“If Second Harvest hadn’t been providing me with fresh groceries it could have changed my focus. I was trying to repair my life before my son was born. Second Harvest gave me consistent, fresh and healthy nourishment.”

Here at Second Harvest, we serve 127,000 kids each month in the hope that each one can grow up strong and healthy. Alex is a single mother who first received food assistance after learning about her pregnancy. At the time, she was dealing with homelessness and drug use. Enjoying food from Second Harvest through a soup kitchen, in-residence recovery program and grocery distributions, Alex developed a new relationship with her health and nutrition. Now, she has graduated from college and is pursuing a career/further education in criminal justice.

Alex’s meals used to consist of visits to the corner store where a snack accompanied a tall can of sweetened tea. When she found out about her pregnancy, she had a self-described awakening. Alex recognizes that overcoming substance abuse requires more than a single decision, but she placed a new importance on health that day.

A friend took her to a valued Second Harvest partner, St. Anthony’s Padua Dining Room. Slowly entering the occupied dining hall, Alex felt both comfort and insecurity, joy and shame. She felt ready to leave at any moment, but small details welcomed her in. The smiling faces of the volunteers, home-cooked scents and trays of mashed potatoes and mac n’ cheese provided comfort.

An abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables helps clients prepare healthy meals.

Learning about our grocery distribution at St. Anthony’s, Alex ordered her boyfriend to find a refrigerator, which they eventually set up in the warehouse they occupied. Alex noted a change in her life where healthy food became a priority, recalling,

“Second Harvest gave me a way to refocus on my nutrition. It was so readily available and free, cooked in my community. Having the Food Bank care about my health forced me to care about my health.”

With a microwave, refrigerator and trips for hot meals, nutritious foods replaced the corner store snacks. Eventually, Alex called her probation officer and asked to enter a recovery program.

On her first day, Alex went “shopping” at our Bing Center where smaller partner agencies visit and pick up any food items they need. Impressed by the organization, scale and efficiency of the warehouse, she recalls a great first impression of Second Harvest.

Back in the kitchen, Alex felt nervous about her first dinner until appetizing smells comforted her. Bell peppers and onions sizzled, and the piquancy of dried spices wafted up from chicken on the grill. Feeling like “the new kid on the playground,” Alex learned that one of the women cooking had prepared these fajitas for her family for years. Breaking bread together formed connections among these strangers and new roommates.

Our nutrition team helps families pack nutritious snacks and lunches.

A couple years later after her son was born, Alex started working to provide financial assistance to college students. Living with an El Salvadorian family, Alex bonded with a constantly cooking grandmother. Attending a distribution at a local elementary school, Alex brought back more than enough food to share with her housemates. Dancing together in the kitchen, Alex learned to shape pupusas in time to music with her new friends. Come Christmas time, Alex and her son found their names on stockings on the fireplace.

Saving and working, Alex eventually stopped receiving food from Second Harvest. Recently, she graduated from college and is planning her next steps in a career focused on criminal justice. She purchases the same items she once received at our distributions and recreates her favorite vegetable-filled soups and stews for her son.