Thursday, July 22, 2010

We've Moved Our Blog!

The Second Harvest Food Bank blog is now hosted at  We will no longer be updating this one, so please update your bookmarks and news feeds!  Our new feed address is

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

From Fraud to Food: Cisco Systems Auction Provides over 69,000 Meals!

When Cisco’s Governance Risk and Controls group received a 2006 Range Rover HSE Sport Wagon as part of a court settlement, they decided to auction the car and turn the proceeds over to Second Harvest.

“With just over 23,000 miles and still under factory warranty, we knew the vehicle would sell for a significant amount,” said Jeff Bonham, senior manager, Service Abuse Investigations. “We decided that the proceeds from the auction would better serve the community. Our group was familiar with Second Harvest from previous volunteering events at their facility and it made sense to have the auction benefit the Food Bank.”

An internal website was launched, followed by email promotions and Cisco signage promoting the auction to U.S. based Cisco employees. At the close of the auction, a lucky Cisco employee drove away with a great vehicle, and the Food Bank received a donation for the full winning bid amount of $34,600.

"The proceeds from the auction come at a critical time for Second Harvest," says Van Dang, vice president, Legal Counsel, and Second Harvest Food Bank board member. "Donations from Cisco and our employees provide a tremendous opportunity for those in need, especially at a time when so many are struggling to provide for their families.”

The funds will go towards the Food Bank’s Share Your Lunch summer campaign that aims to feed 85,000 children a month this summer. During the school year, children from low-income families receive free and reduced price breakfast and lunches through their school’s nutrition program. When school is out for the summer, these meals are not available and these children are at an increased risk for hunger as their parents struggle to stretch already tight budgets even farther.

“Providing nutrition for children during the summer months is a necessity,” says Marguerite Lee, Corporate Community Relations Manager for Cisco. “Keeping them healthy and prepared for the school year is key to their academic achievement and sets them up for future success.”

Pictured from left to right: Jeff Bonham (Cisco), Tami Cardenas (Second Harvest), Tim Walker (Cisco) and Marguerite Lee (Cisco).

Monday, June 7, 2010

Defense Authorization Bill Includes Support for Child Nutrition Programs

Last Thursday, the House voted on an amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill. The amendment, sponsored by McGovern (D-MA), Emerson (R-MO), Bishop (D-GA), includes a “Sense of Congress” stating that hunger and obesity are impairing military recruitment and must be properly addressed by fully funding Child Nutrition Programs.

An encouraging 341 members voted to support the amendment, with only 85 voting against.

The Defense bill does not appropriate funding to the Child Nutrition Act, but it stands as a record that Congress feels that child nutrition programs should allocate an additional $10 billion over the next ten years, as requested by President Obama.

The “Sense of the Congress” amendment says “reducing domestic childhood obesity and hunger is a matter of national security. The federal Child Nutrition Programs under the Richard Russell National School Lunch Act (42 U.S.C. 1751 et seq.) and the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 (42 U.S.C. 1771 et seq.) should be funded at the President’s request; and the increases in funding for such programs should be properly offset.”

In a Washington Post article, two retired US Army Generals explain their position:
Military concerns about the fitness of our children are not new. When the National School Lunch Act was first passed in 1946, it was seen as a matter of national security. Many of our military leaders recognized that poor nutrition was a significant factor reducing the pool of qualified candidates for service.
Our country is facing another serious health crisis. Obesity rates threaten the overall health of America and the future strength of our military. We must act, as we did after World War II, to ensure that our children can one day defend our country, if need be.
Over the past month, 221 members of Congress have already sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) supporting President Obama’s request for an increase of $1 billion a year for the Child Nutrition Programs.

Thank you to the many of you who joined Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties and food banks throughout California in a postcard campaign sending the same message. This is a down payment toward achieving President Obama’s goal of ending childhood hunger by 2015.

We will keep you posted as things progress on the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Elaine's story: Pantry client turned volunteer

Elaine at her volunteer station
As a client of Second Harvest Food Bank's Family Harvest program, Elaine shares the food she receives with her 14-year old son. When the opportunity arose to help out, she jumped at the chance and started volunteering at the Family Harvest distribution site in Pacifica.

“The Pacifica Resource Center has helped me so much that it just felt right to give back.”

“I’ve seen lots of families with well-standing jobs and I see the pain in their eyes when they come here. If I can help comfort them through this, then I feel good.” Elaine works the bread table during the Family Harvest distribution.

