Catching neighbors who fall through the gap | January 25, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - January 25, 2013

Catching neighbors who fall through the gap

Neighborhood food drives help residents in need through hard times

by Sue Dremann

A Palo Alto neighborhood group is working to turn a holiday food drive for needy neighbors into a monthly grocery giveaway. Neighbors Helping Neighbors, a volunteer group in Midtown, plans to work with schools and other groups to provide not just canned foods but to target specific nutritional needs not generally taken care of in other food programs. Volunteers hope to kick off the program on Feb. 2 at El Carmelo Elementary School.

Caryll-Lynn Taylor, a leader of Midtown Court Neighbors and Friends, said she became aware of the the growing need as part of the City of Palo Alto's Family Resources Ambassador Program. There are families who don't qualify for safety-net programs.

"So many neighbors were being turned away because their income level was too high, but yet they were unable to pay for their basic needs," she said.

A greater number of people are finding themselves in need as rents have risen in the improving economy, she said.

"They said, 'What do I do now? I'm in crisis,'" Taylor recalled of the residents she's spoken to.

Food is critical to helping people move out of their financial dilemmas, Taylor said.

"When we feed families, we begin to have stable households when these families are fortified nutritionally."

Dr. Lars Osterberg, co-director of the Stanford School of Medicine's Arbor Free Clinic in Menlo Park, agreed. The problem isn't so much a lack of food as it is one of a nutritionally deficient diet, he said.

"We see a lot of patients who rely on food services in the area. However, a lot of it is cheap food that is high in carbohydrates and promotes diabetes and high cholesterol," he said.

A clinic study several years ago screened people at food-service centers. Many clients had cardiovascular disease, he said. Factors such as smoking and substance abuse contributed to the problem, but food choices and lack of availability exacerbate health problems, he said. Among immigrant populations that are not used to American diets, cheap fast food and refined sugar are creating more heart disease and diabetes, he said.

Osterberg and Taylor discussed how to strategically provide a balanced diet.

"We'd love to see more of that," he said, praising the group's focus on high-fiber and fresh foods.

Taylor said the idea for a food drive came after seeing a notice in the Palo Verde neighborhood newsletter. She contacted the food-drive leader, Jana Baxter, about how to set up one for her neighborhood. The outreach led to serving 62 households. Among them, there were 12 seniors and 39 children. Some residents have disabilities, she said.

Taylor spoke to the food recipients and learned that some had specific dietary restrictions. Several seniors also said they had been diagnosed with anemia. Taylor started thinking about how to supplement their nutrition.

For the holiday food drive, the group received cash to purchase fresh fruit, vegetables and meats. Volunteers put together a menu and wish list of iron-rich foods such as frozen spinach and beef liver. They added edamame (soybeans), frozen and dried lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans and other foods to supplement diets. Eighteen families received holiday pork roasts, she said.

"We were extremely mindful of not providing packaged foods," Taylor said.

Local stores also chipped in, offering items at or below cost, and in some cases, even for free.

There was enough food for a week of breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert and snacks, Taylor said.

One 48-year-old recipient who lives in Midtown said the groceries have helped greatly.

The mother of three asked that her name not be published. She and her children all have food allergies, and she cannot eat canned and processed foods because preservatives trigger intense migraines, she said. One of her sons may be developing diabetes.

The mother, who is disabled, reached a financial crisis last year after a substantial rent increase, she said. The groceries arrived at a critical time.

"I couldn't use my credit card anymore. I was using that to shop," she said.

The food donations fit her challenging family needs, she added.

"It's well-rounded. It's not a bunch of pasta and canned foods."

Taylor said Neighbors Helping Neighbors harkens back to a time when helping those in need was a given within communities.

"I remember my grandmother telling me about having a strong community." she said of the generations of farmers from which she is descended.

"When neighbors were in trouble, neighbors came to their aid before anyone asked. There was no shame in needing help. There was none of this business of coming on the sly — of 'I don't want my neighbors to know,'" she said.

