Did you realize that eating certain types of food can make you happier? Everyone knows that eating nutritious food can make you healthier, but it turns out that this same food directly impacts our brain structure, functions and mood.
We at Second Harvest have always believed that consistent nutrition not only tackles food insecurity, but it also builds mental and physical resiliency for all ages. Now there’s a growing body of evidence that supports nutritional psychology as one of the pillars of a healthy, happy life. Further, studies indicate that incorporating more nutritious foods may alleviate symptoms of depression and mental illness in children and adults who recently experienced stressful events.
Because of this connection between food and physical and mental health, we’re committed to providing fresh and nutrient-rich produce to those we serve. Harvest Solutions Farm is one of the key components in our fight against malnutrition by providing fresh produce to the community. A diet that is high in refined sugar is linked to increased rates of depression, while a diet that is high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains and protein is linked to lower rates of depression, which allows for a happier life.
Our advisory team of nutritionists plot out foods that we can distribute to the community to yield the best outcomes. As we strive to grow even more produce locally and help more families and partners within our community, we’re also dedicated to optimizing the health and happiness of those we serve along the way.
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Jill Wilson decided to volunteer with Second Harvest in 2008 when she was in between jobs and looking for a way to apply her talents that could benefit the community. She arrived one day at Second Harvest’s former distribution center in Orange, ready to serve, and felt immediately connected to the mission.
What keeps Jill volunteering all these years? She describes it as being part of a connected family – to the food bank and greater community – and “making a contribution that matters.” This sense of family carries through in other ways. As Jill and her husband, Ian, created their estate plans and made provisions for their family members, they also made the meaningful decision to include Second Harvest as a beneficiary.
They were driven to make this decision by Jill’s intimate knowledge of how important it is to provide nutritious food to those in need. They were also driven by Jill’s sense of family connection with the food bank. As she eloquently states, “It’s like including family in our charitable giving.”
Like Jill and Ian, other friends of the food bank may be looking for ways to connect meaningfully with Second Harvest to help those experiencing hunger in Orange County for years to come. One simple way to make a significant impact, while achieving peace of mind, is by creating a will or revocable living trust with our partner, FreeWill.
Creating a will or revocable living trust with FreeWill helps you:
Creating a will or trust doesn’t have to be stressful or overwhelming. This free estate planning resource has been used by more than 400,000 people to create a legally valid will or revocable living trust. You can complete the online process on your own in less than 20 minutes or use the tool to document your wishes before finalizing your plans with an attorney.
This year, let Second Harvest and FreeWill help you help others. Like Jill and Ian, you too can be a part of providing nutritious food to those in needs for years to come.
March is National Nutrition Month, an annual awareness campaign that encourages us to learn about nutrition, develop healthy eating habits and discover the fun of being physically active. At Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County, we strive to provide everyone in Orange County with the nutrition they need to grow and excel in life.
Eating nutritious food is at the heart of the human experience. Our ancestors had the ingenuity to take up agriculture and put our species on the road to growth and success. But not everyone has access to food, even those who need it most. Nearly three in four children receiving CalFresh are 12 years of age or younger. Data shows that there is a relationship between a family’s food security and the assurance of a healthy life. Households with food insecurity are more likely to experience reduced diet quality, anxiety about their food supply, increased use of emergency food sources, other coping behaviors and hunger. (Source: Conditions of Children in Orange County 26th Ed.)
“By helping everyone to have consistent access to healthy food, we could lift thousands, and by doing so we prepare our entire community for success in school, work and life. Improved health and educational outcomes have a direct link to economic mobility as young people have more opportunity to choose college, career or technical education, and those already in the workforce grow on their path to increase productivity and stability.” —DAREEN ABDRABOU KHATIB*
*Dareen Khatib is the administrator of health and wellness at the Orange County Department of Education. She is also a member of SHFB Board of Directors and Chair of our Nutrition Advisory Council.
Last spring, here at Second Harvest we completely revamped our focus to proactively purchase fresh nutrition for those in need, ensuring a steady pipeline of protein, dairy, eggs, fruits and vegetables to our approximately 300 partner and program sites. As a next step, we recently unveiled our new, 6,200-square-foot cold storage facility and two additional cold docks that establish a “cold chain” at our distribution center in Irvine. This gives us a total of 14,550 square feet of cold storage, which greatly enhances our ability to source and distribute more nutritious food.
As part of our promise to support our distribution network in their ability to provide fresh and nutritious food to the community, we’ve helped to ensure that they have the capacity to receive this fresh nutrition and store it until it is distributed.
For example, we have equipped the Vietnamese American Cancer Foundation in Fountain Valley with a 2-door commercial refrigerator. This means that food arriving at the food bank will stay in a temperature-controlled environment between 37–38°F that maintains optimal conditions to ensure freshness throughout its entire journey into the hands of those in need.
