Local Teenager Raises Enough Money for 15,000 Meals

September 29, 2016

For the last 17 months, 14-year-old high school student Logan Bhamidipaty has been driving an hour with his mom to the Food Bank’s San Francisco warehouse to volunteer.

To date, he’s given 270 hours of his time to sorting and repacking thousands of pounds of food to be distributed across the Food Bank’s 450 partner agencies and pantries.

Leading up to the holidays, Logan decided to do even more. “When he began, I expected him to raise only a few hundred dollars,” said Logan’s mom. But through pet sitting, walking dogs, cashing in recyclables, and telling people about his mission, Logan shocked everyone by raising $2,500. “I was inspired that one dollar could provide three meals,” Logan says.

Due to a match from Riverbed, Logan’s gift was doubled to $5,000, meaning his donation ultimately provided 15,000 meals to people in our community.

Feeling inspired? You can start a food and fund drive of your own in just a few minutes. Or donate now and help us provide #10MillionMeals this holiday season.

Featured as a guest for ABC7’s holiday show at the warehouse in December 2015.

Logan was also featured in his own school’s paper.

Making Ends Meet with the Food Bank

September 29, 2016

Deborah Brooks works the night shift at a housing nonprofit for the homeless. At the end of the month, she finds she runs out of money and could use a little help herself.

“We get plenty of good food from the Food Bank. I can hardly carry it – it’s two bags full,” said Deborah Brooks, a pantry participant at Bethel AME Church.

Helping others

Brooks helps the homeless by working as a night desk clerk for a permanent housing nonprofit. She works the overnight shift, from midnight to 8 a.m., answering the phones and letting residents in the building. “I like helping other people. It’s rewarding to me. I don’t get paid a great deal, but I’m glad to be working,” Brooks said.

But by the end of the month, she could use a little help herself. Much needed and long overdue dental work has been straining an already tight budget. By the time the bills are paid, Brooks finds that she runs out of food and money.

“Most of my paycheck goes to the dentist, to pay the rent, the lights and gas and the telephone,” Brooks says.

Making ends meet

Before she began coming to the food pantry, the nonprofit worker would “just wait” until the next paycheck to buy food and subsisted on staples like rice and beans.

Now she supplements her groceries with chicken, eggs, fruit cocktail, carrots, strawberries, blackberries, lettuce, pasta, rice and cereal from the Food Bank. The food is fresh and the nutritional benefits are undeniable, according to Brooks. “This gives me a little more variety and flexibility with food,” Brooks said. “Thank goodness for the Food Bank.”

Grocery Deliveries Make a Big Difference to Homebound Seniors

September 29, 2016

On a recent Saturday morning, Kathleen a volunteer from the Fairfax Food Panty, makes a stop to bring food to an elderly couple living in a charming yet perilously-perched house on a hillside in Marin County. The steps alone would be enough to discourage grocery gathering, and the gentleman’s dementia and his wife’s recent fall make leaving the house all but impossible.

They declined to be identified, but their caretaker Leslie Gould tells their story. “Their income is extremely limited and they’re housebound. She can’t drive. ‘Dad’ has Alzheimer’s,” Leslie says.

Accompanied by Leslie, Kathleen walks through the front door with a box full of groceries for the couple. Dad looks up from the couch and cheerfully calls out a greeting. His wife gingerly trims his fingernails while Leslie and Kathleen put the groceries down in the kitchen.

“They really benefit from the Food Bank,” Leslie says as she puts a container of cherry tomatoes on the counter. “There is always a lot of produce. A lot of older people don’t get a chance to eat much produce, so that’s really helpful.”

In Saturday’s box, there’s also yogurt, salsa, bananas, cinnamon bread, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, sliced zucchini and squash, turkey breast and fish. Kathleen began bringing the couple groceries at the request of the pastor at the Fairfax Community Church.

“They are always very thankful,” Kathleen says of the elderly couple she delivers to each week. A pantry participant herself, Kathleen volunteers to help make sure other receive the food they need as well. “It’s a really good feeling.”

School Pantries: Helping Johnson and His Family Thrive

September 29, 2016

Spring Valley Science School is buzzing with excitement as children climb on the jungle gym, play tag and show off their basketball skills. Drawing children together from around the city during the school break, Spring Valley hosts summer classes for students and also acts as a community center where parent volunteers run a weekly food pantry.