Recovering from drug and alcohol use, Elaine had been working as both a house cleaner and caterer to make ends meet. Unfortunately, she suffered a back injury while cleaning, and relapsed. During this difficult time and against the odds, Elaine found the strength to face the reality of her situation. The idea of asking for help was difficult, but as she says, “I had to bite the bullet. In my family, we were brought up not to ask, but the Resource Center was so wonderful. I love them. They made it easy.”

Elaine looks forward to the protein items such as chicken, cheese, and eggs. “We don’t always get it, but when we do, it’s so great. The milk is wonderful!” The fresh fruits and vegetables have allowed her to become more creative when cooking meals.

“Just knowing that Family Harvest is there. That the P.R.C. is there. Just knowing that they exist is a relief. I look forward to every month’s distribution because I know I can hold out ‘til then and if I was in a tough spot, I could go to the P.R.C. pantry.”

She knows it means a lot to the other families, too. She sees them waiting in line, looking stressed and nervous, and then leave in smiles. She sees these distributions as a time to share with her community. “Everyone gets involved. Even the kids! And everyone, you can tell, is just so thankful to get that food.”

A young client shares a moment with a volunteer at the Pacifica distribution.
The Pacifica Resource Center is one of 316 non-profit agencies taking part in Second Harvest Food Bank's Food Assistance Program (FAP).

Monday, May 17, 2010

Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties Rated Among the Top 8% of US Charities

For the 4th year in a row, Charity Navigator, America’s premier charity evaluator, has awarded Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties a 4-star rating (the highest available) for the organization’s sound fiscal management.

According to Ken Berger, President/CEO of Charity Navigator, "Only 8% of the charities we rate have received at least 4 consecutive 4-star evaluations, indicating that Second Harvest Food Bank consistently executes its mission in a fiscally responsible way and outperforms most charities in America. This exceptional designation from Charity Navigator differentiates Second Harvest Food Bank from its peers and demonstrates to the public it is worthy of their trust."

As the nonprofit sector continues to grow at an unprecedented pace, savvy donors are demanding more accountability, transparency, and quantifiable results from the charities they choose to support with their hard-earned dollars. In this competitive philanthropic marketplace, Charity Navigator highlights the work of efficient charities like Second Harvest Food Bank and provides donors with information needed to give them greater confidence in the charitable choices they make.

“We are incredibly proud to once again receive a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator,” said Kathy Jackson, CEO of Second Harvest. “We are mindful of the trust our supporters place in us when they make a donation and we honor that trust by using donated resources efficiently and effectively in the fight against hunger in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties.”

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Are there even options available for kids to make sensible food choices?

Health and wellness enthusiast B-Boy Super Inlight reached out to D-Nick The Microphone Misfit to compose a song for the opening of Graffiti and Grub, a natural foods store on the Chicago's South Side. They use Hip Hop culture as a way of inspiring different types of people to eat healthy. B-Boy Super Inlight is part of the World famous Stick and Move Dance Crew representing real H.I.P.H.O.P. (Healthy Independent People Helping Other People).

With a chorus taken from the definition of the word healthy, B-Boy Super Inlight makes an appeal to viewers to stop eating junk food. Maybe we all need to hear that definition again. "Freedom from disease and abnormality" has a nice ring to it, don't you think? The song "Abnormality" is fun, there's some humor in there, and tells it like it is.

Here are a few excerpts:
"If I eat this, it'll put me in a junk mood."
"Eatin' healthy is the first step in disease prevention. It also cuts down on hypertension."
"You wouldn't pay your bills with counterfeit money, so why would you put something counterfeit in your tummy?"
The video ends with the guys heading into the fresh produce section of a grocery store to get some "real" food.

With videos like "Abnormality" and high-profile TV shows like Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution making the rounds, I feel really hopeful that the message is getting to both the parents and the kids. Still, my worry is still that even if the kids want to make the right choices, for many, they just don't have healthy options to choose from.

Every day, low-income people in our communities battle 2 main obstacles in the quest to eat food that will nourish their bodies:
  1. Affordability: $1 can buy a large bag of white rolls, or, maybe 2 apples if you're lucky. Forget about a salad. I stand corrected - you can get a salad on something called a "dollar menu". 
  2. Location: Food Deserts are a reality. Without grocery stores, it doesn't matter if you can afford nutrient-dense food because it's just not there. 
At the Food Bank, we're pushing hard to deliver healthy options into low-income areas suffering from lack of access. Staff nutritionists ensure clients receive balanced distributions and information on healthful eating.

