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Food Bank helps cancer survivor stay healthy

Glenda baking a cake

Former city worker. Caregiver. Cancer survivor. Once homeless. Food pantry client.

These words map out the life of Glenda Robinzine, a 65-year-old woman who bakes for her neighbors and now lives in social service housing. 

A Long Way from Home
Originally from Chicago, Glenda moved to San Francisco to take care of her aunt, who suffered from Alzheimer’s.  After acting as caregiver for 16 years, Glenda found herself put out on the street.

“When she passed, her son wanted me to pay $1,600 in rent and all the utilities,” Glenda said. “I couldn’t do it, so he evicted me.”

The timing couldn’t have been worse. Glenda was receiving treatment for cancer of the mandible.

“If I hadn’t had the cancer, I could have been working,” she explained. “I worked all my life. I always had city and county jobs.”

Back in Chicago, Glenda worked as an administrative assistant for police department and worked in the state attorney’s office for Richard Daley before he became mayor.

“I had to give up everything to come out here and take care of my auntie,” Glenda said.

Cancer and Homelessness
Without family support in the city, Glenda stayed in shelters, rode the bus and slept on the couch of a lady at her church – anything to stay off the streets.

Glenda’s cancer made the situation all the more dire.

“I was wearing 300 milligrams of morphine on my back and my doctor was worried. I couldn’t be in the heat or it could kill me or the cold, because it could kill me, too.”

A social worker intervened and found Glenda the last spot at Mosaica Family and Senior Apartments, a mixed income housing complex managed by the Tenderloin Development Corporation.

The single room apartment, with full kitchen and a private bathroom, was heaven compared to the shelters. And the apartments came with an additional surprise – a weekly food pantry with food provided by the Food Bank.

Help from the Food Bank
While at the shelter, Glenda had received weekly groceries from her church, Mt. Enon, which also received a distribution from the Food Bank. It was like coming home.

“I’ve been dependent on the Food Bank before I got here,” Glenda said. “It’s been really helpful. I couldn’t make it without it."

“Oh my goodness, every week we get eggs or meat and that lasts me the week. Every day, I can have breakfast.

“They give me everything I need. Eggs, banana, fruit, bread, milk, cereal. You can make your meals out of what you get down there. There’s carrots, cabbage, potatoes. You can do so much with potatoes!”

And then there’s the cake mix.

Glenda enjoys baking for her downstairs neighbor, who is on oxygen and can’t cook for herself. In fact, Glenda enjoys baking for just about everyone in her life – her doctor, her pharmacist, her neighbors and children celebrating birthdays at her church.

She uses the oil and eggs she receives from the Mosaica pantry to make cakes, brownies and cookies. The Food Bank holiday distribution even included fresh pecans, and those go into special candies.

“It’s my way of saying thank you,” Glenda said.