A Letter From Paul Ash | In Community

June 4, 2020

Ten days ago, we thought that healing from the Coronavirus pandemic was the paramount issue and job at hand – maybe of our time. Today we know that we have even greater and far-reaching healing to do around issues of justice and race that will not wait for a vaccine or a cure and must have our attention now.  These times call for all of us to be focused on the work of challenging injustice and championing humanity.

We believe that having enough food to eat is a basic and foundational building block in the pyramid of justice, and we strive to bring nutritious food to everyone.

Income inequality

And there is another curve that must be flattened and then reversed – the 50-year march upward of the curve that measures income inequality. People of color are over-represented on the low end of the curve and experience the brunt of inequality daily. All of our institutions must be examined to root out ingrained policies and practices that keep people of color from succeeding. And the sharp edges of capitalism must be softened with policies that ensure fairness, access, and opportunity.


Please know that the Food Bank remains committed to getting food to those who need it. As long as it is safe for our staff, volunteers, and participants, our pantries will remain open to all.

Thank you for joining with us to fight to end hunger, and with it the fight for greater equity and justice in our communities.

With Gratitude,
Paul Ash
Executive Director

Partner Spotlight: Q&A with Casey Federico

May 13, 2020

When schools closed in March, parents and caregivers were immediately left figuring out how to balance work, childcare, and homeschooling their children. For the families who relied on the Food Bank every week, there was an added layer of stress – where would they get their groceries? Prior to shelter-in-place, many families could pick up the fresh groceries at their school pantry during drop-off or pick-up. Across San Francisco and Marin, school closures caused 46 of the Food Bank’s Healthy Children food pantries to stop their weekly distributions 

One such pantry was at Dolores Huerta Elementary School in San Francisco’s Mission District. When the school closed teachers and staff quickly worked to identify and contact families to let them know where they could access foodEven with new available pop-up pantries opening nearby, with vulnerable relatives at home, some families could not attend nearby Pop-up pantries. The school’s Family Liaison, Nataly Terrazas; Elementary Advisor, Luis García; School Social Worker, Sarah Volk, and school parent and pantry coordinator, Casey Federico quickly sprang into action matching families who couldn’t leave their house with volunteers who could pick up and deliver food to them. They now have 30 volunteers who trade off delivering to 13 families.  

Last week we caught up with Casey to learn more about what is happening in their community

(This conversation was edited for length and clarity.) 

Food Bank: How did you start partnering with us and what have you been doing since the start of the pandemic?   

Casey FedericoAt Dolores Huerta, which is both of my daughters’ elementary school, there was an established food pantry every Monday morning. Another parent had coordinated it before me, but their son graduated, so I took on the job of being the pantry coordinator this fall. Even before shelter-in-place, we were seeing a huge expansion in need for the pantry. We grew from a 50person pantry last year to a 70- or 80-person pantry in November.  

When the shelter-in-place happened, I was in communication with Edith, our neighborhood representative from the Food Bank, and knew everything was shifting. At the same time, I was getting all these texts and messages from families at the school saying, ‘we are about to be out of food’ There were lots of different challenging situations. And so, from discussions with the school team – Sarah, Luis, and Nataly – we found out who couldn’t leave their home for whatever reason and identified 12 families who needed food delivered. We started with a group of volunteers –families who did have transportation and could go to a food pantry and pick up a box and then deliver it to those people’s homes.  

Our School Social Worker, Sarah Volk, is such an inspiration. She was just so careful and thoughtful about confidentiality. Sarah asked families who they’d be okay being paired with, because to have someone know you are receiving food from the Food Bank and then know where you live, that is a big deal. She was just super thoughtful about that and got everybody’s permission all along the line. 

FB: What are you hearing from people in the community now? 

CF: I’m still hearing a lot of people saying, you know, we got this [food], but it isn’t really enough. That is the hard reality. So many families that are part of our community are hospitality workers, etc.  

Another amazing thing that happened is one of our teachers, her fiancé owns a restaurant and every time somebody from the community buys a meal in his restaurant, Toma, he’s donating a meal to a family in need. He’s also delivering meals. So, families are getting additional support from that too.  

