Recently the staff at KRON4 came out to take over the volunteer shift at our warehouse. Anchor Darya Folsom shares why this was the perfect way for their team to reconnect after a year of working remotely and learn how your office can sign up for a team building volunteer shift.
For centuries, bread has been the fabled metaphor for sustenance, nourishment, and life. No matter what your background is, when we come together to break bread and share a meal, there’s a feeling of goodwill and friendship. At the Food Bank, we invite you to symbolically break bread and be a permanent fixture in our community by donating to our “bread wall.”
As you may know, the Food Bank has broken ground on a major $40 million expansion to better serve our neighbors in need. For every donor who gives between $2,500 and $25,000 toward this project, a bread tag with your name will be placed on a giant wall in our new lobby.
A bread “tag” is one of those pieces of plastic to tie a bread bag closed and keep it fresh. This is our twist, and each tag will have your name on it. But unlike actual bread tags that have an expiration date printed on them, your gift will never expire. It is a legacy of your generosity to help provide ongoing sustenance to thousands of hungry neighbors in need of food.
The Food Bank’s expansion is long overdue to serve the growing need in our community as income inequality grows and rents skyrocket. Before the pandemic hit, we were bursting at the seams in our current facility and distributing 48 million pounds of food in a warehouse designed for only 30 million.
COVID-19 put a magnifying glass on hunger, with so many people turning to the Food Bank with job loss and reduced hours. In the crisis, the Food Bank has made do with makeshift tents and numerous rented warehouse spaces around town. It’s been costly and inefficient.
With our $40 million expansion, we’ll have the space to house all of our San Francisco operations under one roof, distribute 75 million pounds of food annually, and expand the number of people we serve from 140,000 to 200,000 weekly.
Construction is underway! We’ve closed the parking lot, started excavating the hill in the back, and have moved our entrance lobby to the other side of the building. With your financial support, we can make our goal of a grand opening in the spring of 2022.
We invite you to symbolically break bread with our larger Food Bank community and ensure that our neighbors always have something to eat.
More than half of the Food Bank’s participants are Asian Americans who are struggling to put food on the table. Despite the challenges, we’ve seen the resilience, solidarity, and sense of community from our neighbors.
May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month and we want to thank all of our partners who serve the AAPI community – we couldn’t do the work without them! This month please consider supporting one of our many AAPI partners. Here are just a few:
APA Family Support Services
San Francisco Community Fellowship
First United Presbyterian Church
Salvation Army: All Nations Corps
West Bay Pilipino Multiservice Center
In the year since the start of the pandemic shutdown countless neighborhood food pantries have closed due to safety reasons and hundreds more shifted their distribution models or expanded grocery delivery to continue serving the community.
Take St. Paul Tabernacle Baptist Church, which has operated a neighborhood pantry in the Bayview for over 28 years. Pre-pandemic the church was serving between 85 to 100 participants. When shelter-in-place went into effect, not only did the church have to stop indoor church services, with nowhere safe to host them, but they also had to close their doors for the weekly pantry.
Mother Beverly Taylor, who ran the food pantry at St. Paul Tabernacle Baptist Church, was determined to keep serving her community. “We’re still involved and running,” said Mother Beverly. “Unfortunately, with this [pandemic] we have to keep going.”
In order to do so they joined forces with the San Francisco African American Faith-Based Coalition (SFAAFBC), alongside with 20 other churches, to deliver groceries to those who are homebound.
Beverly knew finding a way to keep service going during the pandemic would help provide fresh, healthy food to those who couldn’t afford it and had nowhere else to turn.
Challenges in the Southeast
Bayview–Hunters Point is a neighborhood with more convenience stores than grocery stores. In fact, there’s only currently one large-scale grocery store located on Williams Avenue–that is one grocery store for an 8.6 square mile neighborhood that is home to 106,731 people.
At the same time, 37 percent of Bayview-Hunters Point residents, many of whom are Black/African American descent, live on less than 200 percent under the federal poverty level while 19 percent are at or below the federal poverty level. Over 40 percent of infants and youth live with families who earn below or at the federal poverty level.
As Beverly explained, before their pantry opened there wasn’t a place anywhere for those in need of food assistance to turn to. “We saw that a lot of people really need the food but didn’t know where to go get it,” she said. “There wasn’t enough being distributed, so that’s how we got involved.”
This problem is not unique to San Francisco and Bayview-Hunters Point. The USDA estimates 39 million people live in neighborhoods like Bayview-Hunters Point without adequate access to fresh, healthy food within a reasonable proximity.
