Food insecurity. The phrase sounds so academic, even clinical – like something you’d read in a public policy journal or a New York Time article describing an NGO’s efforts in developing countries. It’s simple to understand as an abstraction, and harder to give a human face to it. And in a community blessed by prosperity, it’s seemingly unthinkable as a challenge facing your neighbor, the family in the pew behind you at church, and countless others who find themselves in a position they never imagined.

It turns out food insecurity doesn’t care about your ability to visualize its impact. It lurks in the shadows anyway, silently looming over many who may not even identify with it as a descriptor. Young families stretching to make ends meet in the Bay Area and suddenly buried in a mountain of medical bills from an unexpected health crisis. A working professional in transition with a sudden loss in income, but with bills that still arrive monthly like clockwork. “Boomers” who saw their 401(k) plummet in the Great Recession and are now on a fixed income and grappling with relentless increases in cost of living.

Most of us have never had to make the difficult choice of skipping a meal or slashing our grocery budget to make a mortgage payment or pay for a car repair. Food, like so many blessings in our lives, is easily taken for granted. Growing up in a catering family, our refrigerator was often overflowing with leftovers from the prior weekend’s weddings or retirement parties. “Seriously, Dad?! Prime rib and broccoli au gratin again?!” Food was ever-present and plentiful in my youth, and I had the great fortune of never having to know any different.

After joining the board of Open Heart Kitchen, I was struck by the number of people that told me their personal stories of food insecurity from their youth, many of whom grew up right here in the Bay Area. These stories came from now wildly successful professionals and peers – lawyers, accountants, PR executives, and CEOs. Though different in origin, their narratives were shockingly similar. For a family struggling to make ends meet because a life event brought hardship, missed meals and periods of hunger, temporary relief from an organization just like Open Heart Kitchen eases their burden. Relief from hunger is all made possible through the generosity of strangers.

I’m no longer surprised when I hear these stories, and they can come from the most unexpected places. These stories are often told with a visceral intensity, always with the experience of food insecurity having shaped the narrator in some way and ultimately with a deep sense of gratitude for the generosity of those who give to the cause and the organizations that fill the gap in the moment of greatest need for their neighbors.

This giving season, I am grateful for the incredible staff and volunteers of Open Heart Kitchen, and their endless devotion to bridge the gap of food insecurity, and with a love and empathy that demonstrates our community at its very best. We are blessed with an incredible network of people dedicated to carrying out our mission of feeding the hungry of the Tri-Valley.

I am equally grateful for you, our neighbors and generous supporters, who provide the means for us to change lives in our community. The work of Open Heart Kitchen is only made possible through the generosity of our donors, and no matter the size of the gift, your contribution can make a difference right in your own backyard. Thank you for your partnering with us, and for continuing to give generously and help get our neighbors back on their feet at the moment they need it most.



Justin Gagnon
Board President, 2019-2020
Open Heart Kitchen Board of Directors

Categories: Blog