But what I just heard from Sarah last week, is just the numbers are increasing so much. So, we are talking about how to meet new needs. It’s really challenging. 

FB: Do you talk to the families you deliver to? How are they doing?  

CF: One thing that’s been really good, is a lot of relationships have been built between the families who are delivering and the families who are receiving. I know everybody’s been sending texts like, I’m going to drop it off. They text, I got it, thank you.  

There’s also been some specific communication around needing health items like toothpaste and soap and tampons, and that kind of stuff. A few volunteers who have the capacity have also been sharing those types of items with families. Many of the families who are delivering are also out of work or running low on food themselves.  

FB: We see this too, it’s incredible how many of our volunteers say, ‘oh yeah, I’m out of work right now and so I have free time and I’m going to do this.’ 

CF: I know, it just takes my breath away. One of the women who is helping deliver said ‘oh yeah, we both lost our jobs last week, but this is just so important, it’s the one trip I have purpose around. I have to do this.’  

FB: Is there anything else that you wanted to share about the experience? 

CF: I think the one thing that the Food Bank really does is bring together a community of people. Almost everybody who volunteered at the weekly food pantry at Dolores Huerta is also receiving a box of food. And so, I think our, our community of folks who really view themselves as part of the system were ready to jump in. The group of parents who help us to set up, fold up boxes, and do all that kind of stuff are really jumping up again to help out, which is cool. 

That sort of friendly, joyful mood that was at our Monday morning pantry translates over and made people feel comfortable to be both asking and giving. I’m so proud to be part of this community! 


Elisabeth’s Story | Delivering Food to Homebound Seniors

April 30, 2020

Food Bank delivers food to 11K seniors 

Elisabeth Fall is a freelance photographer who regularly shoots for the Food Bank. Since the pandemic, she’s lost most of her business. But that hasn’t deterred her from helping others. 

Twice a week, she loads up her car with 15 bags of groceries and delivers them to seniors as part of our brand-new Pantry at Home program. It’s a temporary service making sure that the Food Bank’s participants who are over 65 years old get food during this crisis. 

“It’s sobering to think how long this crisis will go on,” said Elisabeth. “But I’m spending my new free time doing something I’ve wanted to do for years: volunteer for the Food Bank.” 

“One thing that I love about delivering groceries is that I feel like I have a purpose, and it deflects energy away from my own underemployment to think about the people around me. It’s such a gift.” 

A fleet of volunteers and partners 

With the help of volunteers and partners – including, OnFleet, Amazon, Cruise, Uber Eats, and DoorDash – we’ve been able to completely shift our distribution model almost overnight. Now our most vulnerable participants can still receive groceries while they are protecting their health by sheltering in place.  

Each and every day a tireless group of volunteers and county disaster service workers pack 1,200-1,500 bags of groceries under a giant tent in our warehouse parking lot. The tent has become an extension of our warehouse – giving volunteers the space they need to social distance, while still packing up fruits and vegetables, protein, grain and other nonperishables.  

As the bags are being packed, drives from our fleet of volunteers and partners arrive continuously throughout the day. They back up to our curb on Pennsylvania Ave., check in with a curbside volunteer or staffer and start loading up their cars with 15-20 bags or boxes packed and ready for delivery throughout San Francisco. 


A thank you smile  

When Elisabeth makes her rounds throughout the city, she is often joined by her daughter. Together, they knock on doors, put the groceries down, and stand back six feet. 

“We are always met with smiles when folks open their doors, and they are always so appreciative – which is a bonus. It’s nice to have contact with people, even for a minute from six feet away with masks on,” said Elisabeth. 

“When the chips are down – and these are tough times for so many – volunteering is eight hours of my week helping people connect to food, and food is love. So, it’s a good feeling.” 

We all hope that the crisis will pass soon, and that active seniors can go back to visiting their regular neighborhood pantries. But until then, the Food Bank’s temporary Pantry at Home program will be here for our seniors 

If you are interested in volunteering, sign up here. 

