Hunger FAQs

  • 1 - What do you mean by "hunger"?

    “Hunger” manifests itself as a consistent lack of enough food to meet basic nutritional requirements. It can mean fewer meals each day and poor-quality food that is calorie-rich but nutrient-poor. “Food insecurity,” another term to describe food need, differs slightly and means anxiety about one’s ability to obtain enough food to meet nutritional requirements.

    We use a common benchmark – 185% of the federal poverty level -- to calculate how many people are likely to need help obtaining enough food. Very often, these families lack the resources to provide enough food to consistently nourish themselves.
    For a family of three, 185% of the federal poverty level means having an annual income of no more than $35,317 – a number that does not take into account the high cost of living in the Bay Area.  At that income level, families are eligible for some public assistance programs, like the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program and reduced-price school meals, but to qualify for CalFresh (food stamps) and free school meals, a family’s income must be far less.
    In San Francisco and Marin, 1 in 4 people faces the threat of hunger on any given day.
  • 2 - Who is hungry? Are they all homeless?

    Hunger frequently strikes the most vulnerable people in our communities, such as children and seniors who do not have access to enough food to meet their nutritional needs on a regular basis.

    Our homeless population represents 14% of those who are receiving food through our network of agency partners, often relying on the hot meal programs every day. 
  • 3 - Do people need to qualify to receive food from the Food Bank?

    It’s important to us that anyone experiencing need is able to access food supplies. Feelings of shame or embarrassment can prevent people from accessing the food they need. That's why most of our programs only require very basic information at the door.

    The exception is the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, a governmental program that is administered by the Food Bank. Participants in that program must verify residency in San Francisco or Marin and submit proof that their income is below a federally determined level.
  • 4 - How can so many people be hungry in San Francisco and Marin?

    Eligibility standards for many government benefits are set at the federal level, without taking into account that the local cost of living is considerably higher than the national average. Many lower-income residents of San Francisco and Marin find they earn too much to receive benefits, but not enough to get by without assistance.

    For example, in order to qualify for CalFresh (food stamps), you must make less than 130% of the federal poverty level. Currently, that is $24,817 for a family of three. And at that income level, families may only be eligible for the minimum monthly benefit of $14.
  • 5 - What’s being done on a governmental level to change the situation?

    Not enough. The need for assistance has never been greater, yet current Congressional proposals would cut food stamp benefits dramatically, resulting in a loss of critical assistance for hundreds of thousands of families nationwide. Please visit our Advocacy Section to learn more about how we are working to strengthen anti-hunger public policies and programs.


  • 6 - How can I help?

    None of what we do to end hunger in San Francisco and Marin is possible without your support. When you donate to the Food Bank and tell your friends about the work you support, you’re making a vital investment in your community.

    Make a gift to provide food to people in need.
    Start a Food & Fund Drive with a team of coworkers or friends.
    Volunteer and help us pack food at our warehouses.