Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo counties and a group of high-level tech executives launched this month a "Stand Up for Kids" campaign with the goal of helping to feed the one in three children in Silicon Valley who struggles with hunger.
Second Harvest, which serves almost 100,000 children each month, partners with more than 330 nonprofit agencies to provide food at more than 770 sites, including schools, after-school programs, pantries, soup kitchens and shelters.
The "Stand Up for Kids" campaign with a fundraising goal of $5 million will, in particular, support the organization's school-based efforts. Second Harvest distributes food through 13 "just-in-time" school pantries in East Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Redwood City and a total of 40 school pantry sites throughout Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.
"When most people think of Silicon Valley, they think about technology and innovation, not hunger," said Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who is co-chairing the "Stand Up for Kids" campaign with several other high-level representatives from the tech industry. "But there is real hunger in our neighborhoods, including the working families that are struggling to make ends meet. It's our responsibility to make sure Second Harvest has the resources it needs to provide food to all of these families. No child should ever go hungry."
Through a new partnership with the Ravenswood City School District, Second Harvest began last November to offer a twice-monthly food distribution at Costaño Elementary School in East Palo Alto for families from the district's eight schools. It's a true community collaboration, with most of the people who come to pick up food staying to volunteer throughout the day, Ravenswood Superintendent Gloria Hernandez-Goff told the Weekly.
Home Depot in East Palo Alto also contributes 30 carts to help carry the food, Hernandez-Goff said. Local middle and high school students serve as "runners," helping elderly people and others load up their carts. The school district also provides a shuttle -- as long as people can get there, it will take them home, Hernandez-Goff said.
"We did it (the distribution) because we saw a need but it is such a community builder," she added. "That's an unforeseen outcome."
Second Harvest also purchased a freezer and refrigerator so the district can store food on-site at its office and soon it will have a standing pantry so it can provide emergency food to local families in between the set distribution times.
Hernandez-Goff said the district heard from many parents who were not eating themselves so they could feed their children, or calling on minimum days to find out whether or not their children would still get lunch at school.
"It relieves a lot of stress," Hernandez-Goff said of the Second Harvest food distribution, "and it's good for the kids because they're able to focus more on school. Everything we do is -- what can we do so that the children, when they come to school, they can focus on learning?"
Second Harvest is also working with Fair Oaks Elementary School in Redwood City, where every member of the student population qualifies for free lunch, according to Second Harvest. The organization began distributing food there twice a month last November and later purchased freezers and coolers so the school can store food on-site. A standing pantry should open there at the end of April, according to Second Harvest.
Studies show that children who don't get enough to eat often suffer emotional and physical effects that can hamper their ability to do well in school and succeed later in life, according to a Second Harvest press release. Hunger has also been linked with delayed development and learning difficulties. Children who struggle with hunger are also at higher risk for health complications, as well as behavioral issues, anxiety and mood swings, according to the release.
"We know education is a key to success, but hunger can make it difficult for kids to concentrate and learn," Second Harvest CEO Kathy Jackson stated in the release. "The headlines tell us the economy is booming here in Silicon Valley, but we are not seeing a decline in the number of hungry kids."
The new campaign is co-chaired by Sandberg, SurveyMonkey CEO Dave Goldberg, eBay CEO John Donahoe, Human Rights Watch Director of Global Affairs Eileen Donahoe, Facebook Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer and Erin Hoffmann, a technologist.
The fundraising campaign will allow Second Harvest to expand on its current level of services and invest in pilot programs and "new innovative efforts that have the potential to reach more children than ever before," the press release reads. Increased funding could mean providing another school an on-site pantry or nutrition education, connecting families to additional food resources in their neighborhood or federal programs such as CalFresh.
"We are expanding our work with local schools and community organizations to strengthen the nutritional safety-net for kids and families," Jackson said. "That could mean investing in our nonprofit partners so they can increase their capacity to provide food in their local neighborhoods and creating strategic collaborations to ensure that kids can eat, during the school year and throughout the summer months. Hunger can deprive kids of a good education and the opportunity to pursue their dreams. We have to stand up for these kids."