Hunger Doesn’t Take a Break – Please Volunteer

March 13, 2020

Here at the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, we serve some of the most vulnerable people in our community; children, seniors, homebound adults with disabilities, and families struggling to make ends meet. Now, more than ever, it’s critical to get food out to the community. Schools are closing, people are homebound, and many have their work hours cut in the wake of COVID–19.  

At this time, the Food Bank is still fully operational. As indicated in the new public health order that requires residents to stay home except for essential needs, food banks are an essential service similar to a grocery store, and we must continue to work to distribute food out in the community.

The backbone of our operation

We can’t provide food without you. Our volunteers help us pack and distribute over 1 million pounds of food per month! It’s understandable that there are concerns about volunteering at this point. And individuals should consider their own health and well-being before deciding whether or not to volunteer. We are closely monitoring the situation and we are in close contact with the SF Department of Public Health and are following their recommendations. We are reevaluating our operations daily. 

To protect the health of our volunteers, and staff, we have made changes to our warehouse volunteer program, for example, reducing the number of volunteers at each shift and cutting non-essential projects. Right nowwe are only packing senior boxes and grocery bags for delivery to homebound neighbors. We have also stepped up our cleaning and are wiping down all equipment after every shift, and asking all volunteers to keep a reasonable distance from one another while at the warehouse and when possible moving the projects outside. We also have plenty of hand sanitizer and gloves are mandatory for volunteers.

And of course, if any volunteer is feeling unwell, we ask them to stay home.

More need out in the community

Our volunteer needs are ever-changing as we adapt and respond to the challenges COVID-19 presents and determine how to best serve our community. If you are interested in learning about future opportunities in the warehouse and in the community as they arise in response to COVID-19, please, go to our volunteer page to sign up.

Questions? Read our FAQ

Thank you for your support!

PS. If you want to see what it is like to volunteer at our warehouse, press play.

A Letter From Paul | Solutions in Place to Continue to Serve the Community

March 10, 2020

The Food Bank continues to do the day-in and day-out job of making sure vulnerable neighbors get the food they need. Now, we are putting solutions in place, one by one, to be able to continue providing food and helping our community prepare for whatever challenges the Coronavirus (COVID-19) presents.

Sending out extra food

We know there may be disruptions that keep us from delivering food or keep clients from getting to pantries. So we’ve begun purchasing and sending out a few additional pounds of shelf-stable food each week. We are asking clients to set that food aside so they will build up a small surplus in their kitchens to get them through in case they can’t attend a pantry for any reason. Unfortunately, we can’t wait for donations of shelf-stable food, we have to make sure that seniors, families, and homebound neighbors will have what they need now.

Nutritious food is critical to maintaining good health, so in many ways, it is more important than ever to reach people in need. We rely on our 275 pantries to distribute the food, and we know at some point they might have to close. Therefore, we are working on a plan with city officials to identify backup distribution sites. As long as there is no threat to the safety of our staff, we’ll continue to carry out our mission.

Buying cased and prepacked food

We have had a lot of volunteer cancellations lately. It’s understandable. Almost 50% of our volunteers for March have canceled — that is a huge impact on our ability to sort and pack food. To counter that we are spending more to buy our produce cased instead of in bulk and looking to buy some prepackaged rice. The cost is higher, but we need to make sure our distribution is uninterrupted. We need help! To protect the health of our volunteers we are very mindful about spacing between volunteers, we have increased cleaning, and made hand sanitizer available throughout the facility. If you are able, please sign up for a volunteer shift here.

If you or someone you know needs food assistance, we are here to help. Please visit our Food Locator or call 211 for access to our pantry network. If you want to support our mission, please donate here.

With gratitude,
Paul Ash
Executive Director

Celebrating One Million Pound Food Delivery to College Pantries

December 4, 2019

In early November, we hit a milestone of having delivered 1,000,000 pounds of food to pantries at local colleges serving students in need. We celebrated this landmark with a large cake, speeches and a band at San Francisco State University in partnership with Gator Groceries. Every week, the Food Bank serves nearly 1,000 hungry students at five college pantries through partnerships at San Francisco State University, College of Marin, UCSF Parnassus, Dominican University and City College of San Francisco.