Second Harvest is dedicated to continually improving our networks. Aside from increasing our food supply and cold storage facilities, we’re actively working to expand our transport and logistics efficiency. We’re grateful for the support we’ve received from the community and our growing list of partners and affiliates. With your help, we can end hunger in Orange County and create a healthier world for all of us.
Second in a series of blog posts from the front lines of hunger relief with Woody Smith.
When the world is crumbling around us with new, scary and unprecedented challenges, how is it so many mothers are able to keep moving forward? The answer to that question is never more visible than in a crisis: Moms are focused on their family’s survival – it is part of a mother’s DNA.
Second Harvest continues to fight increasing food insecurity through our Pop-Up Drive Thru food distributions with the help of many amazing volunteers and it is no surprise that many of them are mothers. Jacqueline is one such volunteer and I wanted to learn more of her story.
Jacqueline’s life isn’t easy. She’s a wife and a mother to three children, and in addition to all she does for her family, she’s in nursing school which is taking more effort than she expected. But she pushes on because it will eventually improve life for her family. It also makes her stronger and more determined, which is what she wants to teach her daughter…the value of never giving up. With a smile she tells me, “If 10-year-old Jacqueline could see current day Jacqueline, she’d be in shock because she is doing more than she ever thought she could. When you don’t give up, you’re moving and growing and able to see yourself as a different person because you push your own limits and see how much you really can do.”
Watching Jacqueline’s enthusiasm as she lifted bags of potatoes and apples into the trunks of vehicles, I found myself wanting to hear more about why she serves. Jacqueline explained, “I’m here to volunteer representing other mothers…to give back to the community, to be a role model to my children. As a mother, as a woman, as a friend, as a wife…you have so many hats you have to put on and one of them is giving. When I go home my daughter asks me, “Mom what did you do today?” And I say, “I got to give back to people, people that really don’t have as much as we do.” Hopefully she sees me doing this and then as she gets older, she’ll want to give back just the same way.”
When I asked Jacqueline what advice she would have for the mothers trying to bring their families through this crisis she says, “I’d like to give them all hugs and tell them this day will pass and to trust that everything will be ok. Be strong and pull from that inner part of them that they didn’t think that they had. Just don’t give up.”
That’s good advice and a wise insight.
I thought of Jacqueline’s words on Mother’s Day as I called my own mother to thank her for being the rock of our family. At 83, my mother looks back on all our “adventures” and laughs off the fear and uncertainty that visited our family on multiple occasions. I asked her what she thinks of this current crisis? With the quiet confidence of a mother who has beaten adversity time and time again she said, “Everything will be fine…it always is.”
Until next week…
The most recent in a series of blog posts from the front lines of hunger relief with Woody Smith.
I’m awake and frustrated because my alarm hasn’t gone off yet and I wanted to get more sleep. This has been what seems like an unusually long and challenging week so far and it’s hard to turn my brain off. When this happens the details of the day to come run around in my head: What projects are most important? What is my tightest deadline? Which emails do I respond to first? Wait, did I finish all the bacon yesterday?
As I lay there thinking, I suddenly couldn’t remember what day it was. It’s Wednesday and I’m a little behind. No, it’s Thursday and I’m way behind. What day is it?!
Like almost everyone I know, I’m struggling with this new world we live in – it just feels overwhelming sometimes. So as I pour my coffee and turn on the computer, I look for much-needed inspiration and find it in my notes from a recent visit to the Food Pantry at Saint Timothy’s Catholic Church in Laguna Niguel.
A couple weeks ago I met Nancy who co-manages the team of volunteers at Saint Timothy’s Food Pantry. Their style traditionally has always been very welcoming and focused on building relationships with those they serve. They would put out coffee and pastries and spend time talking with the families who would come early just to socialize.
Nancy and her team know the families that come to them and she explains with some sadness the changes they’ve had to make due to COVID-19. “It’s hard because we do have a personal connection with a lot of our clients. So now it’s waving through the car window and seeing what they need. I know what their struggles are already. And now with this…there’s so much more going on.”
Whether it’s diapers for young families, easy to eat shelf-stable food for their homeless clients or even having bags strong enough to hook onto the handlebars of the client who showed up on his bicycle, Nancy and her team are committed to figuring out how to care for their families in whatever way is required.
One of Nancy’s key volunteers, Mary Kaye, also shared insights. Mary Kaye is an emergency room doctor who has been spending much of her spare time serving at the Saint Timothy pantry. She began volunteering pre-COVID by taking blood pressures on pantry days and translating for Spanish-speaking clients.. All the changes have her missing conversations and connecting with the families they serve.
Mary Kaye is still able to contribute by preparing food bags for distribution and by brief chats with the families as she maintains physical distancing from the vehicles in line. She tells me, “I like just smiling at them and trying to give them a good word like, “See you next week,” and “I hope I can take your blood pressure soon,” and encouraging them.”