Our summer fundraising campaign, Share Your Lunch, insures that families with children receive extra food during the summer while school is out, and also funds our Kids NOW weekend food assistance program.

Our goal is to provide healthy options so that kids from low-income families in our community can actually make a choice.
Do you think kids are getting the message about junk food? Do you have ideas to share? What are you doing with your family to give them the tools they need to make the right food decisions?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Summer is the Season of Childhood Hunger

During the summer, children who normally receive free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch from their schools are at risk of going hungry. According to California Food Policy Advocates, there are 120,524 children in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties who are eligible for the subsidized school meal program - that's 1 in 5 at risk of hunger.

The Share Your Lunch campaign is committed to collecting food and raising funds that will be used to feed children during the summer months when they do not receive free or reduced-price meals at school.

The Need
The Summer of 2010 will be one of the most difficult seasons for local families to endure. Second Harvest is partnering with the community to help stave off hunger for thousands of children who don't know where their next meal will come from.

The Goals
To meet the increased need, the Share Your Lunch campaign has a fundraising goal of $1 million and collection goal of 100,000 pounds of food. Reaching these goals will provide food to approximately 85,000 children each month this summer.

The Dates
Share Your Lunch officially begins on May 1st and will run through July 31st. Individuals and groups are encouraged to participate in the campaign during this period.

Learn More | Donate Now | Run A Drive

Win Tickets & Backstage Passes to See Tim McGraw!

From May 3rd through May 22nd, KRTY Radio challenges you to collect as many canned goods to donate to Second Harvest Food Bank in conjunction with Second Harvest’s Share Your Lunch Campaign to help feed the children in our community.

Each can or non-perishable food item gets you closer to a pair of tickets and backstage passes for Tim McGraw!

Start collecting your cans and on Saturday, May 22nd between 12 Noon and 2 PM bring them to the KRTY booth at Safeway on Branham & Snell in San Jose.

The person who donates the most goods will be the winner… but everyone can feel great about making a difference.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Hunger Relief in the Form of California Almonds

This morning, a truck pulled up at our warehouse with a donation that's about to have a huge impact on our children's programs. The hunger relief organization making the delivery, Give Back 2 God, was founded with the aim of providing nutritious almonds to food banks and disaster-relief groups.

The donation on the truck today was nine pallets of California almonds in 5.5oz bags  - that's 99,000 servings!

Almonds are one of the world's healthiest foods, high in protein and Omega 3's, plus a host of essential vitamins and minerals. These packets will make a healthy, easy-to-eat and tasty addition to our Kids NOW bags and other children's snack programs.

Susan Takalo, Director of Programs and Services at Second Harvest, was thrilled to get the news. "We are excited about this unique donation of healthy snacks for children. What is so special is that they are both delicious and in kid-friendly sizes. With so many children experiencing peanut allergies this will allow the Food Bank to provide these protein-rich snacks to thousands of low-income children."

Give Back 2 God is a 501.3c non-profit that was founded by Mike Kooyman, of Madi K’s Almonds, and his childhood friend Scott Brooks,  the head coach of the NBA Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team. They are currently distributing over 2 million servings of almonds throughout the country each month.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Stamp Out Hunger on Saturday, May 8th

Get an e-mail reminder!
The nation’s largest annual food drive to “Stamp Out Hunger” will be conducted Saturday, May 8. On that day, U.S. Postal Service letter carriers will collect non-perishable donations from homes as they deliver mail along their routes.

The annual National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Food Drive — held in conjunction with the Postal Service — is the largest one-day food drive in the nation. The effort will help feed families in all 50 states.

“With the commitment and dedication of thousands of letter carriers, rural letter carriers, and postal and community volunteers, plus the involvement of our corporate partners, we will make a difference in helping to feed America’s hungry and surpass the 2009 record of 73.4 million pounds of food collected,” said PMG Jack Potter. “The generosity of our customers and the determination of our employees have never been stronger.”

Donations from this year’s event are expected to push the overall total since the annual drive began 18 years ago to more than 1 billion pounds. The total currently is 982.7 million pounds.