“When COVID shut everything down, not only was there an already food insecure population, but residents were also further impacted due to job losses as a result of various industries having to shut down,” said Program Coordinator Claudia Wallen, who coordinates with community partners in Bayview-Hunters Point. “So, it double affected that area, I think, because the community was already so underserved.”
Call It What It Is: Food Apartheid
Areas that lack access to fresh, healthy food are often referred to as “food deserts.” However, that term fails to acknowledge that a lack of food access, and the negative health outcomes it causes, disproportionately impact BIPOC communities.
By using the term “food apartheid,” we clearly acknowledge that neighborhoods deemed food deserts are predominantly in BIPOC communities. We also acknowledge that redlining (including supermarket redlining), which is the racially discriminatory practice of denying vital services and/or avoiding investment in specific neighborhoods based on the race/ethnicity of the residents, plays a huge role in food access. As a result, 19.1 percent of Black households and 15.6 percent of Latinx households experienced food insecurity in 2019 alone. Indigenous peoples also experience the shortest lifespan from diabetes as a result of lack of access to fresh healthy food in their communities.
Food apartheids are a result of persistent structural and racial inequalities that prevent communities of color from accessing better socio-economic opportunities and essential services like access to fresh and healthy food, public transportation, public safety services, and nutrition education programs in K-12 public schools.
In our own community, we see that the Visitacion Valley, Bayview-Hunters Point, Treasure Island, and Marin City neighborhoods have the least access to food and are some of the most cut off from public transportation. Many residents in these neighborhoods would have to rely on driving a car or commuting for at least an hour to areas like downtown San Francisco. These same neighborhoods are home to some of the highest percentages of Black/African American residents: 33 percent of the Bayview-Hunters Point population, 13 percent of the Visitacion Valley population and 24 percent of the Treasure Island compared to just 5 percent of San Francisco as a whole. Marin City has the largest Black population (up to 42 percent of the city’s population) in Marin County.
Community Partners Tackle Food Apartheid
For the Food Bank, food for all means working closely with trusted community partners like St. Paul Tabernacle Baptist Church to ensure the Food Bank is supporting positive health outcomes. We also work with neighborhood partners to open new pantries in areas that both lack food access and where we can better serve communities disproportionately impacted by structural racism. In some cases, this means new types of partnerships like the one with the San Francisco African American Faith-Based Coalition (SFAAFBC) to deliver groceries to those who are unable to come out to pantries.
“Community organizations like SFAAFBC know the community well,” said Claudia. “Grassroots, boots on the ground organizations are more trusted by community members and seen as a friend or fellow neighbor. This is why collaborating with them like the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank is now doing is very important.”
What Food Means to the Community
During each grocery delivery, Beverly personally calls the participants to let them know ahead of time when their groceries are arriving. “They’re so thankful because many of them are disabled, and we’re out there getting food to the people that need it,” she said.
According to Claudia, the food means everything to the community. “To Bayview-Hunters Point residents, it’s important to have access to the same healthy food that other, less marginalized communities get to enjoy and often take for granted.”
As long as there is a need Beverly plans to keep delivering, and the Food Bank plans to keep supporting her efforts to improve food access in areas that experience food apartheid throughout our community.
When you cross the Bay Bridge by car or bus, you’ve probably noticed an exit right before the I-80 freeway continues to the East Bay, one that heads toward Treasure Island. If you took that exit, you’d find yourself on a human-made island that’s less than a mile wide and comprised of a few thousand residents.
What folks may not realize is that due to the island’s isolation, it has dealt with many issues, such as a lack of transportation, health issues from radiation exposure given the island was historically used as a dump, and limited food access.
“If you live here and you don’t have a car, you’re really restricted with taking a bus or paying for an Uber,” said Amanda Scharpf, a resident for seven years. “One of the biggest restrictions is if you can’t find something at the only market we have here, then you kind of have to haul it yourself all the way from downtown San Francisco.”
Limited Food Access
Treasure Island didn’t even have a grocery store until 2012 when the Island Cove Market opened. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford to purchase food there.
To address this lack of food access, the nonprofit One Treasure Island, with the help of the Food Bank, has hosted a neighborhood food pantry at the Ship Shape Community Center for more than 20 years.
Every Tuesday, both volunteers and staff members come together in front of the community center and pack bags with fresh produce such as apples and lettuce, as well as meat or eggs and loaves of bread to give out to the participants who live on the island. Once the pantry opens, over 200 participants (up from over 85 participants before the pandemic), arrive by car or walk on over from their homes, and are enthusiastically greeted by the volunteers and staff. Some of the participants even stay to catch up and hear what others have been up to after grabbing their weekly bags of groceries.
