Holiday Fund: Helping families cope with the economySubmitted by Poppy Pembroke, communications manager, Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties.
Recently, 18-month-old Marcus and his parents, Thomas and Andrea, toured the San Jose warehouse of Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties, where they met with CEO Kathy Jackson.
The young family told how they have been hard-hit by the downturn in the economy. Formerly employed, Thomas is now a stay-at-home dad looking for work, and Andrea takes as many hours as she can at the women's clothing store, where she is employed — although, often, her part-time hours are cut down to just a couple a day.
"A few hours here and there at $8.50 an hour just isn't enough," she says. "Without the food assistance, life would be very hard. We wouldn't be able to eat."
Currently, they reside with Andrea's grandfather, but the money they save is not enough to pay the bills and buy the food they need. Thomas said that he and Andrea have often had to go without meals so Marcus has enough.
"We first went to Sacred Heart [one of the Food Bank's partner agencies] when Marcus was 3 months old. We got great food and winter clothes — it all means a lot to us," Andrea says.
Thomas and Andrea are now signed up for the Food Bank's Family Harvest program, and are waiting for their Food Stamp application to go through.
While watching Marcus during the day, Thomas looks for work to help break the cycle of poverty in which he and Andrea grew up in.
"I was doing an internship for four months and there was supposed to be permanent employment after the training was over, but the job opportunity just didn't happen," Thomas recounted, explaining how county budget cuts affected the outcome of the internship. "The time I spent in training is good for my resume, but I could have been looking for a job instead."
Thomas and Andrea are dedicated to setting a positive example for Marcus and their community. Thomas is often asked by older family members to "preach to the kids," as he says, about how he was able to turn his life around at the age of 17. For Thomas, every day is another opportunity to be a great dad, and the impact of that shows in his son's gregarious spirit.
We're so thankful to have met Thomas, Andrea and little Marcus. It helps us put a face on what local hunger-and hope-looks like.
More than 231,000 people received food every month last year through Second Harvest's extensive food distribution network, each with their own story.
This holiday season, the numbers of those reaching out for help continue to rise, and are expected to grow to over a quarter million per month.
Visit SHFB.org for more information. Donations to the Holiday Fund benefit Second Harvest Food Bank and nine other community-service organizations.