NALC President Fredric Rolando said that as successful as the food drive has been in the past, it must be better this year due to the struggling economy.

“Millions and millions of families are suffering — struggling to make ends meet and put food on the table,” said Rolando. “Food banks, pantries and shelters need our help more than ever this year. As families count on them for support, they’re counting on us and we will not back off on our commitment.”

More than 125 million postcards — designed for the first time by the Postal Service and co-sponsored by the Campbell Soup Company — will be mailed to customers to remind them of the drive.

Other co-sponsors of the drive are the United Way Worldwide and its local United Ways, the AFL-CIO; Valpak; and the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association.

Visit the Stamp Out Hunger website for more information.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

We're increasing access to fresh produce for our low-income neighbors.

A volunteer bags fresh corn for a Family Harvest distribution.
If you're having trouble making ends meet, chances are, fresh produce is not going to make it to the table.

For so many of our low-income neighbors, including fresh fruits and vegetables in their daily diet is an unaffordable luxury. Chain grocery stores have been moving out of lower-income neighborhoods, also decreasing access to produce. Fortunately, Second Harvest's refrigerated Produce Mobile has rolled into some of our most isolated neighborhoods, driving fresh fruits and vegetables to families in need.

The mobile distribution sites give clients a free farmer's market shopping experience and help families establish life-long, healthy eating habits. By incorporating fresh fruits and vegetables into their daily diet on a regular basis, not just when they can afford them, their bodies can reap the nutritional benefits and make a lasting impact on their health. In addition, children grow up with a taste and desire for fresh foods!

Have you been incorporating more fresh produce into your family's diet? Please share your experience—triumphs as well as difficulties— in the comment field below!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Second Harvest Wins Victory Against Hunger Award for Innovative Anti-Hunger Initiatives

For outstanding hunger-fighting efforts, Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties was recently selected as a recipient of the Victory Against Hunger Award by the Congressional Hunger Center, Victory Wholesale Group and Feeding America.  The selection committee felt that our nomination demonstrated innovative anti-hunger initiatives to assist families and children in our community.  The nomination was accompanied with a letter of support from United States Congressman Mike Honda.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has recently reported that 49 million people live in households at risk of hunger.  Nearly 17 million of these people are children.  The lifeline for these families and children in their daily battle against hunger and poverty are these Food Banks and the many others worthy members of the Feeding America network, stated Ed Cooney, Executive Director of the Congressional Hunger Centers. Established in 1993, the Congressional Hunger Center’s mission is to train and inspire leaders who work to end hunger, and advocate public policies that create a food secure world.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Inspiring national speaker Nancy Amidei to hold free advocacy trainings

Nancy Amidei
As part of our continued efforts to empower our community, we are pleased to announce free seminars for advocacy training. These seminars will be taught by a longtime ally of ours in the world of public policy, Nancy Amidei.

Ms. Amidei brings a wealth of personal experience to the trainings. She has been involved in social policy from both inside and outside government. She served as Director of the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC - a national anti-hunger group), and she also served in the Carter Administration in the Federal Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. She currently heads up the Civic Engagement Project, a group that offers advocacy training, speeches, and workshops for public policy change at a variety of levels of government. She is an inspiring speaker, and we are excited by this opportunity to benefit from her expertise.

This seminar will be offered three times:

April 19, 6:00-7:30 pm in San Carlos
Second Harvest facility
1051 Bing Street, San Carlos, CA 94070
Light dinner provided

April 20, 12:00-2:00 pm in San Jose
Second Harvest facility
750 Curtner Ave, San Jose, CA 95125
Lunch provided

April 20, 6:00-7:30 pm in San Jose
The Sobrato Center for Non-Profits
1400 Parkmoor Ave, San Jose, CA 95126
Light dinner provided

Goals of the seminar:

  • Describe how advocacy relates not just to lawmaking, but also to day-to-day experiences
  • Bring a human face to ongoing issues
  • Provide insight on successful advocacy strategies
  • Inform about public policy opportunities and constraints (i.e., when's the right time to push?)
  • Identify how to take action on hunger and nutrition issues

These seminars are available to all who wish to attend. Registration is on a first-come, first-served basis as space permits.  REGISTER NOW

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Olivera Egg Ranch and NuCal Foods donate over 100,000 eggs to Second Harvest

Staff members Christina and Rosanna with Eddie Olivera
With spring blossoming all around, Second Harvest Food Bank welcomed two bountiful egg donations this week.