Neighbors Helping Neighbors food drives are being coordinated through Caryll-Lynn Taylor, who can be reached at

Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be emailed at


Posted by Caryll-Lynn Taylor, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 29, 2013 at 6:01 am


RE: 2012 1st Annual Food Drive Results & New Activity for 2013, "Monthly Food Collection" Events
"A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." MARGARET MEAD

We did it together, we attained our lofty food goal for our first annual food drive!
Through the committed determination of some close neighbors, grocers and other Palo Alto & Mtn View residents we provided the following to 50 "gap households" in Midtown & Palo Alto. Seven days of breakfast, lunch, snacks/desserts and dinner.

Plus, we provided our 12 seniors with high iron & folic fortiified foods. After learning that two of those seniors were told by their doctors that they had anemia and needed to add more iron fortified foods to their diets.
Remember these 50 "neighbors in need" now called our "gap households" are not receiving benefit of 'safety net' programs. Except two seniors. By the 6th of our 8 week food drive, our 50 gap households grew to 65.

NEW ACTIVITY, "Monthly Food Collection" Events

Many of our core team, volunteers and neighbors asked during the food drive, "how will our neighbors in need (gap households) get food after they eat the weeks worth of groceries we are giving to them?"

All I could say was "let's stay focused on achieving this food goal first." I just didn't have an answer at that point.
Now, we have given careful thought to our next step to help our "neighbors in need" on-going.
Unlike our annual food drive (Oct 15 - Dec 12, 2013) which is an elaborate effort with food collection barrels at Palo Alto retail businesses. We will collaborate with schools, groups and organizations for food collection.

Our "Neighbors Helping Neighbors" Volunteers will gather once per month on the first Saturday (March - Aug.) to sort, bag and pass out grocery bags.

The volunteers from schools, groups, backyard gardners/orchards/chickens and organizations will bring food they have collected to our monthly 'Food Collection Site' on the first Sat of the month for our sorters & baggers to prepare to give to "neighbors in need".

Our new goal and focus will center on a "Wish List of Foods". Besides fulfilling the needs of our "gap households" and nutritional needs of local food closet recipients. PLEASE CONTACT US, for complete list of needed foods.

RESIDENTS, may bring fresh, frozen, canned & packaged foods to our drop off site, first Sat of month; 02/02, 03/02, 04/06, 05/04, 6/01, 7/06 & 8/03.

VOLUNTEERS, 30 min to 1 hour,
If you can spare one hour btwn 10am - 1pm on the first Sat. of the month, you pick a month or commit to several months. Contact us.

If you know of a group or organization who is having or willing to organize a food drive to collect our wish list foods, contact us asap.

Stay tuned, program outline and wish list coming.
A pilot date of Feb. 02 w/El Carmelo School being our first "food drive" to sign up. March 6th will be our formal start date.

Caryll-Lynn Taylor
"Neighbors Helping Neighbors" Mo. Food Collection Committee Chair

Posted by MidtownCourt.Neighbors & Friends, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 29, 2013 at 8:24 am

WE NEED HELP OF AFEW GOOD SOULS - Volunteer Shifts 1 hour

"Neighbors Helping Neighbors", Monthly Food Collection, there's a roles and small task to fit anyones busy schedule;

FOOD SORTERs, shift 10 AM - 11 AM, during this shift, we will sort food by type shift

FOOD BAGGERs 11 AM - NOON, during this shift, we will put foods in grocery bags to be ready for our neighbors from our "gap households" to pick up. We will also label and prepare extra "wish list" foods to be delivered to a local food closet.

GROCERY BAG Give-A-Ways shift NOON - 1 PM, Sorters & Baggers, will give filled bags of groceries to neighbors who have be asked to pick up their food.

DRIVERs' shift 12:30 PM - 1 PM. At about 12:30 pm, we will load up extra foods to be delivered to local food closet.