Spring Valley is one of more than 246 Food Bank pantry sites where families and individuals can pick up fresh produce and grocery staples. The farmers’ market-style pantries are designed to allow participants to choose from items such as chicken, eggs, rice, apples, lettuce, and potatoes, as if shopping in a traditional market.

The pantries support families like Johnson’s. During the school year, Johnson’s family attends the pantry at the Chinese Education Center (CEC) where he is entering 3rd grade this fall, but during the summer they count on getting food from Spring Valley where Johnson takes summer classes.

Johnson’s maternal grandmother lives near his family and, like many grandparents in the community, she often helps out with taking Johnson to and from school. She tends to have the day off of work on Thursdays, and she enjoys joining the family to pick out healthy food at the school pantry. All three generations gather for family dinners at Johnson’s home, where they use their food pantry groceries to make stir fry and fried potatoes, Johnson’s favorite dishes.

When he’s not busy in school, Johnson spends most of his free time making art. Ya Yi, Johnson’s mother, says her favorite gift from Johnson is a mother’s day card that he drew for her. She cherishes his creativity and wants to continue to nurture his love of drawing. She plans on enrolling him in an art program as soon as his summer session at Spring Valley is over.

Participation in the food pantry program allows Johnson’s family to worry less about putting dinner on the table and to devote more attention to raising a happy, thriving child. Ya Yi is thankful for the assistance they receive from the food pantry. “We are very happy to get this food.”

The Food Bank Helps Cancer Survivor Stay Healthy

September 29, 2016

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.

The Food Bank says no to donated soda, votes YES on beverage tax

August 29, 2016

In 2014, the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank officially drove out the last can of soda from our inventory. For the past decade, we have steadily reduced the amount of soda we receive.

Readers may wonder how soda ever found its way into the Food Bank inventory. Rest assured, food drive participants weren’t placing two-liters in the collection bins. Soda comes to food banks by way of mixed truckloads donated by food manufacturers and other food banks. For instance, two pallets of soda might be stacked in the back of an 18-wheeler of donated cereal.

Limited options and new resources

In the late ‘80s, our ability to source food – any food – was very limited, and we filled our small warehouse with whatever the market would bear. We reasoned that people were hungry and they could use the calories, even if the nutritional content of the donated product wouldn’t make a doctor proud. And the market offered us plenty of processed snacks – and sugary beverages.But over time, our priorities have shifted. The Food Bank is no longer a source of emergency food but a source of weekly nutrition for our city’s most vulnerable residents. It’s up to us, at the Food Bank, to not only provide food, but provide healthy food to the people we serve. Accordingly, more than 60 percent of our current distribution is fresh fruits and vegetables.

“In just about all of our communities now, we have pockets of need,” Bacho said.

The cost to public health

Everything has a cost, even donated soda. There’s a cost for storing product and a cost for delivering it to our pantries. Making room for a pallet of soda in our warehouse reduces the storage space available for healthier foods. But most importantly, while soda and snacks may enter our inventory as a free donation, there are long-term costs to our program participants’ health that far exceed any temporary infusion of calories.

We’ve learned from public health experts to pay attention to that cost. These days, we know all too well that low-income households are surrounded by unhealthy food choices and struggle to afford more nutritious options. Some live in food deserts, places where potato chips are the freshest vegetable to be found. For others, their budgets severely limit their food selection to choices that produce the most calories for the fewest dollars.

“You’d think you’d see it all the time, but you don’t,” said Goldie Pyka, spokeswoman for the Food Bank. “You pass someone on the street, they don’t wear T-shirts saying they are hungry. But they are. And there are so many different types of people in need.”

If our participants pay the price with their health, there’s no such thing as free soda

Ending hunger is about more than making sure people have enough calories.

The sugary beverage tax measure is expected to decrease consumption of sugary beverages between 20 to 31 percent and generate revenue of about $35-54 million a year. This revenue is intended to fund programs that restore community health. Some dollars will be used to provide healthy food to low-income San Franciscans. Other revenues will fund local improvements in school nutrition, nutritional education and recreational opportunities.

The Food Bank is passionate about increasing access to healthy food and nutrition education, and we support policy efforts to discourage consumption of sugary beverages. The Food Bank votes “yes” on the proposed soda tax.