Today we received a donation of over 84,000 eggs from NuCal Foods, and yesterday Olivera Egg Ranch of San Jose dropped off over 34,000! That's 14 pallets of eggs that will go right out to all of our direct service programs that feed mostly seniors and families with children.

One of our staff nutritionists, Alan Roth, explained that eggs are considered highly nutritious and an excellent protein source, coveted by our clients.

Eggs are one of the most expensive items we buy, and with these donations from Olivera and NuCal, our purchasing department will be able to allocate the money saved towards other foods - and ultimately feed more people.
NuCal Drops off 10 pallets of eggs!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Hunger and Obesity - Understanding the Paradox

Across the board, the waistline of America is growing. You can see it in every demographic, including those struggling with poverty.

Last month, the results of a national hunger study were released by Feeding America, and we highlighted local statistics on our blog. Around the same time, First Lady Michelle Obama and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced their campaigns against the childhood obesity epidemic, which is tied to food insecurity and poverty. Comparing the overlapping demographics of those who are hungry and those at risk for obesity, people across the nation are starting to ask, "How is this possible? How can someone be hungry and obese at the same time?"

We think this is an excellent question, and hopefully the following will shed some light on the matter.

Many wonder how people in low-income families—often living below the poverty line—seem to be suffering from an excessive intake of calories while struggling to put food on the table. As Lynn Crocker, the Food Bank's director of marketing and communications, is often heard saying, "In America, we don't have famine. We have food insecurity and food insecurity means that a large portion of our population does not have consistent access to a steady supply of healthy, nutritious food."

To sum it up, calories are cheap while nutrient-dense food is not.

FRAC (the Food Research and Action Council) has, for years now, been leading the way in dispelling the debilitating stigma that surrounds this issue. Their research proves an invaluable resource when trying to understand "food insecurity."

One of the most disturbing points they make is how poverty and obesity is cyclical in nature. Discrimination in the fields of education and employment against those who are obese leads to households that are more likely to be poor and food insecure. This highlights the importance of Vilsack and Michelle Obama's focus in this arena.

Studies have shown that children participating in Child Nutrition programs are less likely to be or become obese than those in the same income populations who do not participate because of their access to a regular source of food at school.

On the topic of nutrition in schools, the PTA cited studies that "poor nutrition, even in non-overweight children, can affect brain development and performance in school. Children without proper nutrition may have a shorter attention span, more irritability, and more suspensions." Combined with this, obese children tend to have higher absenteeism rates, the cost of which is higher than just their education. Some public school districts lose millions of dollars in school funding each year to absenteeism. Participating in the School Nutrition Programs has been "shown to improve standardized test scores, improve attendance, decrease tardiness, and improve participation in class." The School Breakfast Program provides students with at least one fourth of the recommended levels for key nutrients, and the School Lunch Program provides one third.

At Second Harvest, we recognized that low-income families need additional food on weekends and so developed the Kids NOW program. Working in partnership with Boys and Girls Clubs in low-income neighborhoods, this program distributes nutritious, easy-to-prepare foods on Friday afternoons. The food helps bridge the gap between lunch on Friday and breakfast Monday morning while children are out of school.

Making sure children in the at-risk populations are receiving consistent, nutritious food will help end the epidemic of obesity caused by food insecurity.

Food insecurity often leads to binge eating in both adults and children, and when finances don't allow for healthy food choices, the menu will be low-cost, high-calorie, and nutrient poor. This diagram of a supermarket helps illustrate the point:

Fresh produce has the highest cost per calorie, while foods with a high-glycemic index, including bread, pasta, cereal and snacks, cost the least.

The snack and cereal aisles pack the most calories by weight. A family of four will fill up on these items faster than on what they can buy for the same amount in the produce section.

Describing the reasons behind the correlation between food insecurity and obesity, FRAC includes the "lack of fruit and vegetable consumption due to their higher per calorie cost, lack of availability in low-income areas, and the decreased cost per calorie of added sugar and fats."

FRAC encourages health, nutrition and food programs to recognize that obese clients "may be, or were at some time, food insecure." Programs that support low-income individuals and families must strategize and work within their area of expertise to help break this cycle. Providing adults with the education and support needed to make healthy eating choices for themselves and their families is a key component in this struggle.