"FOOD DROP OFF LOCATION" MIDTOWN CENTER Next to Wells Fargo ATM 2700 Midtown Court, Middlefield Rd turn east Colorado Ave. @ Midtown Court

Please contact us if you can spare 30 minutes to 1 hour between 10am to 1pm.

Posted by Too Many, a resident of Professorville
on Jan 30, 2013 at 5:13 pm

Too many people who are needy do not fit the criteria of low income or very low income, but because their middle income is spread so thin, they are hurting. Living somewhere less expensive usually means a long, arduous commute, which is costly in time and money. It usually also means a substandard education for their kids, as well as more hours in daycare. Don't even get started on the pollution commuting causes.

So what is a middle income person, that is someone making under 150K per family of four supposed to do? Do what we do. Eat all meals at home. No movies, no parties, neither given nor attended. No Xmas for anyone over 18 years of age. No birthdays for same. No vacation longer than three days in length. Take vacation pay in lieu of two weeks off. Drink water, not juice, milk, or soft drinks, or even cheap wine. Lots of PB&Js and canned tuna. Frozen or canned veggies. No fruit. No desserts other than yogurt.

Then, be glad your kids are getting a good education so they can one day live better. Stay hungry and lean so you can keep on striving. And, BTW, no hobbies, because you need the time for that extra job on the side.

Posted by Neighbors Helping Neighbors, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 14, 2013 at 2:17 pm

                           NEIGHBORS HELPING NEIGHBORS
                        3/02 FOOD DROP OFF EVENT RESULTS

RE: Falling to short of our goal. Our seniors, singles, moms, dads & kids will go hungry this month!

Dear Friends Neighbors & Volunteers,

       Since we organized the annual food drive in Oct. 2012 and on-going 2013 Monthly Food Collection program this will be the first month we did not meet our goal of one week (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks & dessert) for our gap households. Nor were we able to give wish list items to our selected food closet.
      It's with a very sad heart, I am making this plea for your help. A majority of our neighbors will go hungry.
      Have you ever gone a week without food? How about 2 or 3 weeks?
A majority of our neighbors (65 gap households) rely on the one week of groceries we give them. Many anixously call me the week before their scheduled delivery time to be sure their groceries are coming.

      PLEASE, Spread the Word, give everyone you know our Program Outline with "Wish List" of food needed. Printed flyers upon request.

                     ANOTHER PLEA - "Calling for Volunteers"

      It takes a minumum of 10 people each month to complete all the tasks needed to assemble, collect, organize, fill grocery bags, store & deliver seven days of breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and dessert for each of our gap households.
                     CONTACT -
We can not do this with one or two people. Please make a commitment to either work a one hour shift @ the monthly drop off station, 4/06, 5/04, 6/01, 7/06 or 8/03. Shift start @ 10am to 1pm.
Or ask what small tasks are needed during the week days...


Posted by Neighbors Helping Neighbors, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 30, 2013 at 10:08 am

Dear Neighbors & Friends,
                                          What We Do:
We are a group of volunteers striving to provide groceries to Palo Alto families, seniors and singles who are unable to qualify for 'safety net' programs like Cal Fresh (formally food stamps) or food closet assistance. However, extra food items collected are given to local food closets. Also, our City of Palo Alto Family Resources trained volunteer provides peer counseling and referrals for other life's challenges (housing, healthcare, professional counseling, legal issues, etc.) for those who may need extra help.
Here's an update: Sat. Aug. 3rd Food Programs Celebration, Midtown Center
10am to 1pm
The fun continues Sat. Sept. 14 SV Tour de Coop, 9am to 4pm, NHN volunteers
will act as greeters, attendants and provide some refreshments at some Palo Alto stops.
And Annual Food Drive, Oct. 14th - Dec. 14th, join our elist or like us on facebook for drop off locations. or

Posted by Neighbors Helping Neighbors, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 24, 2013 at 3:45 am

Hello, here's an update from Neighbors Helping Neighbors (NHNl,

Like us on facebook, click this link,
Web Link

Our volunteers had a blast staffing coop stops at Sept, 14, 2013 Silicon Valley Tour de Coop. We made so many new friends, learned about keeping chickens, ducks and bee hives. Generous, coopsters, gardeners and beekeepers gave us some of their bounty for our neighbors in need. And we added them to our "Backyard Egg & Produce" Program, so we hope to receive on-going bounty from our new friends.

