Bella Terra Apartments is an affordable community, through EAH Housing, for active adults 55 and older located in Morgan Hill. The residential community focuses on providing a nurturing environment that helps residents stay physically and mentally active and food secured; key partnerships are crucial to achieving these goals. One of these collaborations is with Second Harvest of Silicon Valley. Every month, Bella Terra hosts a food pantry for its residents where they participate as volunteers and receive food, which they occasionally use to make dishes to share with fellow residents.
“I was appointed by other residents to be the chef of this community, and I love cooking for them,” Mary said. “Before the pandemic, I used the food that I received at the distribution to cook for other residents. We are currently getting back to gatherings, and I plan to keep cooking for them. Some of the dishes that I cook are vegetable lasagna, enchiladas, tortillas and even the turkey for Thanksgiving. Sometimes I don’t want to cook just for myself, so my neighbor Linda or someone else in the community cooks for me and that makes me feel taken care of.”
One of the realities that seniors face regularly is cooking for themselves and having to eat meals alone. But as Bella Terra residents insightfully explain, being alone is not the same as being lonely. They have created an environment where they feel supported by each other and where food is central to their interactions. Residents get together to enjoy fun conversations around food, participate in events organized by management and often cook for each other.
“When loved ones are no longer around and life has settled down, the comfort of a strong community carries you through,” said Rosalinda, a Bella Terra resident.
Many of the dishes that they prepare are highly influenced by their childhood experiences. For Mary, her Indigenous heritage and her close relationship with her paternal grandmother allowed her to enjoy food without guilt and minimize food waste.
“I don’t like living my life following restrictive diets,” Mary said. “I enjoy food and when I eat, I don’t feel guilty. I try to follow my doctor’s advice, but I also honor my preferences.”
The Bella Terra residents’ points of view are as diverse as their unique upbringings. For Maria, who grew up in Mexico, healthy eating is a very important pillar of her life.
“After being sick five years ago, I said NO MORE, and I changed my dietary habits and I feel great now,” Maria said. “I come to the nutrition classes offered by Second Harvest and want to learn more about nutrients and eating for health.”
“I take pictures of the food that I cook, and I share it with my daughter. I think that the healthy food that I prepare is very tasty. Cooking keeps me busy and with a positive outlook. My motto is ‘Food is Medicine.'” – Maria, Second Harvest client
For Linda, helping others gives her a strong sense of purpose.
“I get the food from Second Harvest and from the Christian Church,” Linda said. “I take a portion of the box and I share it with neighbors and churchgoers. I also occasionally cook for others in this community. I like cooking enchiladas, spaghetti, or potato salads. I also cook for the unhoused in Gilroy. I have lived alone for 20 years, but I don’t feel lonely. I live in gratitude. My dad used to say, ‘Don’t waste food because you don’t know if you will have food on the table tomorrow.’”
Regardless of their perspectives toward life and food, residents at Bella Terra rely on each other to stay active and connected. They plan to keep nurturing a welcoming environment highlighted by a strong sense of community and great friendships.
Find a Bella Terra resident’s favorite recipe for rice and beans stuffed peppers at our Nutrition Center.