“One emergency can change a family forever. Days after Grace* gave birth to her third and youngest child, complications from labor caused an unexpected series of heart attacks in the otherwise healthy mother. She spent three months in hospitals fighting for her life. Twelve years later, after three cardiac surgeries and two strokes, she’s as vivacious and optimistic as ever; but her life plan has changed forever.

Before the heart attacks, Grace loved her work in Information Technology and planned to further her career with an additional degree. Now unable to work outside the home, Grace, 54, is a stay-at-home mom who pours all her energy into her family, including her three children, ages 15, 14 and 12. Her husband Joseph*, 60, calls her a phoenix for redefining who she is after the major shift in her career trajectory.

For Grace, food is central to her family life and an expression of love. She makes a point of cooking often and prides herself on being an inventive chef in the kitchen that Joseph renovated himself. But some days, it can be hard for Grace to muster the energy needed to cook because her heart function is only a fraction of what it should be.

Grace likes to adapt Chinese dishes from her childhood with California produce. Together the family cooks a variety of dishes and experiments with new recipes, both easy and challenging. But their favorites are breakfast staples like pancakes and eggs, which they eat on Sunday mornings and weeknights as a treat.

The family of five is dependent on Joseph’s single income. Grace and Joseph rely on Second Harvest of Silicon Valley’s free groceries to help with their food budget so that they can afford other fixed costs like health insurance and medication. The ease of visiting a Second Harvest distribution lowers the stress of having to make difficult economic decisions – a serious concern for a mom dealing with health issues.

It’s not just the food that helps; Grace feels a sense of community in the smiles and warm welcome of neighbors and volunteers at distributions. She’s excited to visit and to come home with what she calls a “treasure box.” The fresh healthy ingredients are used to prepare multiple meals for her family each week.”

*At the request of our clients, their names have been changed.