Since the start of the pandemic, Amanda, who also manages the pantry, has seen an increase in the number of people using One Treasure Island’s services. Previously, many pantry participants worked in the restaurant industry; an industry heavily impacted by COVID. With many restaurants closing their doors temporarily or for good, around 117,000 jobs in the hospitality industry were lost in California during December alone.
“We’ve had people come to sign up for the pantry and they’ve even said, ‘I used to work for this restaurant, and they just completely closed down, and I don’t know what I’m going to do.’ This has impacted many people,“ shared Amanda.
Providing Access for All
Dave, a participant for over ten years, previously worked in landscaping and was barely getting by on his salary when he started coming to the pantry. He now works for the city and knows everyone at the pantry.
“The food pantry really saved my life,” he said. “[Otherwise] I’d be eating a lot more noodles.”
For some newer residents of Treasure Island, like Rickey, formerly incarcerated, coming to the pantry is the only choice for fresh food.
“This makes it a lot easier for us. Right now, we don’t qualify for benefits like food stamps, so it means a lot to us,” said Rickey.
Others like Mike, a long-time volunteer and participant who knows everyone living on the island, see the pantry as a tight-knit community that continues to be resilient during unprecedented times.
“I used to like the closeness; everyone on the island is my friend,” he said. “Now, you can’t get close [due to COVID]. It’s sad.”
While the pantry is still the only option for many, Amanda stays hopeful for the future.
“At the beginning of COVID, we had lines around the block, and it was just nice to see that we can provide families with something that meant a lot to them,” said Amanda. “It’s always heartwarming when people show up with their kids because you get to know the kids too. It’s been very helpful, especially for the families. Living here on this island, I really felt like the community has come together a lot more in the last few months.”
It is our pleasure to introduce Tanis Crosby as the new Executive Director of the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank.
Paul Ash is retiring after more than 32 years of dedicated and transformational leadership. He led the Food Bank from distributing just three million pounds of food in 1989 to 67 million pounds now, ensuring hundreds of thousands of Bay Area families have access to food. The full extent of his impact is truly immeasurable. He leaves behind an enduring legacy.
Tanis Crosby joins us after serving as a leader in the YWCA movement for almost 20 years, most recently the CEO of the combined YWCA Silicon Valley and YWCA San Francisco & Marin. Having dedicated her career to advancing the mission of eliminating racism and empowering women, Tanis brings a deep understanding of the root causes of food insecurity to the Food Bank’s mission to end hunger in San Francisco and Marin. Her energy, passion, and dedication will help lead this organization into a transformational next chapter.
“The mission of the Food Bank is critical now more than ever. The pandemic has left many of our neighbors out of work and struggling to feed their families, while crystalizing what we already knew to be true – hunger exacerbates inequities like racial injustice and poverty. We are here to end hunger, to do that we must not only address current demand, but also work together to end the underlying causes of hunger,” said Tanis Crosby, Executive Director, San Francisco-Marin Food Bank. “I’m honored and excited to be part of advancing that mission.”
This is a unique and challenging time in the Food Bank’s history. The need for a strong social safety net has never been more apparent. Under Tanis’ leadership, the Food Bank will remain committed to providing food to all our neighbors who need it and advocating for stronger policies around food security.
Tanis looks forward to meeting our community in townhalls and out in the field. Thank you for your continued dedication and support of the Food Bank. Together we will ensure that our neighbors have the food they need to thrive.
The San Francisco-Marin Food Bank Board
Scott Brubaker, Chair
About Tanis Crosby
Tanis serves the mission of the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank to end hunger with a commitment to equity, collaboration and community. Joining the Food Bank in 2021, Tanis previously served as a leader in the YWCA movement for almost twenty years, most recently as CEO of a combined YWCA Silicon Valley, and YWCA San Francisco & Marin since immigrating to the US in 2014. During her tenure leading YWCAs, she centered on the mission of eliminating racism and empowering women to grow impact, launch innovative programs, and grow operations by 400%.
Tanis has served on the Silicon Valley Council of Non-Profits Leadership Council, the National Association of YWCA Executives Board of Directors, and as Co-Chair of the Santa Clara County Blue Ribbon Task Force on Intimate Partner Violence. She has been recognized as a Silicon Valley Business Journal Woman of Influence, the YWCA of Canada’s President’s Award, the Queen’s Jubilee Medal for service, and in recognition of housing advocacy and policy change the Elizabeth Fry Society’s Housing Hero Award.
Tanis enjoys cooking, gardening, and any opportunity to explore the outdoors of our beautiful Bay Area with her family and dogs.