Removing obstacles and lower the stigma

The pantries provide food to low-come students who struggle to balance the high costs of education with basic living needs, such as housing and transportation. Eligible students can get free fresh produce and other groceries every week. “By providing food directly on campus, the Food Bank makes it easy for students to pick up food and get back to the hard work of pursuing their education,” said Paul Ash, Executive Director of the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank.

Gator Groceries, a direct response to SFSU students facing food insecurity, provides a weekly pantry and emergency meals and snack twice weekly. “At Gator Groceries, we wanted to lower the stigma and find easy avenues for students to get help,” said Horace Montgomery, Interim Executive Director and founder of the Food Pantry program at SFSU.”

Stretching the food budget

David, a computer science major and a junior at SFSU, is genuinely appreciative of having access to fresh and nutritious food. David works hard at school and in his college community, where he’s a student government board director representing the School of Science and Engineering at SFSU. “A friend told me about the pantry when I was a freshman.”

David lives off-campus, and after paying rent each month, he doesn’t have much money left for food. The pantry helps stretch his food budget. “I love to cook, especially with the fresh vegetables that the pantry provides. My favorites are spaghetti squash and potatoes because they’re both easy to cook and make a warm filling meal.” David wants other students to know how helpful the pantry has been, that is one of the best places on campus and to not be embarrassed if they need help. “The Bay Area has a high cost of living, and many of us need help to live here, there’s no shame in that.” said David.

State Funds Needed for Emergency Food

December 4, 2019

When disaster strikes our communities, our low-income neighbors shoulder the harshest burdens. Disasters have become the new normal across California, and the Food Bank has consistently stepped up to provide vital assistance to communities in need. We were there to help support victims displaced by the Camp Fire, and set up special distributions for Coast Guard families who had been furloughed during the Government Shutdown in January.

Whether disasters are natural (wildfires or earthquakes) or man-made (recent federal shutdown or power outages), we’re on the front lines long after the disaster ends, working to keep Californians well-fed once the smoke clears and the lights come back on.

State support would strengthen food bank disaster response

To date, food banks have stepped up to serve critical food needs with no dedicated state support. In next year’s State Budget, we’re requesting $32 million in one-time funding to improve the disaster resiliency of the state’s emergency food network. This funding will make a critical difference in our ability to respond to disasters, allowing food banks to purchase emergency equipment. This equipment includes back-up generators, fuel tanks, satellite phones and other one-time purchases that build the long-term resilience network to feed people through crises.

Tell Governor Newsom to support food banks

The Governor will release his proposed budget on January 10th. Reach out and ask him to include $32 million to help food banks statewide be better equipped to respond to future disasters:

Donna’s Story | Thanksgiving Won’t Be The Same

November 4, 2019

For many of us, Thanksgiving is a time to spend time with our family and friends and share a wonderful meal filled with gratitude. For Donna, this also when she looks forward to making a delicious feast for her family at her Visitacion Valley home. But this year, Donna didn’t think a celebratory Thanksgiving was looking promising due to a series of heartbreaking events that also left Donna in financial straits.


Last winter, Donna’s eldest son died in a tragic accident, followed four months later by the death of her husband of 53 years, after a long illness. Donna is also not well and struggles with a rare lung disease, all while caring for her youngest son, Maurice. Maurice is on permanent disability resulting from a traumatic brain injury caused by a car crash last year. “It’s been a difficult year, for sure,” she says, fighting back her tears.

Although Donna is coping with these family tragedies and trying to squeak by on her husband’s pension, she’s experiencing the financial pain of San Francisco’s high and rising cost of living. This has made meeting daily needs much harder, and providing a nurturing Thanksgiving meal harder yet.


A bright spot in her week is her Friday visit to get fresh fruits and vegetables at the food pantry at the Visitacion Valley Family Center on Raymond Street. “I really can do a lot with carrots, potatoes, and onions… sometimes I’ll stir fry them, sometimes I bake them,” she says. “The nice part is knowing that the veggies and fruits help keep me and Maurice happy while we deal with our medical issues.”

