Food Bank Innovations | Learning to Cook Pantry Offerings

June 13, 2019


Do you know how to cook maitake mushrooms? Or how to prepare bok choy? And what’s the difference between acorn squash and spaghetti squash? Our Nutrition Education team answers questions like these at nearly every event they attend.  The idea is to set people up for success through thoughtfully prepared menus.


People like Kamurrah, a retired seamstress and artist living on a fixed income in San Francisco.  She relies on our food pantry at Bayanihan House for much of her weekly groceries. She recently attended a Nutrition Education class at the pantry to learn how to cook some of the food she received recently. “I love the Food Bank,” Kamurrah says, “I have never eaten so well in my life. With the pantry, I try all kinds of fruits and veggies that I’ve never seen before. But I try it, and I’m always getting new foods that I like. There are vegetables that I didn’t even know how to eat, but I learned how because of the Food Bank.”  The classes have expanded her horizons and have empowered her with the skills needed to cook and eat fresh foods she would not have known about or chosen otherwise.


The Food Bank’s food sourcing policy is grounded in the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans: We always include fresh produce, healthy grains, and proteins in every bag or box of food we send into the community. In fact, 60% of the food we distribute is fresh produce. So, it’s essential that we also empower the people we serve by providing information and education to support healthy eating. Our Nutrition Education program does this every day by providing community members with nutrition classes (just like the one at Bayanihan House), recipes, and cooking demonstrations.  We also offer training programs to staff at our nonprofit partners, so they can spread the word about healthy eating and share nutritious recipes for the foods we provide.


A Letter from Paul

February 5, 2019

Over the years, I have seen time and again how much more expensive it is to buy and eat healthy foods. We live in a society that has created a very efficient prepared, packaged, and processed food industry that turns out very cheap and high-calorie products. So for our neighbors constrained by budget, produce, for example, won’t give the same bang for your buck as a fast-food “value meal.”

I’m so proud of the way our Food Bank community has stepped in to bridge this gap and increased access to high-quality food for all. Your generosity enables us to provide plenty of fresh produce in the mix of options that people find in our pantries. In fact, two-thirds of the food we distribute is produce and other high-protein foods, such as dairy and eggs.

Through our Nutrition Education program, we’re ensuring that neighbors know how to prepare healthy meals with the food we provide. We also encourage participants to make healthier choices long-term and offer tips for shopping for nutritious foods on a limited budget.

Our participants know they can count on us week in, and week out — not only for great food, but for the resources and information they need to make great meals. In the same way, the Food Bank relies on our monthly donors who provide consistent support, month after month, all year long.

Our monthly donors are such a gift to us because their consistent support provides the financial security we need to make long-term decisions such as expanding our facility in Marin. If you aren’t a monthly donor already, I encourage you to consider becoming one. All February long, Gilead Sciences, Inc. is generously offering to match all new and increased monthly gifts for a full year, up to a total of $125,000.

This year, with your support and the support of our monthly donors, we look forward to doing even more of what we do best: feeding people.

Thank you for your continued partnership in this work.

With gratitude,

Paul Ash, Executive Director,

San Francisco-Marin Food Bank

A Letter from Paul | Beyond Election Day

November 8, 2018

Now that the election is behind us, there continues to be much work ahead in the fight against hunger. Hunger is a bi-partisan issue, and we at the Food Bank will continue to work with politicians on both sides of the aisle to advocate for programs that provide food assistance and alleviate poverty.

We invite you to join us.  In the coming months, we’ll need your support on key policy issues, including:

  • 1) The Farm Bill, the biggest driver of U.S. food and farming policy, is overdue for reauthorization. We rely on this vital legislation to put food on the table for millions of low-income Americans because it includes funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP,” formerly food stamps and called CalFresh in California). Right now, the House and Senate are working to reconcile their separate versions of the Bill. Some reports indicate that the House will produce a final bill during the lame-duck session, maybe as early as next week.  We will be advocating for a Farm Bill that protects and strengthens SNAP, one of the most efficient and effective solutions to ending hunger and poverty in America.
  • 2) Public Charge: We are alarmed by the Department of Homeland Security’s proposed changes to ‘public charge’ regulations, which would increase hunger and poverty by penalizing immigrants who accept nearly any kind of means-tested public assistance. Participating in programs like CalFresh, Section 8 housing, and Medicaid/Medi-Cal would become reason to deny an immigrant from obtaining lawful permanent residency (a green card) or get admitted to the United States. We don’t believe families should have to choose between putting food on the table and a future in this county. We urge you to help us oppose this proposal by making a public comment before December 10 on the federal register.
  • 3) Able-Bodied Adults without Dependents (ABAWD): Close to 3,000 people in San Francisco are at risk of losing CalFresh (food stamps) benefits on December 1 because a federal waiver for work requirements will expire. As a result, San Franciscans who are between 18 and 49 years old and have no dependents nor disabilities must work at least 80 hours a month to continue receiving CalFresh benefits.  Regardless of how low the rate of unemployment becomes in our counties, we do not believe withdrawing CalFresh benefits will create a better situation for the recipients or for the community.  We are working closely with our community partners to ensure that everyone at risk of losing CalFresh benefits has been notified, screened for an exemption to retain their benefits, and made aware of other food resources/assistance.

