Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties assistance programs.

All of the services available from the Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo are focused on preventing and ending hunger. There is information available to needy families in multiple languages, including Spanish, Chinese, and others. For referrals to everything from a local food bank to government benefit application sites, call the hot-line below.

Families living in poverty can apply for CalFresh. This is the state's primary USDA sponsored supplemental food program that helps low-income individuals and families obtain nutritious groceries that are necessary for them to stay healthy. It is available from many places in Santa Clara and nearby counties. The team at Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties can answer questions on how this process works.

Benefits from CalFresh are paid out using an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card that looks and functions like any other debit card. This then allows the client to shop, as CalFresh cards are accepted as payment for groceries and fresh produce. Many participating grocery stores in San Mateo and farmers' markets in Santa Clara County accept them. This approach gives families the opportunity to shop for nutritious foods of their choice.

Not only does CalFresh put groceries on the tables of those working poor families or the underemployed who need it, each dollar spent is also used by local stores, so it benefits northern California. US citizens with a low to moderate income and most legal residents are typically eligible for food stamps, while undocumented immigrants do not qualify.

There may be some exceptions made though, as they may to apply for their children who are legal residents or citizens. Households that do not meet the criteria for income can still be referred to other programs from the Second Harvest Food Bank.

The Brown Bag for Seniors Program provides help to the elderly and older residents. The Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo County sponsored service will give them free nutritious foods, such as fresh produce, dairy, cereal, rice, ground turkey, formula, and other staples to seniors. It helps those on a fixed income who might otherwise be forced to choose between paying for medication, housing, food or utilities.





Food is often low on the list of priorities for senior citizens, and many resort to skipping meals or buying groceries that are low in price, but may not be nutritious. Taking this approach is often setting up the seniors for malnourishment, medical illnesses and illness. In addition to food, the Second Harvest program offers participants the opportunity to join hundreds of volunteers at the various pickup sites, such as pantries and soup kitchens in Santa Clara County.

This additional step enables them to build friendships, enroll into cooking classes, connect with peers and gain a sense of community, as well as the satisfaction of helping others. Some of the other Brown Bag program benefits include workshops and activities that address food safety, eating behavior and food handling. Newsletters and other health as well as nutrition-oriented materials from Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo are printed in multiple languages to include all members of the regions diverse population.

Families who must stretch their monthly budgets as far as possible each month are often forced to sacrifice nutritional value as well as quality when purchasing food. The fact that many of the families that turn to Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo also live in areas where access to full-service grocery stores or supermarkets that stock fresh produce is limited or non-existent. This lack of health items compounds the nutritional problem in the area, with many resorting to fast food restaurants and convenience stores.

These places fail to offer nutritious groceries or meals that are necessary for good health, especially for children and the elderly. This can have devastating consequences, including malnutrition, mental health issues, childhood obesity, lack of energy, diminished school performance, and difficulties with learning.

To assist, the Family Harvest Program provides roughly hundreds of pounds of free groceries each month to eligible low-income families with children under age eighteen. This is equivalent to three or four bags of food each month, and includes ground turkey, eggs, pasta, fresh produce, canned goods, frozen foods, and other nutritious items.

Family Harvest members also benefit from workshops and events held in Santa Clara County. This will be provided by the Food Bank's Community Nutritionists that include information on healthy eating habits for adults or children; special opportunities to sample items that might be unfamiliar; and newsletters in multiple languages. This last resource will share information on various recipes, health and nutrition issues, and food-handling instructions.





As part of the Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties efforts to create a true partnership with the families they serve, the non-profit will offer them the opportunity to volunteer each month at local pantries. This allows people the ability to give back to the community by sorting, packing, and distributing food to their neighbors.

The Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Produce Mobile Program addresses common and significant obstacles to low income residents obtaining fresh fruits and vegetables. Even if there happens to be a somewhat grocery store or farmers' market close to where the applicant lives, economic limitations can make it difficult or even impossible to get the foods necessary for good health.

In fact, hundreds of the agencies clients reported consuming lower quantities of produce than they would like due to cost. This is sometimes hard to understand, as northern California is a region with the largest agricultural economy on any state. There are countless farms that provide high-quality fruits and vegetables to households.

Obesity and diabetes is another common issue among working poor households, which refutes the common misconception that people struggling to buy food can be overweight. Low income families trying to keep up with their bills often turn to junk or unhealthy food because they can obtain larger amounts at lower prices. To battle these even increasing societal trends of hunger and obesity, and to establish positive lifelong eating habits for children, the Food Bank at Second Harvest is committed to ensuring that members in need of help have access to fresh fruits and vegetables.




To make this happen, other charities help. There are partners in this effort including a network of growers, pantries, the California Association of Food Banks' Farm to Family Program, charitable run soup kitchens, and Feeding America at the national level. In addition, Produce Mobile is grateful to generous individual donors as well as companies, who have made possible the use of refrigerated trucks.


By Jon McNamara

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