Enthusiasm is running high in anticipation of some upcoming NHN EVENTS, Oct.
5th and Nov. 2, "CRV Container Drop Off", all CRV containers received will be redeemed to benefit NHN programs like 'gym memberships' for unhoused and 'motel stays'. Then, our anual Food Drive begins Oct. 14th, like us on Facebook for details...

We would like to thank the community for your on-going support & generosity. Recently, some helped to provide a 'motel stay', 8/31 to 9/12/13 during a heat wave
for an 86 year old on dialysis and senior wife who had been living in their vehicle. This couple are still displaced and need a quite safe place to dwell. Please contact us to see what you can do to help NHN assist these 'most vulnerable' folks and others like them who have fallen through the gaps, laps and cracks of soocial service ans 'safety net' programs,

Sincelerly, NHN Volunteers

Posted by bless, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 24, 2013 at 10:07 am

Thank you for helping our community.

May (your) God(s) bless you.

The congress members that voted to cut food stamps will have to face their Diety some day and have a lot of 'splaining to do...

"If you don't want your tax dollars to help the poor, then STOP saying that you want a country based on Christian Values, because you don't..!"

Posted by Neighbors Helping Neighbors, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 4, 2014 at 9:43 am

Hello All,
It's 2014, soon to be 2015...
Neighbor Helping Neighbors has evolved. Please check out our face book page to see many activities that benefit our neighbors.

We are so grateful for your help. Our effort to keep our middle to low income neighbors just would not be possible without the generosity of those who contribute.

If you would like to know more or want to contribute, contact us.

Click these link to read story:
Web Link

Palo Alto Online Palo Alto Weekly Article: Catching neighbors who fall through the gap (January 25, 2013)
Web Link

Like us on face book to get more details on our programs, services and upcoming events.
Click this link for more details on our Face Book page,
Web Link

Click this hyperlink Click on the heading "Community Partners"
scroll to "Non-Profits"
Phone: 650-283-0270 (No Texting, please)
P.O. BOX 113
Palo Alto, CA 94302

Posted by Neighbors Helping Neighbors, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 6, 2015 at 8:41 am

Dear Friends and Neighbors.
Neighbors Helping Neighbors has evolved since this article was first published Jan 2013. In 2015, we sever many more clients.
Learn more about us,

Learn more about us:
Web Link
Web Link
Web Link

NHN Events Calendar: Web Link

NHN primarily serve middle income households who too often do not qualify for 'safety net' programs because of their income. NHN has no income requirement. All programs and services are free.
If you know of anyone who needs extra support Basic Needs-Jobs-Housing, NHN is happy to help. Contact Us:

For general info.
650-283-0270 (No Texting, please)
P.O. BOX 113
Palo Alto, CA 94302
NHN Events Calendar: Web Link
​We may not have all the solutions. NHN will do our best to fill the gaps.

Peer Counseling Team
​Phone: 650-283-0270 (No Texting, please)
Striving to keep our middle to low income neighbors stable & thriving.

Phone: 650-283-0270
Ask for "Relocation Packet". Best possible outcomes happen when you go prepared. Complete 'NHN Relocation Package'
include ​rental application, credit bureau, proof of income and make copies. When in doubt, or presented w/a barrier, ASK. We are here to help...

Home Sharing Program -
Housing Coordinator
Landlord Inquires – Room Rentals/other rentals.

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