Distributing nearly a million pounds of food every week always feels more urgent during November and December – when we strive to ensure that everyone in our community can enjoy the simple pleasure of a festive, nourishing holiday meal. Please know that while we continue to deliver millions of pounds of food to our community, we will also continue to work with lawmakers and advocates to preserve safety-net services for our most vulnerable neighbors. We have the ear of representatives on the local, state and federal level, and we believe that Food For All should be a motto that the entire country adopts.

Get the latest news about how you can help us advocate by subscribing to our monthly eNews and following us on social media.

With gratitude,

Paul Ash, Executive Director, San Francisco-Marin Food Bank


Plant a Seed, Grow a Legacy | Radha Stern & Gary Maxworthy

February 20, 2018

When you enter Gary Maxworthy and Radha Stern’s home, the scent of Radha’s homemade oatmeal-chocolate-chip cookies wafts through the air. If you catch them around mealtime, Radha is likely to offer you lunch.

Food is family, friendship, and community to the couple. They’ve made feeding struggling neighbors their personal mission. Their connection to the Food Bank is so strong that when they got married in 2000, they tied the knot at our San Francisco warehouse.

Food Connects Us

“Food is nurturing,” said Radha, who has been a volunteer fundraiser for the Food Bank for many years. “Whether it’s a hot dog or a gourmet meal, food connects us. It’s the time when people come together. But if you’re hungry, you can’t think, and you can’t succeed.”

Both Gary and Radha have experienced scarcity in their lives. Gary grew up post World War II in England where there were often shortages. Radha grew up in a working-class American family, and she was a single mom in her 20’s, struggling to put food on the table.

The couple met later in life in the food brokerage business. After a successful career, Gary decided to retire in his mid-50’s and devote his life to service. He ended up working at the Food Bank and creating the Farm to Family program.

A Food Revolution

Farm to Family radically changed food banking in the Bay Area, and across the country. Before the program, people received mostly canned and boxed food, but Gary convinced farmers to donate their extra produce. Today, the majority of what the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank distributes is fresh fruits and vegetables.

“I’m so proud of the fact that we are able to provide people with healthy, nutritious food both with Farm to Family and the work Radha has done,” said Gary. “Our small ideas have turned into something.”

Full Circle | A Volunteer’s Perspective

November 16, 2017

Barbara Elliott caught herself chuckling the other day as she was breaking down food boxes inside St. Dominic’s Catholic Church in San Francisco’s Lower Pac Heights. It was Monday morning and the longtime parishioner was volunteering her time at the food pantry in the downstairs community room.

“I’m laughing because I recently volunteered at the Food Bank’s warehouse, and my job there was to build the food boxes… here I am now, tearing them down!”

Indeed, the 74-year-old Elliott has come full circle. She has seen how the food comes into our warehouse and how it’s packed for distribution and is also intimately aware of where it goes — into the hands of our neighbors in need.


Elliott is one of 40,000 volunteers who gave their time this year to help the Food Bank in its mission to end hunger in San Francisco and Marin. That’s the equivalent of 70 full-time employees, and every last person is needed to distribute just over 48 million pounds this year. “There is absolutely no way we could move that much food and feed that many people if we didn’t have volunteers like Barbara, willing to give up a few hours of their time each week, to pack food, hand out food, and do it with a smile,” says Food Bank Community Engagement Manager, Cody Jang.

A volunteer shift is fast-paced and exciting. Many of our warehouse shifts involve boxing up thousands of pounds of fruits or vegetables. Sometimes our volunteers are tasked with repacking rice into family-friendly one-pound bags. Every volunteer leaves knowing just how much they packed or sorted, and how much of an impact it will make on the community later that week.

You can count Elliott as a believer.  “I really enjoyed my volunteer shift in the warehouse, but find it much more rewarding to see the smile on people’s faces when they receive these fresh groceries every week at my pantry.”

If you’d like to donate your time at one of the two Food Bank warehouses, please sign up here.

Making Thanksgiving Possible | A Community Comes Together

November 14, 2017

Thanksgiving is our busiest time of year at the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, and it takes thousands of people to pull it off. From dedicated volunteers to pantry coordinators to community partners to generous supporters like you, distributing a special holiday menu for thousands of Food Bank participants is truly a team effort.

Your support helps the Food Bank serve our 253 neighborhood pantries and 200 community partners across San Francisco and Marin. Every organization that distributes food supplied by the Food Bank makes a big difference in the lives they touch— whether they provide fresh groceries so our neighbors in need can prepare traditional Thanksgiving meals to enjoy with their loved ones at home, or prepare holiday feasts for participants with turkey and all the fixings.


In November, the Food Bank will provide local agencies like GLIDE Memorial Church and St. Anthony’s with ingredients to cook large-scale meals for our neighbors. On Thanksgiving, your support helps us send GLIDE 40,000 pounds of food to feed 5,000 of our hungry neighbors—many of whom are homeless or without family.