Second Harvest is well aware of the struggle our low-income population faces to provide adequate nutrition to their families on ever-shrinking budgets. Over the years, we have made significant improvements to the quality of food we distribute, continually striving to provide the most nutrient-dense options when available. The California Association of Food Banks' "Farm to Families" program has helped immensely, and we are proud to be #1 on the list for distributing the highest number of pounds of produce last year in California. To address the issue of "food deserts" - areas without adequate food resources including grocery stores - we launched the Mobile Pantry. This program delivers food to identified, isolated communities such as Pescadero on the San Mateo Coast and the Santee neighborhood in San Jose. One of our newer programs, the Produce Mobile, is dedicated purely to fresh fruits and vegetables. Its specialized trailer with awnings and roll-up doors makes distribution in areas without facilities a snap. Our Share Your Lunch summer campaign raises funds to provide food to families during the months when children are not receiving meals through the school nutrition programs. The Food Bank continues to work on innovative ways to provide consistent, nourishing food to our clients.

Living in such an affluent area, in such an affluent nation, it can be hard to look around at all the swelling waistlines and see hunger. But when you change your perspective and look beyond the calorie, you begin to understand that the choices being made to fill a belly on a budget can have devastating consequences in the long run.

This post is just the tip of the iceberg, and we look forward to engaging our community in the discussion. Please feel free to leave your thoughts and questions below.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Backyard Produce Nourishes the Hungry

We are thrilled that the California Department of Food and Agriculture has finally lifted most of their restrictions and we can once again accept donations of backyard produce. For several years, we have been under quarantine due to the northern California discovery of the light brown apple moth in 2007, a leaf-destroying pest native to Australia.

Fruits and vegetables grown in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties may be donated to the Food Bank without inspection as long as the produce is donated within the county it was grown. Gardeners cannot donate fruits and vegetables with small holes, leaf material, or signs of feeding damage caused by a caterpillar. This exemption from inspection only applies to fruits and vegetables, including leafy green vegetables.

With the year-round growing season we have here, our gardening community is in a position to have a major impact, and help close the hunger gap in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. We already have seen countless boxes of backyard citrus fruits this winter, and hope that as your gardens are laid out this spring, you will keep the Food Bank in mind.
Let’s nourish those in need with freshly grown fruits, vegetables and herbs from our own backyards!

Plant A Row for the Hungry provides support to local gardeners working to end hunger

Second Harvest Food Bank is committed to providing foods that nourish to those in need. Fruits and vegetables fresh from the garden can have a profound impact on the health and well-being of our clients. If you are a gardener or produce more fruit than you and your family can eat, please familiarize yourself with our Backyard Donations page.

We would like to introduce you to the Plant A Row for the Hungry program, which although run outside the Food Bank, can provide support and a network of like-minded supporters to engage with. In addition, the local committees set up special harvest donation sites and coordinate delivery.

The program has been around since 1994, when Jeff Lowenfels, a garden columnist from Anchorage, Alaska, pitched the idea to the Garden Writers of America Association. He had been trying the idea out with moderate success for a few years in his hometown, but thought it was time for a national movement.

A few years later, Joan Jackson, garden columnist at the San Jose Mercury News at the time, got involved and really championed the cause. She encouraged local gardeners to sign a pledge to grow and donate fresh produce. Within the first year, readers had donated over 34,000 pounds of fruit, vegetables and herbs through the program.

According to Jackson, the program works so well because it’s “carried out in a way that requires no governmental funds and no big cuts or donations from businesses or organizations.” In essence, anyone with access to a plot of dirt can participate.

The Garden Writers Association has many resources available to encourage success. See the links below to find local campaigns or learn more about setting up a new Plant A Row campaign.
We lost our backyard produce Champion when Joan Jackson retired from the Mercury News, and will be relying on the local gardening community to spread the word. If you are passionate about ending hunger, gardening, and making a difference in your local community, please consider speaking out about the cause through your blog, social networks, gardening club or place or worship, etc. If you are interested in participating but don’t have a garden, the American Community Garden Association is a resource that can help you get your hands in the dirt.

Do you Flickr? Join Our New Flickr Group! We just set up a group for photos of your Edible Gardens! Please join and post your inspiring photos:
Fruit and Vegetable Gardens of the Bay Area

    Tuesday, March 16, 2010

    Nearly 2 Million Californians Lost Health Insurance During Recession

    Breaking news out of UCLA's Center for Health Policy Research: nearly one quarter of all Californians now lack health insurance.