“I was waiting for the holidays to be with my entire family,” says Anabely, while standing in line with her two young daughters to pick up a grocery bag at the Cornerstone Church Pop-up pantry. “But now because of the virus, I won’t be able to do that.”
Like many families, Anabely, her husband, and her two daughters always reunite with their extended family during the holidays. But now because of COVID-19, they’ll have to celebrate on their own.
“Every year, we get together for the holidays and celebrate together with food,” she says. “I love making tamales and I also cook turkey. I just love cooking.”
Celebrating with Food
Food is a tradition that 2020 hasn’t taken from us. We can’t see each other in person, but we can enjoy the food we always cook around the holidays.
Like many, Mei Yu stays connected with her family via WeChat. Of course, like the rest of us, she’s sad she can’t see her loved ones in real life but isn’t letting that stop her from making the food she enjoys every year and keep it festive.
“We love having roast chicken during the holidays,” she says. “We usually season the chicken with salt, chicken powder, and soy sauce, and we cook it in the oven for 20 minutes.” “I also love making vegetable dishes, salads, and cakes to celebrate with my family. We also put eggs in the salads.”
Mei Yu never finds herself alone in the kitchen. Her husband, son, and daughter join her to make these dishes—all of which are family recipes.
Although Mei Yu considers these dishes to be simple, her family enjoy them regardless.
“I can’t celebrate with my extended family this time, but I can still enjoy these dishes and celebrate with my own family.”
Supporting Families this Holiday Season
While families are finding ways to keep their traditions alive, many still struggle to afford food. That is why the Food Bank is working hard to meet the need and even include some extras like cooking oil during the holiday season to help families continue these traditions in a special way.
“Getting food here helps us from having to purchase food I can’t afford,” says Mei Yu. “Food has gotten really expensive recently.”
Anabely feels the same way. “We’re very thankful for the food. Our whole family is very thankful. God bless the Food Bank because what they’re is doing for people like my family that need food—it’s great and it’s really helpful for people that need it and love to cook.”
As COVID-19 continues to spread, so does the rise in food insecurity. This holiday is a holiday like no other, as families struggle to afford rent, utilities, medication, or food.
Since the start of the pandemic, many more people have stepped into our pantry lines for the first time. In October alone, almost four times as many people than before the pandemic used our Food Locator to find resources, pantries, and CalFresh (food stamps) assistance.
That’s why this holiday season, it’s important now more than ever to make a difference however you can. Here are several ways you can support your local community so that no one goes hungry.
While it’ll be hard to have a safe gathering during the holidays, you can still volunteer at our Pop-up food pantries and warehouses in San Francisco and Marin by packing grocery bags for participants or deliver groceries to homebound seniors and adults with disabilities. We especially need help during the week. And remember the need for volunteers doesn’t end in December, so please consider volunteering throughout 2021.
If you’re bilingual, your language skills are also imperative to make these distributions more inclusive and effective for all participants. Currently, Cantonese and Spanish support are our most urgent needs.
Learn more about volunteer opportunities here.
Fundraise for Us
Due to COVID-19, we are temporarily halting the delivery. Host a virtual fund drive instead, which can be done easily to raise money. Plus, participants will receive even more food. We are able to turn every dollar into two healthy meals! Learn more about food and fund drives here.
We need sustained financial support to continue to respond to the dramatic need we are seeing in the community right now. Your donations are what keep us going, and we hope you’ll consider signing up for our Monthly Giving Circle to help support us year-round. Your gift will go a long way to feed those in need. Learn more here.
Support Our Partners
Our community partners will also need your support to fight hunger. If our volunteer shifts are filled, support our partners by volunteering with them instead.
Take Action Today
It will take systemic change to end hunger. That’s why our actions extend beyond food distribution and CalFresh assistance. You can influence change by:
- Calling and emailing your members of Congress to demand they pass comprehensive COVID relief to keep our communities fed.
- Speak up on social media and tag your members of Congress by using the hashtag #BoostSNAPNow. You can find their Twitter handles here.
- Write a letter to the editor to highlight why boosting SNAP will help your community. You can submit one to the San Francisco Chronicle here.
So, whether you decide to volunteer, donate, or take action, your support will provide more food for the community during the holidays and beyond. We can’t do any of this without you. We hope you will join us to end hunger.
Each week, Diana and Cristina* wait patiently to get food at our Mission High School Pop-up Pantry.
“I’ve been laid off for three months because of this virus,” said Cristina, who worked as a hotel housekeeper. “Most of the money goes to bills.”
Diana, a friend of Cristina’s who worked as a cashier at a café, echoes that concern. “The money that I do get is only for paying bills, and I don’t have that much money left to buy food.”
