been enough to provide a steady income. A distant relative told Tuyet about a grocery distribution at the Vietnamese American Cultural Center, and she felt grateful. Tuyet remembers, “My first impression of the food was that it was very fresh and delicious.”

Also, safety is a priority for Tuyet since she lives with her elderly mother. She felt comfortable at the site, sharing, “I wasn’t worried about going to the distribution because the volunteers and staff practiced social distancing like marking tape on the ground so that everyone lined up six feet apart from each other. Also, everyone who came to get food followed the rules like wearing masks… this made me feel safe to come get food.”

Amazed at the amount of resources available to her while she’s out of work, Tuyet explains, “I think nonprofit organizations like Second Harvest are life-savers for people who are unemployed.”

Tuyet cooks dishes that keep her mother nourished and healthy like chicken soup. But most of all, the meals provide emotional relief because Tuyet knows her mother doesn’t need to worry about her.

“We feel happy and fortunate that we can get delicious and healthy food to cook with, even when don’t have money to buy it. Having meals like these makes my mom feel more hopeful and less worried about putting food on the table or my unemployment.”

GUADALUPE, SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO

Even during a global pandemic, Guadalupe and her family know that eating a meal together at the dinner table is critical to their well-being.

The family is able to come together because of the pre-boxed food they receive from Second Harvest, which is distributed by our partner Urban Services YMCA’s Community Resource Center.

Guadalupe, her husband and their kids live in South San Francisco. When one of her children was diagnosed with autism, she became a stay-at-home mom to help support his development. Once the spread of COVID-19 forced everyone to shelter in place, her husband lost his hourly wages as an Uber/Lyft driver. “We don’t have any income right now,” Guadalupe said.

“What we enjoy the most is the fact that we’re all sitting together, eating together.”

SPC. JOSH ROBERTSON

Several National Guard soldiers helped answer our Food Connection Hotline calls, including Josh. He shared:

“We got a few calls where clients were very apologetic. They were saying, ‘I’m so sorry to have to ask for this.’ For a lot of them, it was their first time doing anything like this.

I would say to them that there’s no shame in it. That’s what we’re here for; to help you. At the end of the call, they were usually very reassured. But they also said that they’ll definitely pay it forward in the future. An organization like Second Harvest of Silicon Valley is in a good position to start this cycle of helping others.”

RAJESH, VOLUNTEER

Before shelter in place began, Rajesh’s wife and daughter went on a trip to India and haven’t been able to return home because of COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Rajesh is now a regular volunteer at our Cypress Center warehouse. He has been volunteering most nights and Saturdays to donate the time he would have been spending with his family.

Rajesh shared:

“By God’s grace I still have a job during this pandemic and I’m healthy. I am doing this for my daughter. I want to show God’s love to others and I want my daughter to see what to do when she grows up.”

Give hope during the COVID-19 crisis

Donate today

We’re expanding to meet the need by opening a new warehouse thanks to our partners Prologis and Cisco.

“Thank you for the delivery of food… I was so impressed. It was almost like a second Christmas.”

– Anonymous senior

“When you tell [clients] that you can communicate with them in their native language, you can feel that smile on their face through the phone.”

– Sgt. Yancy Abarquez, working Food Connection Hotline

Former UFC Champion Cain Velasquez shares his own experience with hunger and why he feels it’s important to give back to the community where he was raised.

“Sorting and boxing produce means I have muscles now that I never had before! Volunteering is a rewarding way to make a difference in the community.”

– Martha, volunteer

FOR KIDS

I get excited when my mom gets the food. Sometimes with the chicken, she makes molé. For special occasions, like birthdays.

– Martin, Redwood City

30% of KIDS
are at risk of hunger in Silicon Valley.

> 85,000 KIDS
are served by Second Harvest each month.

We help schools, libraries and camps leverage federal dollars and provide infrastructure like meal carts so they can serve more kids during the summer months. This enabled the delivery of more than 650,000 meals last summer.

“These meals make me strong like my favorite superhero, Wonder Woman. I like being strong.”

– Isela

FOR STUDENTS

When Aaron went to his first food distribution at San Jose State University, he was shocked to see that hundreds of other students also needed help.

“I thought I was the only one who was food insecure, but it turns out there is quite a number of us.”

Aaron was able to land a campus job, but all of his money went to school fees. The fresh produce and nutritious groceries he received from Second Harvest made it possible for him to concentrate on his schoolwork.

“I was at a crossroad in my life. I had to figure out how to survive and actually complete my education.”

Aaron graduated from San Jose State University in December of 2019 with a degree in software engineering. He hopes to get a job that will pay enough to cover his bills and put food on the table.

Second Harvest’s school pantry program serves students at
14 COLLEGES,
including every community college in Silicon Valley.

“Having access to all of these wonderful resources allowed me to pursue my lifelong interest in astrophysics. Be proud to seek out these resources. You’re going to get to a better place, and it’s going to help you get there.”

– Asia

“You probably have more responsibilities or circumstances that you do need to worry about. Don’t let food be one of them. There is a community with you, especially if you are a student.”

– Ray

FOR SENIORS

This center is close to me. I don’t need to take a bus a long way. I just walk. Now I’m eating brown rice because of my diabetes. And the chicken, oh boy! I like to cook adobo.

– Catalina, Daly City

We distribute food through
310 PARTNERS at
1,000 SITES
to reach people in nearly every corner of Silicon Valley, from Daly City to Gilroy.

“I’m on a fixed income. Sometimes I run out of food, so I go to the distribution on campus and the food I get there helps me.”

– Sheba

“All I have done is work hard and help the community as much as I can. And now the community is helping me.”

– Natalio

FOR VETERANS

[Food’s] a passion for everybody. You get a good meal and you’re happy and you’re full. What else can you ask for?

– John with Sugar, Mountain View

We now serve
87 AFFORDABLE HOUSING COMPLEXES, a 64% INCREASE
in just the last three years.

“That does change your personality, if you have food and then don’t. What Second Harvest does is good.”

– Mike

FOR FAMILIES

Natasha needed help when she left an abusive relationship with her husband, taking her children, 16-year-old Tyler and 6-year-old Kai, with her. They left their home with nothing.

Soon she was connected to Second Harvest, and was able to get fresh fruits and vegetables for her family. They were also able to move into a shelter operated by LifeMoves, one of Second Harvest’s partner agencies.

A year later, Natasha’s family lives in a townhouse in San Jose and she works as an accountant at a local children’s hospital. Natasha is able to focus on healing and providing for her boys. She shared:

“I couldn’t have done everything I had to do in the past year without nutritious food.”

A typical client receives
$245 WORTH
of free groceries every month from a Second Harvest distribution, freeing up dollars that can be used to pay for housing and other basic necessities.

When Rebekah’s son was born premature and with low blood sugar, she knew he would need plenty of nutritious food to grow up healthy and strong. She shared:

“It’s helpful because it’s expensive to eat healthy otherwise. This just helps tremendously. It’s a big, heavy weight lifted.”

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