    According to the study released today, numbers have been rising across all sectors, and California's working adults were hit the hardest. To make matters worse, the cost of insurance skyrocketed with the unemployment rate.

    As Gary Yates, CEO of the California Wellness Foundation, puts it, "Do they pay their rent or buy an individual policy? Few out of work Californians can afford to do both. As a result, many unemployed Californians may go without essential health coverage, increasing the health risk to themselves and their families and the costs of our emergency care system."

    Between 2007 and 2009, the number of uninsured in California rose 25%. During the same time period, the Food Bank has witnessed a 45% increase in number of people served.

    At the end of 2009, our fiscal year average was 236,560 people served per month, up from 163,184 in 2007. Many of the new faces were those whose unemployment benefits had run out and were seeking help for the first time in their lives.

    There are many factors that lead up to the decision to seek food assistance, and at this point in history, the factors seem to be overpowering the safety-net. Day in and day out, we're providing nutritious food to people from all walks of life in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties who have been hit by this recession, and with your help, we'll continue to do it, despite whatever happens on Capitol Hill.

    Easy ways to make a difference: 

    Monday, March 15, 2010

    Report from the 2010 National Anti-Hunger Conference

    On March 7, our Senior Director of Programs and Services Cindy McCown, along with hundreds of other hunger advocates, converged on Washington D.C. for the 2010 National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference. Co-sponsored by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) and Feeding America, the conference provided three days of innovative training, networking and advocacy.

    Cindy found herself inspired by the personal stories and conviction of the speakers, who included
    Key Messages:
    • Hunger is a bi-partisan issue
    • Federal nutrition programs such as SNAP/Food Stamps, school based feeding, after school snacks, summer meals and WIC are critical to combating hunger in our communities.
    • We need a strong Child Nutrition Reauthorization Bill if we are to achieve the President’s goal of ending child hunger by 2015.
    • We need a significant level of increased funding in the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Bill – no less than the President’s request of one billion dollars per year over the next ten years to meet this need.
    Meetings were held with representatives of Senators Boxer and Feinstein and Congress Members Anna Eshoo, Mike Honda, Zoe Lofgren, Jackie Speier and Jerry McNerney to apprise them of hunger issues impacting our local communities.

    For a deeper dive into the issues, see the following links:

    Monday, March 1, 2010

    Yelp Love for the Food Bank!

    Yelp is definitely a force to be reckoned with these days. Seems like every time I look up a business, their Yelp page is right at the top of the search results, and difficult to ignore. That's why it puts a huge grin on my face to see our supporters writing about their positive experiences at Second Harvest Food Bank - some people have even posted pictures!

    Photos uploaded to Yelp by Anya R.
    In January, we had an all-staff meeting followed by a group food sort - just the kind our volunteers are used to. Many of us had never done this before, so I can commiserate with the Yelpers who say they were surprised by what a good workout we gave them. It was my job to put 4 cans of sliced pears (packed in juice—not syrup—I'm happy to report) into each food box as it came down the line. Not too long into it, I started looked at the people with the box-building job with envy! As they say, the grass is always greener... But honestly, there's something about hearing from the team leaders how many families we're feeding that gets the competitive spirit ramped up - my team boxed up 12,000 pounds that afternoon!
    Volunteering can be hard work but it's FUN! Staff member Tometrius Paxton gets in the spirit.
    Be an advocate for the work we do - Yelp about us!
    We have two Yelp pages - and we'd love your review at the location where you volunteered or had your interaction with us. Don't forget, your review doesn't have to be about volunteering - any reason you support us is worthy of a post!

    Users like Flor D. have used Yelp Events to gather volunteer groups to better our community. Check out her recent Food Sort event to see how it works. (If you'd like to do this too, don't forget to set up your event with Volunteer Services before posting.) Thanks for your support, Flor!

    I'll finish up with a quote from Anya R.:
    It was so inspiring to see people of all ages too- coming together and working together for one cause- and that is to help out others because we can.  There were students all the way to an old man with a walker!  If he can volunteer- so can you!
    The two hours were really organized and time just flew.  It was nice to see people in such good moods willing to help.  I am going to look into volunteering for Second Harvest directly and get more people to come join me. 
    Thank you, Yelpers!