Her visit also provides an opportunity to chat with the friendly and empathetic volunteers who lend a listening ear and warm support. This year Donna will be able to get some of the food she needs to cook a holiday meal and have a quiet Thanksgiving with her son. Despite the upheaval in her life, she’s very thankful for the food on her table and the loving respite that the day will bring.

To support our pantries and make sure that no one has to go hungry this thanksgiving, please donate here. 

A Thanksgiving Tradition – Food and Caring

November 4, 2019

How do you make Thanksgiving special for the people you care about? Here at the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, preparation for the holiday season begins as early as July to bring much-needed health and comfort to participants and their families.  


We have a long-standing tradition of making sure that every person in need takes home a whole chicken and a variety of holiday trimmings when they visit their neighborhood pantry the week of Thanksgiving. It takes a lot of planning, coordination, and support to make it all happen, but it’s a commitment we love.  

 Angela Wirch, Director of Food Sourcing and Allocation says, “Our biggest Thanksgiving items are whole chickens. We have 32,000 families we need to serve to create a special holiday meal.” Angela and her team get to work as early as July securing holiday favorites that are donated from local farms and manufacturers, and purchasing the rest with donations from supporters like you.   


Fulfilling this holiday commitment takes a community. Each November, volunteers pack and sort ingredients for thousands of holiday meals. Warehouse workers load and unload thousands of pallets to make sure the food is stored safely. Truck drivers carefully navigate tight city streets to deliver the food on time. Agency partners coordinate efforts to distribute the food to people throughout San Francisco and Marin. Many of our agency partners cook large- Thanksgiving meals with turkeys and holiday favorites that they buy at a discounted price from our shop floor.  

Vicky, lives in supportive housing in San Francisco, and she loves getting a whole chicken from the Food Bank for Thanksgiving.  

“Sometimes I roast it, but sometimes I make a curry or fry it,” Vicky says. “I like the cranberries too, and I’ll steam the sweet potatoes. My family gets together for a nice Thanksgiving lunch, and we talk about what we are grateful for.”  

Linda’s Story | The Food Pharmacy Offered a Healthier Life

November 4, 2019

Having healthy food to share with our community doesn’t mean much if people can’t get to it. That’s the idea behind one of our many recent innovations. We work hard to find the best ways to safely transport nutritious foods to people in convenient locations where they don’t have to go out of their way. One of the ways we do that is through our Food Pharmacies. 


Since 2016, we’ve been working with local physicians and health clinics to run our Food Pharmacies. This program helps connect patients — who already see their doctor at these clinics — with free groceries, nutrition education, and CalFresh enrollment (food stamps), as well as classes on healthy food preparation.  

Alicia Hobbs organizes the program at our Silver Avenue site; she emphasizes that food can be medicine, especially for patients with health challenges, such as diabetes and hypertension. “We’re not just introducing patients to healthy food, we’re teaching them how to cook this food in the healthiest way possible. Perhaps most importantly, we’re trying to create a community where these patients feel supported every step of the way.”  


Linda’s health improved significantly since she linked up with a San Francisco-Marin Food Pharmacy. Fifteen years ago, a car crash changed her life forever when both of her ankles were shattered, and her wrist fractured. The damage to her ankles meant she could no longer walk long distances or even stand on her feet for a few minutes at a timeEven after months of physical therapy, she had to retire early from her job at a local bank. Without income from her job, Linda has to live on only a few hundred dollars in SSI funds every month.  

Linda’s doctor suggested she get involved in the Food Bank’s Food Pharmacy program at SouthEast Health Clinic in the Bayview neighborhood. Ever since, she’s had free access to healthy fruits and vegetables as well as health education. Through the program, she learned new ways to prepare certain foods — such as steaming carrots and broccoli to keep more of vitamins intact.  

As a result of her program participation, Linda has lost weight and dropped her blood pressure, “My health hasn’t been this good in years,” she says, and I owe it to those at SouthEast, and the good people at the Food Bank.” 

