#MemberMonday: Second Harvest of Silicon Valley
May 31, 2021
This week’s Member Monday is Second Harvest of Silicon Valley. With the end of May comes the end of CalFresh Awareness Month — and Second Harvest of Silicon Valley has been working hard to inform their communities about the benefits of CalFresh. Second Harvest is one of the largest food banks in the nation and distributes food through a network of more than 300 partners at drive-thru and walk-up sites across Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. Second Harvest is now serving an average of 500,000 people every month, twice as many people as it reached pre-pandemic.
Kelly Chew, Director of Services at Second Harvest of Silicon Valley, was raised in Hong Kong and San Jose — and her background in clinical nutrition and social work makes her uniquely poised to connect to the multi-lingual immigrant families seeking food and services at the food bank. Kelly is honored to advocate for Asian communities, stating:
“I think Asian clients can connect to me because I am multi-lingual and I also come from an immigrant family, first-generation. And there are not many Asians that are taking social worker jobs due to Asian parent’s expectations of taking high-earning jobs. We don’t have enough social work professionals to educate and advocate for Asian communities.”
“I was born in Hong Kong and spent my childhood there,” continues Chew. “I moved to San Jose as a teenager. Dumplings (Xiao Long Bao) are my all-time favorite dish that reminds me of my childhood and family gatherings. Many Asian families make their own dumplings at home from scratch and make big batches to share with their entire family and neighbors. Having dumplings also means family time in Asian culture.
“I lead the Food Connection team and we’re committed to ending hunger through connecting clients to food resources and community outreach. I’m hoping to give back and make a difference given my B.S. in Clinical Nutrition and social work background.
“I believe food is a universal language. Food is a common ground that brings people together. There are so many times our clients build trust with us by accessing our food programs. Gradually, they share their struggles and we can connect them with other social services.”
One of those clients is Norma. For Norma and her family, they have experienced challenges, setbacks, and financial obstacles that have motivated them to pursue unique solutions in order to survive the COVID-19 crisis.
Norma’s husband is a day laborer, but before the pandemic he was a carpenter’s assistant who built homes. Now he’s out of the house for 12-hour days looking for work as a gardener, but too often he can’t find anything. As a former seamstress, Norma has been able to sell homemade masks that she and her girls make, but it brings in nowhere near enough money to replace the income they’ve lost due to the pandemic.
Norma lives with her husband; two sons, 17 and 2; and two daughters, 13 and 10, in a one-bedroom house. The family has been able to use their garage as additional living space thanks to a dividing wall her husband constructed, but cold nights make it hard for the kids to sleep and study in the makeshift space. Finding room in her house for all her kids to do remote learning has been a challenge.
What offers Norma’s family relief is the food they receive from regular walk-up distributions in San Jose and from resources like CalFresh.
The pandemic has taught Norma a lot about her family and shown her how to be more patient, but she wishes others could understand the struggles of working families. As Norma says, behind every day laborer there is a family.
“CAFB has helped support CalFresh outreach,” states Maria Huerta, Food Connection Senior Manager at Second Harvest, “by providing up-to-date CalFresh policy updates, connecting us to other Bay Area food banks to learn from each other and leverage work, and sharing CalFresh Awareness Month content.” Second Harvest helped 213 clients apply for CalFresh in April this year. During this CalFresh Awareness Month (May), they more than doubled that number to 430!
Images and quotes courtesy Second Harvest of Silicon Valley.