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Share Your Story2020-06-24T18:57:01+00:00

“I am very pleased that Second Harvest is able to help everyone in my community who shows up for food during this tough time.”

“I am very pleased that Second Harvest is able to help everyone in my community who shows up for food during this tough time.”

– Tuyet, San Jose

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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. She shares, “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.”

It’s been difficult for Lai’s family to cover their expenses since her husband lost his machinist job, and COVID-19 has only made things harder. Lai felt hopeful when her husband booked a second-round job interview in March, but the meeting was canceled because of shelter in place.

Meanwhile, the salon where Lai works as a hairstylist was forced to close. She’s had to wait for the EDD to change its policies before qualifying for unemployment.

Lai has received food from Second Harvest since passing by a distribution while picking up her children. She appreciates the help and always looks out for others. If she can’t finish the food she receives, she’ll send a bag of fresh fruits and vegetables to her temple or a neighbor in need. Lai explains, “Sharing with others who are in the same difficult situation is the best thing that I can do at this time.”

Back at home, Lai’s two children are going to school online. Lai enjoys cooking for them, and her favorites include chicken soups, curries, and stir-fries that include plenty of vegetables. “I am very grateful for the food distribution during this pandemic. My family and I were able to save a little bit of money from receiving food,” she shares. The kids appreciate having ingredients for sandwiches and glasses of milk they can enjoy before school. They’re focused on doing well so that they can help support the family one day.

Overall, Lai can’t wait to resume working and find a sense of stability. She shares, “I really hope this pandemic is over soon and that everyone can go back to their jobs. Also, I really hope that my husband can find work quickly, because we have many bills and expenses to pay. My income has been the only way to provide for this family. It has been quite difficult for us.”

“Oh, [receiving food] has helped me a lot, especially these days, because it’s already been four weeks of not working. And I have my two daughters, my granddaughter, my husband, nobody working for four weeks. [Eating together at home] is a gift from God, especially during these times where we have to be – sheltered in place – be at home.”

Genoveva, San Jose

“This is the highlight of the week. My mom is going to be 90 so this helps a lot.”

Anonymous, San Jose

“My mom who’s a senior, let me know that your organization called her and asked if she would like to receive groceries. She didn’t know if it was a scam due to everything happening these days, but let me know someone who spoke Chinese called her to ask what she may like for groceries. She recently received her groceries from Second Harvest, and was so grateful. I wanted to say THANK YOU, too for taking care of my mom and other seniors during this time.”

Eva, Facebook

“This is a thank you for the delivery of the Second Harvest of Silicon Valley food for the seniors that I received last Thursday. I live in a mobile home park and I was so impressed. It was almost like a second Christmas. I think the plan that you have started with the boxed food is very helpful. I just want to thank you.”

Anonymous, San Jose

“It is very hard getting food for our household of 10 people. I like how this distribution site is drive-through so I don’t have to go into a grocery store with my small children.”

Anonymous, San Jose
Natasha has come a long way in the last year – she had to rebuild her life after escaping an abusive relationship. Unfortunately in doing so she lost everything in the process, except for her two kids –16-year-old Tyler and 6-year-old Kai. Today she is an accountant at a local children’s hospital and looking forward to the future.

“I couldn’t have done everything I had to do in the past year without nutritious food,” she said. “Eating fresh vegetables gives you more energy. You are able to function, to focus and concentrate, and keep up with your responsibilities.”

Natasha moved to the United States 15 years ago from Russia, where she worked as an accountant. She hadn’t officially been part of the workforce since then, and instead had managed her husband’s business accounts and raised her kids. So when she left her husband, she had nothing to fall back on.

“I had no money and no credit card,” she said. “The first thing I worried about was how I was going to feed my kids. That was my main issue – food for my kids. You can’t tell your kids you’re not going to eat today.”

Soon she was connected to Second Harvest of Silicon Valley, and was able to get fresh fruits and vegetables for her family.

“We are mostly vegetarians, so it was exactly what we needed,” she said. “We got a wide variety of produce, more than just the basics. There were even organic fruits and vegetables sometimes.”

But with no money to pay rent, she and her kids were eventually evicted from their home. Fortunately, Natasha was able to move her family into a shelter operated by LifeMoves, one of Second Harvest’s partner agencies.

“That brought me peace of mind,” she said. “I didn’t have to worry about surviving. I didn’t have to worry about anything other than putting my life back together. It made it feel like home, and my kids love my cooking,” she said. “I liked to cook Russian pancakes for everyone. It was like one big family. I was really scared to go to a shelter, but it was an amazing experience.”

Natasha and her kids were able to move to a townhouse in San Jose after she got a job. But with the high cost of housing in Silicon Valley, they are still only just getting by.

“Housing is so outrageously expensive here,” she said. “Even though they gave me the highest salary they could for the position, it’s still not enough.”

They can’t afford a lot of extras, or to eat out. But they don’t care because they enjoy cooking at home. Natasha is grateful for the healthy food she received from Second Harvest.

“Kids don’t need expensive toys and entertainment to be happy,” Natasha said. “But they do need nutritious food. It’s the one thing they can’t live without. They need it to do whatever they want to do – play and run around if they are little. When they are older, they need it to concentrate on their schoolwork so they can get an education. Nutritious food is important for everything.”

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.

The family receives pre-boxed food distributed by Urban Services YMCA’s Community Resource Center. Guadalupe says her kids especially like getting spaghetti and fruit from the boxes, and her family also loves when she is able to make beans, rice and sauces from the vegetables and spices they receive. What Guadalupe loves is that she has food to give her kids every day:

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

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