August Agency Spotlight: Church of Nazarene Soup Kitchen

Margot and volunteer Mike shopping at the food bank.
Margot and volunteer Mike shopping at the food bank.

Often we only adopt a negative perspective of the Pajaro River levee, seeing it as a dangerous place where people with addictions or mental health problems get stuck. But Margot Loehr and Arlene Betz see it differently. By reaching out to the community at the levee and they have seen that the people there are no different from you or I, they just took one bad turn, or got dealt a bad hand. That’s why every week day morning at eight-thirty Margot and Arlene and a few volunteers are at the river levee serving a hot meal from their mobile kitchen.

They begin cooking at six in the morning, five days a week, in the Church of Nazarene kitchen. Then, they bring the food to the levee, set up a make-shift buffet, and serve breakfast to as many as 60 people a day. The numbers rise in the winter when fewer people have work. Arlene has been doing it for over five years, Margot for around 4 years.

With the help of several volunteers, Margot and Arlene have helped the soup kitchen grow to form a regular community. “It’s an ongoing process. Over the years that we’ve been doing it we’ve seen a marked change in the people and their attitude toward us,” Margot says. “I think it matters to them that we’re not getting paid to be there–we’re just people who care enough to get up every day of the week to cook, because we care about them.”

Margot and Arlene serve soup every day, along with an occasional salad, cooked vegetables, meat, milk and cereal. Nearly all of the food they make is from Second Harvest, and since they have a very minimal budget, they usually only pick up the free food at the food bank. The day I came to visit, they were serving bagels with goat cheese that they scored for free from the food bank. Margot says, “Without the food bank, we would go under immediately. What we do purchase is through the food bank, mainly through grants we get from them.”

By cooking and serving healthy food at the levee, Margot and Arlene are able to bring together people who might not have eaten for several days. Margot believes that this community, centered around food, helps people at the levee get back on their feet. Having a hearty meal in the morning can sustain someone for the rest of the day. “The first step toward solving problems is to develop community,” says Margot. “There’s got to be involvement on a personal level, one-to-one.”

Margot and Arlene see these successes when the group at the river levee changes. Some clients are able to get housing and move on. “I have to tell you,” Margot says one day as she is shopping in the distribution center. “I believe in Second Harvest as an institution. They reach out to the community, and it’s about the people…people helping people. I feel honored to be a part of a place like Second Harvest.”

August Nutrition Notes: Water and Health


Water forms two-thirds of our body weight. Out body depends on it. Water is part of every cell and organ in our body. It helps to keep temperature normal. It lubricates our joints, it removes wastes through perspiration, urination, and bowel movement, and it protects delicate tissues such as the spinal cord. Drinking enough water every day is important for our health. Here are some suggestions to keep yourself hydrated. Feel free to print out this hand out for clients:

Making Better Beverage Choices

Nuestros cuerpos dependen del agua que tomamos, ya que forma dos tercios del peso de nuestro cuerpo. El agua es parte de cada célula y órgano en nuestro cuerpo. Ayuda a mantener la temperatura normal. Lubrica las coyunturas, y quita el desecho por medio de la respiración el orín y por evacuación intestinal y protege los tejidos delicados tales como el de la espina dorsal. El tomar suficiente agua cada día es importante para nuestra salud. Aquí hay algunas sugerencias para mantenerse hidratado. Se puede dar estos consejos a sus clientes:

Seleccionar sus bebidas saludablemente

Annie’s Farewell Letter

Annie 2

Dear Second Harvest Food Bank Member Agencies,

At the end of July, my time here at the food bank will come to a close, as my program will be ending, and I will move on to a new job. In the wake of my departure, I would like to say thank you to all of you for a wonderful year. There are so many wonderful things about the food bank, and the most wonderful by far was meeting all of you. Getting to interact with you in the distribution center during shopping, or when I came to visit your sites, was the greatest gift I have received all year. You are the ones who work on the front lines in the fight against hunger. Your gracious efforts to promote nutrition and stop hunger in the community are truly humbling. You model true selflessness, unwavering courage, and remarkable integrity, a light that often goes unrecognized, but that is, needless to say, essential to the future of our community. When I see you show up day-to-day to cook for people who have not eaten in a few days, or to spend the day with clients that have health issues, or to provide a healthy grocery bag for a family in need, I recognize that people like you are rare in the world, and I aspire to be half as giving of my time and energy as you all are.