More than 500 volunteers lend a hand, and every guest receives a helping of turkey and ham, as well as the traditional sides of stuffing, mashed potatoes, and green beans.

“I’m in the shelter and without this, I probably wouldn’t be eating this Thanksgiving,” said a guest named Kittridge. “Here, you are treated like a guest, and it’s beautiful.”


The Food Bank will provide over 30,000 families who visit neighborhood food pantries with Thanksgiving ingredients to make a special meal at home with their loved ones. One of our participants, Martin who attends the Treasure Island Homeless Development Initiative, a supportive-housing center.

Martin’s family is part of a close-knit community of about 75 people who attend the weekly pantry. There, people not only pick up food, but they catch up and check in with their neighbors. “The Food Bank gives us a whole chicken,” says Martin. “It’s perfect because our oven is too small for a big turkey. We are so thankful.”

“Many of our pantry participants have disabilities,” says Sherryl Hairston, pantry coordinator. “They tell us all the time how much they appreciate this food. And, we can see it in their faces.”


With increased need over the holidays, there’s never a better time to support the Food Bank. Click here to make a contribution that will help provide warm meals to our neighbors in need.


Feeding the Programs that Feed the People

July 12, 2017

Did you know that almost 10% of the food we distribute each year reaches neighbors in need through meal programs? The Food Bank provides ingredients to more than 200 local nonprofits who host soup kitchens or provide home-delivered meals.

In 2017, we are on track to provide four million pounds of food to meal programs throughout San Francisco and Marin. By purchasing ingredients in bulk and gathering millions of pounds of donated produce, the Food Bank provides high-quality, nutritious food to our partners.

We work directly with farmers, packers, manufacturers and retailers, sourcing fresh ingredients for partners such as Glide, Meals on Wheels, St. Anthony’s Dining Room, and St. Vincent de Paul, among others.

“The Food Bank is the foundation of the Bay Area’s food assistance network,” said Ashley McCumber, executive director of Meals on Wheels San Francisco. “We rely on the Food Bank as a primary source for fresh, healthy produce for our home-delivered meals and groceries. Thanks to our partnership with the Food Bank, we are able to nourish thousands of low-income seniors across San Francisco. Together, we are a formidable force to end senior hunger and isolation.”

Meet Vivienne Flesher and Ward Shumaker | Members of the Breadwinners Circle

June 29, 2017

Artists Vivienne Flesher and Ward Shumaker have achieved international acclaim, exhibiting their art around the world. Through it all, they remain rooted in our community.

Thirty years ago, Ward purchased a charming, century-old house two blocks from the Food Bank. “I remember when the warehouse was built,” he said. “We’ve enjoyed watching the neighborhood change, and the addition of the warehouse made us doubly happy.”

Ward and Vivienne made their first gift to the Food Bank in 1995 and have supported our work over many years. Their generosity stems from a strong belief that everyone should have food, clothing, and a roof over their heads. For Ward, tithing was part of his Nebraska upbringing. Vivienne weaves philanthropy into daily life — when going out, she often brings warm clothing to give to homeless neighbors.

Wishing to get more involved, Vivienne recently offered pro-bono photography to the Food Bank. We jumped at the opportunity. She spent a morning at San Francisco State University, where we help low-income students enroll in CalFresh (formerly food stamps). We also provide free groceries on campus every week.

Rather than hide behind her camera, Vivienne talked with students, listened to their stories, and captured their essence with photographs — some are on this page.

“The kids were so warm and willing to share,” she said. “It broke my heart to see them struggling, and it was so moving to be able to help. It was an honor to photograph them.”

We are grateful for Breadwinners like Vivienne and Ward, who feel a personal responsibility to ensure everyone in our community has enough to eat.

Click here to find out how you can get involved!

Shelley’s Story | “So Much Love”

February 22, 2017

Shelley is a teacher at the YMCA, which recently recognized her as Employee of the Year. She is a pillar of strength in our community, and we treasure her volunteer service. You might recognize her from our ad campaign around the city.

“They call me the Bread Lady because I’m often the one distributing the loaves of bread at the Casa de Barro food pantry in San Francisco. Sometimes someone will ask for a second loaf because they have kids to feed, and it breaks my heart because I have four children of my own.

I first got involved with the Food Bank because one day I was riding the bus, and it stopped at the Casa de Barro Church. I saw a long line of people, and when I asked what was happening, someone told me they were providing free food.

I wasn’t working at the time, so I returned the following week to receive food. The way I was treated there touched my heart so much that I knew I wanted to be a part of this group. One man took my bag of food and helped me down the stairs and someone else held my hand. There was so much love.

So I asked to volunteer. Ever since then, I’ve been coming almost every Saturday for almost eight years. Through volunteering, I’ve discovered another side of myself: how compassionate and loving I can be. The food pantry allows me to reach out to others, and it feels really good to be of service.

Meeting people has always been a big part of my life, and volunteering has opened me up to whole new group of people.  At Casa de Barro, we have social gatherings and share each other’s cultures. We swap recipes, share each other’s food, and I’ve even picked up some Spanish. For me, the pantry is a loving place where I can help care for others and I get so much love and appreciation in return.”