Rapid Response in Times of Emergencies

November 1, 2019

We usually operate at a fast clip to fulfill the great need for food in San Francisco and Marin. When an emergency hits the greater Bay Area, we step into rapid response high gear like we did during the Kincade Fire and PG&E power outages that affected hundreds of thousands of our neighbors.

Our strong relationships with sister food banks such as the Redwood Empire Food Bank allows us to respond quickly when disaster impedes their ability to provide food. As Paul Ash, our executive director, said, “Our loading dock is your loading dock.” Such was the case during the Kincade Fire when they too had to evacuate. During the fire and outages, and afterward, we were asked to store truckloads of water and food for them. When needed, we’ll also deliver it.

Food Delivery

As members of the Marin Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD), we were on calls as early as Sunday morning. When the fire was in full force with evacuees heading to Marin for safety, we rapidly responded to deliver food. During the week we have packed fruit, snacks, peanut butter, canned meat, crackers, and 100% fruit juice for over 1,800 people housed at evacuation centers, churches, and other places like Lawson’s Landing campground.

The PG&E power outages also compounded food shortages when people’s food spoiled or they weren’t able to cook it. Several of our pantries were without power, as well. To help, we pre-bagged the food, like care packages, filled with shelf-safe protein and other food. We set up three pop-up pantries at PG&E community resource centers in Marin and got the word out via social media.

Emergency Pop-up Pantries

Jillian Tse, a senior program coordinator, was on the ground in Marin City. “We offered peanut butter, canned meat, crackers, fruit cups, soups, and produce. People were very appreciative. Many people said that they had lost their food due to power cuts. Many took extra groceries for neighbors that couldn’t make it. At the end of the day, we had some food left and share it with close-by community partners.” Over a four day period, we increased our delivery to Marin County by 10,000 lbs.

We don’t stop responding once the fires are out and the power is back on. We’ll continue to support evacuation centers across Marin with deliveries and any calls for help by our sister food banks, as long as it’s needed. We know that some people and families continue to need our support, and we’re in it to help for the long run.

If you want to support our disaster relief, donate here. 



Apples in the Pantry, Apples in the Kitchen

October 28, 2019

Right now at our pantries you will get apples as part of the weekly distribution! Red and green – all the colors. They are packed with vitamin C to boost our immune system, and a lot of fiber to keep us feeling full. Eating enough fiber has been shown to keep our hearts healthy too.

So with all this loveliness going out from our pantries, we asked our Nutrition Education team to help us with a couple of apple-based recipes that are easy and fast.

Apple Slaw

Dairy-free | Gluten-free | Low added Sugar | Vegetarian

Serves 4

You’ll need:

  • 2 1/2 apples
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 cups Green cabbage
  • 1 Celery stalk
  • 1/2 cup Red bell pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Sugar
  • 1/4 cup Low-fat mayonnaise


Do like this:

  • Peel and core apples
  • Dice apples and place in a large bowl
  • Squeeze lemon juice over apples to help keep them from darkening
  • Thinly slice cabbage to form thin strips
  • Dice celery and bell pepper
  • Add cabbage, celery, and bell peppers to apples
  • In a small container, mix mayonnaise ad sugar, add to salad
  • Mix
  • Enjoy!


Microwave Fruit Crisp

Photo attribution: My Tu

Dairy-free | Gluten-free | Low added Sugar | Vegan | Vegetarian

Serves 2

You’ll need:

  • 2 cups Diced and sliced fruit
  • 2 tablespoons Soft butter or vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons Brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons Rolled Oates
  • 2 tablespoons Whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons Walnuts, pecans, or almonds


Do like this:

  • Place fruit in a microwave­ safe dish. Use a dish that is wide enough so that the fruit is about 1 inch deep in the bottom
  • In a separate bowl, mix together butter/oil, oats, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nuts
  • Sprinkle the mixture over the fruit
  • Microwave on high 1-5 minutes or until fruit is as tender as you like it. Don’t have a microwave? You can also cook this dish in a regular oven: Bake at 375° F for 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown
  • Enjoy!


You’ll find more recipes and healthy food inspiration on our partner EatFresh’s website