Each agency has brought me a new perspective, because each of you is unique in your way of problem solving and change. I hope that each of you will continue in the work that you are accomplishing, conscious of what nutritious food can do for people. An interest in food is something we all share, and the most important thing you can do is introduce someone to a new type of food that might improve their health, and ultimately improve their quality of life. So check out a few boxes of chard or kale instead of pastries—give your clients a recipe so they know what to do with it. It might just change their lives.

Once again, thank you, thank you, thank you, for sharing your knowledge and your busy schedules with me this year. I am so blessed to have worked alongside you all. I will carry this experience with me for the rest of my life. I wish all the best for you!

Queridas agencias del banco de comida,

Al fin de Julio, mi tiempo aquí en el banco de comida va a terminar, porque mi programa de Americorps se acabará. Quiero decir muchas gracias a ustedes por un año magnifico. Mi memoria más bonita del banco de comida es conocer a ustedes. Platicar y pasar tiempo con ustedes mientras compraban comida en el banco, o cuando yo visitaba sus sitios, era el regalo más importante que he recibido en todo el año. Ustedes están en frente de la guerra contra el hambre. Sus esfuerzos de promover nutrición y parar el hambre en la comunidad son increíbles. Ustedes tienen corazones de oro y valor invencible. Todos esos esfuerzos muchas veces no se reconocen, pero es esencial para el futuro de nuestra comunidad. Cuando les veo a ustedes cocinando diariamente para los que no han comido por tres días, o pasando el día con clientes que tienen mala salud, o llevando una bolsa de comidas nutritivas a una familia pobre, me doy cuenta de que ustedes son individuales preciosos. Espero que yo pueda tener solo mitad del corazón que tienen ustedes.

Cada agencia me ha mostrado nuevo perspectivo, y cada uno de ustedes tiene sus propias resoluciones para problemas. Espero que cada uno de ustedes siga en sus logros, mientras se dan cuenta de la importancia de comida nutritiva. Todos compartimos el entendimiento de nutrición, y lo más importante es continuar introduciendo nuevos tipos de comida que mejoran la salud de la gente que sirven ustedes. Al fin, esto puede mejorar su calidad de vida. Lleven algunas cajas de col rizada del banco de comida en vez de galletas y den a los clientes una receta para que sepan cómo usarla. Ustedes tienen el poder de cambiar las vidas de sus clientes!

Una vez más, gracias, gracias, gracias para compartir sus conocimientos y sus rutinas ocupadas conmigo este ano. Estoy muy afortunada haber trabajar al lado de ustedes. Voy a llevar esta experiencia conmigo por el resto de mi vida. Espero lo mejor para todos de ustedes!

July Agency Spotlight: Santa Cruz AIDS Project

This story was contributed by our Communications Manager here at Second Harvest, Vicki Lowell:

Santa Cruz AIDS Project (SCAP) serves men, women and children who are HIV positive living in Santa Cruz County. Their mission is to promote and participate in a comprehensive and compassionate response to HIV and AIDS through education, advocacy, and supportive services.

“There are still people living with HIV and AIDS and there is no cure,” says Jessica Donahue, a Case Manager at SCAP. “We use outreach and events to educate people that this is still a current issue and to reduce the stigma.”

With offices in Santa Cruz and Watsonville, SCAP currently has approximately 250 clients. In addition to counseling and advocacy, they provide a small on-site food pantry that clients may access once a week.

Volunteers help keep the pantry in order.
Volunteers help keep the pantry in order.

“Many of the clients we serve fall under federal poverty levels and rely on our food pantry to either supplement the cost of groceries, or as their primary source of food,” Jessica explains. “Nutrient rich food is important to people with HIV/AIDS because it helps keep one’s immune system strong to better fight disease.”

Clients may access the pantry once a week, filling a bag with one of each item for themselves and their families. The majority of the food comes from Second Harvest; they also receive produce from the Homeless Garden Project.

Jessica says in addition to the produce, clients appreciate staples such as rice, beans, cereal and milk. “The spices, condiments, salad dressings and oils we receive from Second Harvest’s food drives are also popular because these items are expensive to purchase at the grocery store.”

“I have been so happy being able to use local produce to stay fed and healthy,” says one SCAP client. “Thanks for the great produce.”

SCAP relies heavily on volunteers and support from the community. One of their largest fund raising events is the Surf City AIDS Ride that takes place on September 21st. All proceeds benefit the Santa Cruz Aids Project. Registration for the event is now open.

Santa Cruz Aids Project 2


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