Braving the chilly weather on an early Tuesday afternoon, hundreds of San Jose residents filtered through the Sacred Heart community center on South First Street to receive food boxes for Thanksgiving dinners.
“This is our 57th year giving out food boxes to the community,” Demone Carter, community engagement director at Sacred Heart, told San José Spotlight. “There’s a great need in the community, and we’re happy to do this to brighten up people’s holidays.”
Sacred Heart is among several nonprofit organizations and churches stepping up to make sure local families won’t go hungry this Thanksgiving. Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, food insecurity has become one of the biggest challenges in the area. According to the Silicon Valley Pain Index, an annual report conducted by the San Jose State University Human Rights Institute, the number of families in the South Bay who were food insecure grew almost four times during the pandemic.
For Terri Dunkin and her 8-year-old son Jabralter Jones, coming to Sacred Heart during Thanksgiving time for a food box is a tradition. The annual event has been a lifeline, especially when her family experienced homelessness several years ago.
“We have been coming for years,” Dunkin told San José Spotlight. “I’m just so grateful for such programs, and we’re just looking forward to all the treats. I’m excited that I’ll have a place to cook with (my son).”
The mother-son duo will celebrate the holiday with Dunkin’s best friend, who is older and isn’t able to cook for herself, Dunkin said.
“It will be a traditional meal with turkey and stuffing,” she said.
Sacred Heart hopes to distribute 4,000 food boxes this year, Carter said. Each box, valuing at roughly $100, includes fresh produce, canned food and a meat option of a turkey, ham or chicken. The organization partners with Second Harvest of Silicon Valley and relies on donations from residents.
Thuy Le, donning a light purple jacket and a bucket hat, also waited in line Tuesday for a Thanksgiving food box. This was her first time coming to Sacred Heart.
“I’m so excited for the fresh produce,” Le, 62, told San José Spotlight in Vietnamese. “I’m very thankful for this program.”
Le also picked a turkey for her box and filled her utility shopping cart with vegetables, cooking oil and some snacks. She gave the rest of the canned food back to Sacred Heart.
“Every little bit help,” she said. “Right now everything is so expensive, you know?”
Sacred Heart is also delivering food boxes to residents who can’t travel to the community center, said the organization’s coordinator Alejandro Gonzalez. The event relies heavily on volunteers, he added. On Tuesday, approximately 200 people—old and young—showed up to manage the line, pack up food boxes and handle donations.
“I couldn’t come last year because of COVID,” Art Parraz, who started volunteering at the event five years ago, told San José Spotlight. “It feels great to be back here.”
Residents are required to sign up to be a Sacred Heart member to receive a box. The three-day food distribution event ends on Wednesday.
Contact Tran Nguyen at [email protected] or follow @nguyenntrann on Twitter.
Thanksgiving food distribution and dinners
Thanksgiving food box distribution from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 1381 S. 1st St. in San Jose. Residents must register to be a member to receive food.
Food distribution from 9 a.m. to noon at 2315 Canoas Garden Ave. in San Jose. Residents must bring their IDs and a utility bill with their name and address.
To-go lunch at noon. The event at 359 N. 4th St. in San Jose.
Food distribution from 2-4 p.m. at 4600 Hyland Ave. in San Jose.
Free to-go hot meals from 3:30-4:30 p.m. at 1080 N. 7th St. in San Jose.
Free hot meals from 4-5 p.m. at 311 Willow St. in San Jose.
Free to-go hot meals from 4:30-5:30 p.m. at the Vietnamese Seventh Day Adventist Church at 1066 S. 2nd St. in San Jose.
Free hot meal in to-go containers from 4-5 p.m. at 580 Charles St. in San Jose.
Annual Thanksgiving dinner from 3-4:30 p.m. at the Vietnamese Seventh Day Adventist Church at 1066 S. 2nd St. in San Jose.
Free to-go hot meals at 4:30-5:30 p.m. at the Vietnamese Seventh Day Adventist Church at 1066 S. 2nd St. in San Jose.