Thank You to Our Volunteers and Partners

April 9, 2020

We are all coping and adapting to the new realities of the global COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on our livesWe are learning to balance uncertainty and social isolation along with the increasingly challenging practical realities of everyday life 

At the Food Bank, we have always known that it takes a strong fabric of community to address hunger in the Bay Area. And as ripple effects of COVID-19 are felt, we have been especially inspired by all the ways – great and small – that our community is coming together to support each other. 

Volunteers Stepping Up

Week in and week out we see countless individual volunteers and partners come out to haul and pack 30-pound bags of potatoes, oranges, onions, and other groceries. Manylike Nate Fahey, who came to Bessie Carmichael Elementary School with his church last week, just want to help the community during these difficult times. “Right now, there is a little extra emphasis on giving back when we can,” said Fahey.  

“An hour or two of your life could really help anyone in need right now,” he went on to say. “It doesn’t take much for us to help others.”  

Not just individuals are stepping up. We’ve received an outpouring of support from partners and community groups – even county workers from the library system – to fill the gaps. They are driving trucks, packing boxes, and delivering groceries to the homebound. Many of these groups, like United Playaz and West Bay, are stepping up without being asked 

Working Together in Solidarity 

After hearing about a need to reach more homebound seniors in their community, United Playaz decided to work with the food bank to deliver food. “We provide the muscle, the leg power, and the energy. And we go out and do it,” said Randy Corpuz Jr., Executive director of United Playaz

These volunteers pick up groceries, pack up their cars, walk stairs and knock on doors to make contactless deliveries every week. 

It’s hard work. And still, they do it. 

“During this crisis, these are the times that you have to stand for something that is greater than you,” said Corpuz. “What a greater way than to work with the food bank who provides those services.” 

The Food Bank extends a big, heartfelt thank you to all the partners and volunteers who are standing arm in arm with us on the front lines of this pandemic. We couldn’t do it without you! 

Partner Spotlight 

In honor of the volunteer appreciation month, we will be celebrating and spotlighting our amazing community partners and volunteers throughout the month of April. Each week, we will publish one Partner Spotlight, and we will be sharing more from our wonderful volunteers and partners on social media throughout the month. Check back soon! 

In the meantime, if you want to help please sign up to volunteer here

A First of Its Kind: Drive-through Pantry

April 1, 2020

“It was a logistics miracle,” said Barbara Abbott, Vice President of Supply Chain at the Food Bank, beaming as she walked out of the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank’s San Rafael warehouse on Saturday afternoon.

Abbott and her team had just finished the Food Bank’s first-ever drive-through food pantry. And somehow, besides the rainy weather, the event went off without a hitch.

From the moment the pantry opened at 9:45 a.m. until it closed a little after 2 p.m., staff and volunteers loaded 30-pound boxes into cars. The length of the line waxed and waned – at some points even wrapping around the building – but the flow of cars remained steady throughout the day. By the end, we had served more than 600 households – 100 more than expected.

Necessity: The Mother of Invention

The setup was designed to promote social distancing – something none of us considered before COVID-19. Participants drove up and opened and closed their trunks, so the Food Bank could continue the essential service of distributing food while minimizing person-to-person contact.

Despite how seamless the operation appeared, it wasn’t as simple as it looked. A lot of thought went into the day.

For example, how do you efficiently pack 500-600 boxes while maintaining social distancing? “It’s not easy to keep 20 people away from each other at six feet distancing,” said warehouse manager Steve Coover. “The way we set up was pretty difficult at first. But we finally figured it out and it went smoothly.”

After a trial run on Friday, Saturday looked like a well-oiled machine. A carefully organized assembly line of volunteers slid boxes across a conveyor belt as they loaded in fresh produce, meat, and healthy non-perishables. The process was streamlined and efficient and even the social distancing was a success.

A Team Effort

Katy McKnight, Director of Community Engagement, provided a practical explanation for the team’s success:  “We applied best practices we’ve learned over our 30 years delivering food and have been able to bring that here to our San Rafael facility.”

Everyone agreed the logistical success of the drive-through was only possible because of the community support.

