Where to find a Thanksgiving meal in San Jose
San Jose resident Grisleda Campos loads fresh food and pantry items into her car after collecting a Thanksgiving food box from Sacred Heart Community Service on Nov. 22, 2022. Photo by Joseph Geha.

    While Santa Clara County residents may be celebrating the holiday season, with some of the worst effects of the pandemic fading from view, thousands are still facing hunger and financial insecurity across the expensive region.

    Nonprofit organizations, centers of faith and other community groups are expanding efforts to meet the growing needs of people across San Jose and Silicon Valley. For those who need a bit of help, several outposts are offering holiday-themed hot meal distributions or boxes of food to help more people celebrate Thanksgiving.

    Officials say the need for supportive services is rising, as lingering effects from the pandemic affect job security, while inflation and the high cost of everyday essentials like gas and food have increased the burden on many families.

    On a crisp and sunny Tuesday morning in San Jose, an army of workers and volunteers gathered at Sacred Heart Community Service to help package and dole out boxes of turkeys, carrots, potatoes, fruit, milk, pantry staples and canned foods.

    “We live in a society where the consequences for not having money are very harsh,” spokesperson Demone Carter told San José Spotlight. “From our perspective, providing services like these are a way of showing dignity, compassion and respect.”

    Sacred Heart Community Service staff member Bernadette Mendoza and 16-year-old volunteers Jovan Johnpeter and Ayush Shah load carrots into plastic bags. Photo by Joseph Geha.

    The community services provider has been doing regular food distribution, including special holiday programs during Thanksgiving and Christmas, for nearly six decades, Carter said.

    A wide array of people, young and old alike, moved through lines at Sacred Heart at 1381 S. First St. to check in and receive food, clothing or both.

    Griselda Campos, 43 of San Jose, picked up a box of food for her family of eight, including her five children and two of her older daughters’ boyfriends. She was babysitting her twin eight-month-old nephews, tucked warmly into a double stroller. She comes to Sacred Heart to get food about twice a month to help feed her family.

    “I haven’t been working for about the last year,” Campos told San José Spotlight. “This is at least a little help. Turkey is very expensive right now and we want to have one for Thanksgiving.”

    Campos was working as a nanny for a family, but the children’s parents began working at home because of the pandemic, and they let her go. She’s taking child development classes at a community college and plans to open her own child care business.

    She said the food offered by Sacred Heart helps while money is tight, and she hopes others who need assistance will come to get food for their families.

    “We have to have this. Even if there is a huge line, I have to make it,” she said.

    Grisleda Campos of San Jose takes a call after collecting a Thanksgiving food box from Sacred Heart Community Service. Photo by Joseph Geha.

    Hunger is real in Santa Clara County

    Hermán, 45, recently immigrated to San Jose from Colombia. He declined to give his last name. Speaking through a translator, Hermán said the food services are helpful for him, as he just got hired as a restaurant dishwasher but hasn’t had many shifts yet.

    He declined a turkey because he already has one for a planned Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends, but picked up other items including lentils, raisins and nuts.

    “It’s that extra help to fill in the food gap,” Hermán told San José Spotlight.

    Dozens of people wait in line for food at Sacred Heart Community Service in San Jose on Nov. 22, 2022. Photo by Joseph Geha.

    Hunger and poverty persist as a major issue in Santa Clara County, especially among vulnerable groups such as homeless people and students. One in three children are at risk of facing food insecurity, according to food bank Second Harvest Silicon Valley. Loaves & Fishes Family Kitchen is feeding 1.5 million people annually throughout Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. Martha’s Kitchen is providing 100,000 hot meals a month in San Jose.

    Ling Chu-Luk, 71 of San Jose, is retired and comes to Sacred Heart a few times a month to get boxes of food. She’s planning to celebrate Thanksgiving with relatives and friends, and picked up a turkey along with other fresh foods Tuesday.

    Speaking through a translator, she said she has a limited income and the services are helpful for her and several of her friends who also come to Sacred Heart to collect food.

    Volunteers Suzanne Boozer and Ananya Pal load apples onto a sorting table. Photo by Joseph Geha.

    Officials at other organizations say the services are more needed than ever, with layered economic pressures including inflation and layoffs making an already expensive region more difficult to live in.

    “Something has to give, and they have to make impossible decisions of putting food on the table or putting gas in the car,” Gisela Bushey, CEO of Loaves and Fishes, told San José Spotlight.

    Carter, of Sacred Heart, said the need for help and crop of people willing to volunteer tend to increase during the holiday season. The nonprofit uses these events to encourage people to shift their thinking about helping others year round.

    “What we hope to do with this program, by bringing together so many community members, is to show people that poverty has a face, and these people are your neighbors,” Carter said.

    Carter hopes people can shift their perspective on the region’s need.

    “We can change the way that we are with each other,” he said. “We can change our ideas and attitudes about poverty when we stop looking at it as statistics and numbers, or as a burden, and say that ‘Hey, there is something going on in our community and it’s our collective responsibility to come together and address it.’”

    Contact Joseph Geha at [email protected] or @josephgeha16 on Twitter. 

    When and where to find Thanksgiving food and meal services

    Sacred Heart Community Service

    Thanksgiving food box distribution

    1381 S. First St. in San Jose

    Residents must register as a member to receive food.

    Wednesday: 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

    Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County

    Drive-through grocery boxes and hot meals distribution

    Tuesday: Our Lady Of Refuge Church
    2165 Lucretia Ave. in San Jose
    5-7 p.m.

    Wednesday: St. John Vianney Parish
    4600 Hyland Ave. in San Jose
    2-4 p.m.

    Loaves and Fishes Family Kitchen

    To-go boxes of hot Thanksgiving style meals

    Monday through Friday at two locations

    Goodwill Industries
    1080 N. Seventh St. in San Jose
    3:30-4:30 p.m.

    San Jose Vietnamese Seventh Day Adventist Church
    1066 S. Second St. in San Jose
    3:30-4:30 p.m.

    Distribution of a la carte meals
    Various locations five days a week
    See website for a calendar of schedule

    Martha’s Kitchen

    Hot to-go Thanksgiving-style meal distribution

    311 Willow St. in San Jose

    Tuesday and Wednesday

    4-5 p.m.

    Opening Doors 2020

    Food distribution

    Corner of E St. James and Second Street in San Jose

    Wednesday: 12-1 p.m.

    Second Harvest of Silicon Valley food locator tool

    Click the link above to find food distribution services near you in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties

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