The Food Bank is open to all, and they are among many immigrant participants who benefit from the groceries at our Pop-up pantries. However, for Diana and Cristina who are also undocumented, the Food Bank is one of the few supports to get them through the week.
Weathering the Pandemic Without a Safety Net
Prior to COVID, immigrant families were already impacted by the changes to the long-standing Public Charge rule. Undocumented immigrants who keep their government benefits such as CalFresh (food stamps) for more than 12 months within any 36-month period are barred from obtaining lawful permanent (or “green card”) status. As pandemic-related job losses exacerbate the need for food assistance, rules like Public Charge force families to balance seeking help with remaining in this country.
Many resources are currently available to weather this pandemic but are inaccessible for undocumented immigrants like Cristina and Diana. For example, while both women lost their jobs due to COVID-19, they are still ineligible to receive unemployment benefits. Undocumented immigrants were able to receive a one-time disaster relief assistance fund and support from nonprofit groups due to ineligibility for federal assistance.
The Governor also recently passed an expansion of the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit this year, allowing all tax filers, including undocumented people who pay taxes, to receive a tax credit. This policy change will put money back in the pockets of nearly 600,000 undocumented California taxpayers.
However, these are not long-term solutions and not every family is able to continue to receive assistance elsewhere. Bills such as AB 826, which would’ve provided emergency food assistance by distributing pre-paid grocery cards through food banks and immigrant-serving organizations to low-income communities including undocumented immigrants, was recently vetoed by Governor Newsom.
Currently, there aren’t any other bills to provide food aid to undocumented immigrants throughout this pandemic.
Navigating Remote Learning
As single mothers and Spanish speakers, both Diana and Cristina found it challenging to find ways to educate their children while schools were closed. Although their children can speak English, the language barrier made it even more challenging for homeschooling.
“I try to create projects to keep my daughter busy and educated,” said Diana.
On top of navigating homeschooling and distanced learning in a second language, Cristina and Diana were constantly ensuring their children, who typically received meals at school, were getting enough to eat each week.
The Need to Feed
Like many of us during shelter-in-place, both Diana and Cristina are concerned about catching COVID-19, especially knowing the Latinx population makes up an increasing proportion of COVID-19 cases in California due to historic inequities.
“I’ve been feeling a bit trapped, but also afraid of going outside,” said Diana. “Still, I need to come here so that I can feed my seven-year-old daughter, Maria.”
“If these programs didn’t exist, I feel like I wouldn’t be able to properly feed my son,” said Cristina, as she tightly hugged her son. “It especially helps because if my son wants specific foods, at least I’ll be able to use this food as a daily staple without feeling guilty about it.”
*Names used in this blog post are aliases to protect the identities of the participants
Before the pandemic, Pauline Harris was working as a children’s librarian at the Richmond District Branch of the San Francisco Public Library. Now, she works at the Food Bank as a Disaster Service Worker.
“I miss being at the library, but I recognize that it’s important for me to be here,” said Pauline.
Disaster Service Workers are City and County employees who are not able to perform their typical day-to-day work right now. Pauline is just one of many who have been activated to support COVID-19 response efforts – such as contact tracing, staffing hotels where unhoused individuals are isolating, or helping at the Food Bank.
During her first deployment at the Food Bank in mid-May, Pauline worked alongside volunteers packing fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins into bags for our temporary Pantry at Home program assembly line.
“I remember I was told that we packed around 2,800 bags that day,” she said, recalling her first day. “It was a killer shift since I wasn’t used to it yet.”
From Packing Bags to Curbside Assistance
That shift didn’t stop Pauline from wanting to do the work for the Food Bank.
Now on her second deployment, she is assisting volunteers who are delivering groceries through Pantry at Home to over 12,000 seniors each week. At the curb on Pennsylvania Ave, outside of the Food Bank, the volunteers pick up the packed grocery bags that are ready for delivery. Here, Pauline greets them and helps pack about 15 grocery bags into their car, and at times hears stories about the people they deliver to.
“Sometimes, I feel like the folks that are bagging the groceries should come down and meet the drivers just to see what it’s like,” said Pauline. “Hearing where these bags go and interacting with the drivers has been a cool experience.”
A Community Sentiment
Pauline enjoys working with the volunteers. “The volunteers [drivers] are amazing people and always seem positive,” she said.
“Seeing this many people that want to help makes me feel great about what I’m doing. It’s amazing how enormous the need is. At first, I knew the need was dire, but not at this level. That’s why, in my opinion, it makes the most sense for me to come and help. We should not be letting anyone fall through the cracks and become needlessly hungry.”