As I finish typing while sipping my breakfast smoothie…because I really did finish all the bacon yesterday…the inspiration becomes apparent. When your life is about serving others, change is simply viewed as a normal part of the process. Change isn’t a roadblock, it’s a directional sign to a new route that, if followed, can lead towards a dramatically more fulfilling destination. I’m grateful to Nancy, Mary Kaye and the team at Saint Timothy’s for all they do for those in need and for reminding me to appreciate the journey, even when it’s not the one I chose.
See you along the path, wherever it may lead…
Trapped. That’s how many of us feel. We want to go somewhere. Anywhere really. Not being able to see family and friends can add an extra layer of gloom to the confinement created by this pandemic. For those with loved ones that are long distances away, the challenge of getting back together only adds another layer.
The University of California Irvine started this past school year with more than 36,000 students. When COVID-19 showed up, most went home to be with their families while waiting to find out what their academic futures would hold. But 5,000 of them are still on campus. Some are graduate students who live in on-campus student housing with their young families and some are international students not able to travel home. Many of these students have been impacted financially by the pandemic and find themselves in need of food assistance.
Whatever the situation that keeps students on campus and struggling to feed themselves, the Fresh Basic Needs Hub at UCI remains open to serve them, supported by food from Second Harvest. Student hunger is a serious challenge, made even worse by the pandemic, but Fresh, as it’s called, has the mission to provide for the basic needs of UCI students, allowing them to focus on academics.
Andrea is the Director of the Fresh Basic Needs Hub and is committed to caring for the students who come to Fresh for help. Along with food and toiletries, Andrea is now also able to give students vouchers that can be redeemed at a local produce market, supplementing the food that Fresh provides.
But it’s not just food the Fresh team gives to students, it’s also hope and dignity. Andrea explains, “Our commitment is really to care for them and to make sure that they know there is somewhere they can seek support and they will receive it, without judgment. We are coming from a place of saying we honor you and we want you to have a dignified experience even though times are tough right now.”
Before working in food distribution, I had no idea there was a need for food pantries on college campuses, but studies conducted last year revealed that up to 40% of students have experienced food insecurity. For that reason, Second Harvest supports nine college pantries in Orange County. Many college students are committed to making a better future for themselves and go so far as to neglect their basic needs to pay for tuition and books.
But at Fresh, and all the other college pantries we support, the goal is to give food in a manner that says, “I see you, and it’s a privilege to serve you because your life matters.” By providing food – and hope – Fresh and Second Harvest gives students a chance to be successful.
Last week did not feel hopeful. Seeing the injustice of the past few days makes me cringe. It causes me to grieve when I see people treated unfairly or worse. But I’m choosing to move forward with hope. How can I have hope this week? Because I know Andrea and I see how she treats people who sometimes feel trapped. The team at Fresh, and all the other college pantries in Orange County serve as a lifeline for their students, providing for basic needs and offering a dignified experience for everyone who comes to them for help. Their service is a beacon of hope in the darkness.
As I sip my coffee, I think of the quote by Andy Stanley that says, “Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.” We all have the opportunity to make one person’s life better and doing so may even make our own lives better.
Wishing you hope this week. Let’s do our best to make one another’s lives just a little better – one kindness at a time.
Before the pandemic, most would think Stephen’s life was a good one. Comfortable even. Stephen and his wife were both working and the challenges of day-to-day life with two jobs and two daughters (2 years old and 5 years old) were easy enough to manage. Then COVID-19 arrived.
In April Stephen lost his job in project controls and now he faces the loss of his unemployment benefits in July. His wife, Kristina, also lost her job once the pandemic hit. The fear and stress of not being able to provide for his family showed up in new ways for Stephen, but he redirected those emotions toward survival and humility. While it was a very difficult decision, Stephen and Kristina decided that in order to make it through this crisis, they would need to receive assistance the first time in their lives. This is what it means to be newly vulnerable.
Stephen’s story is similar to those of thousands of people in Orange County, and around the world, who are for the first time receiving food assistance due to the pandemic. This new demographic of people in need has created an unprecedented demand for food here and across the country. Stepping up to meet this need locally, Second Harvest created a weekly Pop-Up Drive Thru food distribution that ran for 15 weeks at the Honda Center in Anaheim. Thousands of volunteers served their fellow citizens during that time. One of them was Stephen, who had decided that giving back was a value he not only wanted for himself, but also wanted to teach his children.
Recently, ABC7 heard about Stephen’s story and came out to one of our food distributions to learn more. Stephen was glad to share his experience in the hopes that others who may feel afraid and shamed by losing their ability to provide for themselves and their families will hear his story and find hope. Watch his interview here: ABC7 Story
Did you know?
Our Pop-Up Drive Thru Food Distribution served more than 62,000 households, providing more than 2 million pounds of food!
By: Woody SmithMarketing ManagerSecond Harvest Food Bank