Second Harvest Food Bank feeds area’s needy

Second Harvest Food Bank

Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming, and this is the time of year when many people feel the urge to help others. Canned food drives seem to be held all around us: at schools, religious congregations, even places of business.
But hunger is a year-round problem in America, and the Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo counties has a proud record of helping to provide solutions for nearly 40 years. One in 10 residents of these counties rely on this nonprofit agency as a source of food.
Earlier this month I visited one of Second Harvest’s warehouses in San Jose. It was a special day: the Holiday Food and Fund Drive Kickoff. In the morning there was a “tailgate party” with San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York and three-time Super Bowl champion Guy McIntyre in attendance to call attention to the event. In the afternoon about 25 executives from Cisco Corporation came to the warehouse and spent hours sorting food donations for later distribution.
These warehouses are massive buildings that include walk-in refrigerators and freezers. Visitors can’t fail to be impressed by the shelves towering over them with packaged items like Corn Flakes, rice, pasta and canned beans and peaches. Freezers are already being stocked with turkeys for the holidays, and fresh produce is still pouring in from local farms.
Last year the agency supplied nearly 250,000 individuals with food each month, making it the area’s largest supplier of food to low-income residents. Forty-five million pounds of food reached the needy through Second Harvest’s direct distribution programs and a network of more than 300 nonprofit partners, among them many South Valley groups such as:
– Gilroy: the Senior Center, Mexican American Community Service Agency, Rebekah Children’s Service, Salvation Army, St. Joseph’s Family Center
– Morgan Hill: Advent Lutheran Church, Community Solutions, ReachOut
– San Martin: the San Martin Family Living Center.
Because of the generosity of area residents, Second Harvest is able to provide more than $2 worth of meals for $1, and it has received a four-star rating from Charity Navigator, which reflects the fact that only 5 percent of funding is spent on administration. Donations come in the form of food, money and more than 300,000 hours of volunteer labor annually.
Besides providing groceries, the agency offers other types of nutrition assistance, like mobile kitchens that go into the community, food safety training, nutritionists who work with families to help them eat better, creative recipes written in different languages and assistance with applying for the food stamp program (CalFresh), which has the nation’s second-lowest rate of participation.
There are many ways to assist in providing food for our neighbors in need.
– Invite friends to help by setting up a “virtual food drive” online. For information, visit
– Run your own food drive. Second Harvest will supply bags, posters and guidance to make the activity fun and successful.
– Volunteer to help: People are needed to sort food in the warehouses or assist in the office with clerical and administrative needs. To volunteer call 866-234-3663; to apply for food assistance call 800-984-3663.

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