“The community is really rallying around us now,” said McKnight. “People have turned up to volunteer, allowing us to run a project like this, and allowing us to pre-box all of these groceries to make it as safe for our volunteers and participants as possible and as efficient for our participants as possible.”

Coover, who spent much of Saturday managing the line of cars and directing traffic heard many participants saying, “thank you, we appreciate you guys being here.”

He was also out there reminding them we’ll be back again next Saturday from 10-2. The San Rafael drive-through, at 2550 Kerner Blvd, will be a weekly operation for the foreseeable future.

For those who want to volunteer, please sign up here. We especially need the support of those who are bilingual.


A Letter From Paul | We Are an Essential Service Provider

March 17, 2020

We are now struggling with the new reality in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. With a national emergency now declaredlocal school districts are closed, and now, our local governments have announced a ‘shelter in place’ order for all residents 

The Food Bank is still fully operational. As indicated in Mayor Breed’s press release, food banks are an essential service provider, and we must continue our work to distribute food to the community. Now, more than ever, our continued efforts are critical to ensure that our most vulnerable neighbors get access to the food they need to weather the pandemic. 

Pop-Up food pantries

We are working with San Francisco and Marin school districts to host pop-up food pantries at schools that are offering to-go meals for studentsWhen students and parents pick up their breakfast and lunch, they will also be able to get pre-bagged groceries to take home. This will help make sure families have the food they need.  

To our existing pantry network, wcontinue to purchase and send out additional shelf-stable food items each week for participants to set aside in case they can’t get to a pantry for any reason.  

Need for volunteers in the community

Our operations are being called upon to support our community’s most vulnerable. We cannot provide these services without volunteers. We anticipate that we’ll need additional help at our pop-up food pantries. Please see our special volunteer signup page to help us during this pressing time: Hunger Doesn’t Take a Break – Please Volunteer. 

We understand that there are concerns about volunteering amid the COVID-19 outbreak, and we take these concerns seriously. To protect the health of our volunteers, and staff, we have made changes to our volunteer program: reducing the number of volunteers at each shift and cutting non-essential projects.  

Safety and health first

We are in close contact with public health officials and are following their recommendations. In response to the COVID-19 situation, we have doubled down on cleaning, hand washing, and, of course, we have hand sanitizer and disinfectant readily available. The volunteers continue to use gloves, and we are mindful of social distancing per CDC guidelines. As always, the safety of our staff, partners, volunteers, and participants are of the utmost importance.  

 We encourage you to consider your own health and well-being before deciding whether or not to volunteer. 

During this time, you can also support our work to keep our community healthy and ensure that our neighbors in need have enough food by making a donation

If you, or anyone you know, are in need of food, please use the food locator. 

With gratitude,
Paul Ash
Executive Director

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.

Dave’s Story | The Importance of Neighborhood Pantries

December 4, 2019

For Dave, who is legally blind, getting enough food to eat can be a daily struggle. He used to travel across town once or twice a week — transferring multiple chaotic public transit lines — to get meals from a city program.

Recently, Dave learned that he could walk to a pantry close to where he lives.

Friday visit

Each Friday, Dave visits the pantry to get healthy food supplied by the Food Bank. He especially appreciates the variety of fresh produce he finds there. Dave says, “I have high blood pressure, so being able to get fresh produce every week is really important to my health.“

The pantry food helps Dave save money with the increasing cost of food in San Francisco. “It used to be that every 6 or 7 months, that the prices of groceries would rise at the store. Now it seems prices are going up a lot faster, like every month. Coming to the pantry, I’m able to save $25-$30 a week, which is really great.”

Access for all people

The Food Bank has over 270 pantries open in San Francisco and Marin. Our community can easily find a pantry via our Food Locator tool, where we have listed the pantries and their locations to help ensure that everyone who needs help can access food. We also list which pantries are accessible for people with disabilities.

If you’ve ever faced hunger, you know that a warm meal provides more than food. It provides the energy and peace of mind to take on life’s challenges. Having greater access to food makes it easier to overcome those challenges.