Marin Independent Journal: Food pantries, nonprofits gear up to feed Marin's hungry on Thanksgiving
Reposted from the Marin Independent Journal
Written by Megan Hansen
Article originally published by the Marin Independent Journal, Nov. 24, 2013
View the original story here >>
More working poor families in Marin than last year will receive food to prepare traditional Thanksgiving meals thanks to the San Francisco and Marin Food Banks, as well as other local nonprofits.
The San Francisco Food Bank, which merged with the Marin Food Bank last year, plans to distribute 149,217 pounds of food for Thanksgiving through its network of 40 food pantries — a 14 percent increase in food from last year. More than 4,000 households in Marin are expected to participate in the distribution.
Paul Ash, executive director for the San Francisco and Marin Food Banks, said the Food Banks are in need of monetary contributions to help pay for the large quantities of food.
"There's been a bit of a let down since the end of the recession. A lot of donors have a sense that since the stock market is at an all-time high, that not as many people need the food bank. But we haven't seen a change in people coming to the food bank," Ash said. "More and more, we're seeing the working poor."
A study the food bank sponsored in 2010, with the Stanford Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality, found that low-income individuals living in Marin are missing an average of seven meals each week.
Ash said for Thanksgiving, each family served will receive a frozen chicken, fresh seasonal produce, rice and beans and a special dessert as part of the holiday distribution. He said they've discovered chickens are a better option than turkeys.
"Over the years, we've found a lot of families don't have the ability to fix a turkey or it's too much food," Ash said.
One of the agencies that distribute food from the Food Bank in Marin is the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Marin County, which operates a free dining room at 820 B St. in San Rafael. The free dining room is one of 21 programs in Marin receiving turkeys and other food from the Food Bank to prepare large-scale Thanksgiving meals.
The dining room will be serving a free turkey dinner from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving, in addition to a hot breakfast from 7 to 8:30 a.m.
Jay Karutz, St. Vincent de Paul dining room manager, said the dining room anticipates serving about 500 lunchtime meals on Thanksgiving.
"We'll cook about 40 turkeys and do all of the trimmings," Karutz said. "The Food Bank gives us probably about 80 percent of what we serve."
St. Vincent de Paul makes about 700 meals a day, including a hot breakfast and a bagged lunch, serving about 300 people. The dining room is open from 6:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. every day, year round.
Karutz said the dining room has enough turkeys for the holiday season, but could use donations of other meats like chicken, frozen ground turkey, ham, bacon and pork. He said monetary donations are also welcomed to help buy necessities like cooking oil.
Donated food collected at San Domenico School is placed in barrels in San Anselmo, Calif. on Friday, Nov. 22, 2013. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal) Alan Dep
He said the dining room typically doesn't serve dinner, but is hoping to expand its services to hold a dinner service for working poor families on the third Wednesday of every month. The dining room has put on two trial dinners, which garnered about 20 to 30 people, but the goal is to expand the dinner program maybe to once a week.
"We know the families are out there that need this service," Karutz said.
A few blocks away, the Ritter Center in San Rafael plans to give out 150 frozen turkeys and other special side dishes this Thanksgiving. The turkeys were donated by local schools, churches and public safety officers. Ritter Center operates a food pantry, stocked by the Food Banks, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, at 16 Ritter St.
"There's a lot of need out there. We sign up the first 150 people and after that people can get food from our food pantry," said Benjamin Leroi, deputy director of Ritter Center. "The Thanksgiving distribution is based on what we can store here, and we do this on top of our other year-round programs."
The Salvation Army, located at 351 Mission Ave. in San Rafael, will distribute about 350 boxed Thanksgiving dinners and turkeys from 9 a.m. to noon Monday. The boxes will be filled with frozen turkeys, all the canned trimmings and pie.
Salvation Army Lt. Anna Williams said the organization handed out 300 boxes last year.
"We did increase this year and the need gets larger. We have about 25 families on the waiting list right now," Williams said. "It's been really hard to turn people away."
All of the organizations said they serve needy families year round and encourage people to remember them for volunteer and giving opportunities once the winter holidays have passed.
Ash said volunteers will be needed at the Food Banks in January and February.
"We're not a holiday organization," Ash said. "We really want people to remember the work we're doing all year."
How to Help
Donations of nonperishable food items for the San Francisco and Marin Food Banks can be dropped off at local grocery stores that have Food Bank collection barrels. Turkeys should be delivered to the Marin Food Bank at 75 Digital Drive in Novato, 8:30 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday. Cash donations can be made online at www.sffoodbank.org/donate.