Join Us to Break Bread and Share a Meal

June 21, 2021

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.


The First 100 Days | Q&A With Executive Director Tanis Crosby

May 27, 2021

100 days into her tenure at the Food Bank, Executive Director Tanis Crosby reflects on her experience, her gratitude, and on the enormity of the imperative work ahead.

Tanis CrosbyWhat’s your overall pulse, 100 days in?

I feel incredibly grateful and humbled and… at home.

What’s one memory from your first 100 days that will stick with you?

One Wednesday evening, I volunteered packing boxes of food for seniors. Music was playing through the speakers—whoever curates our playlists is just magical—and next to me was this lovely man named John, who had been volunteering with us on Wednesdays for 21 years, wearing his food bank sweatshirt as a badge of pride. Next to John were a couple of women who were having a blast working together, just completely welcoming, and some families who came to volunteer as a unit. It was this beautiful community within a community that had sprung up.

At the end of the shift, the Food Bank project leader Robert announced how many pounds we had collectively packaged, and I looked around and felt such pride and celebration of taking action to fight hunger together. It was such a clear image of our vital service and the wholly unique way in which we bring the community together for a great cause. It was a moment.

Your second 100 days may look very different from your first as vaccines roll out. How is that changing the way you think about our priorities?

The pandemic is revealing that which we already knew to be true: Poverty and racism are inextricably linked to food insecurity. That is not going to go away when the masks go away. We’re going to focus on advancing our mission with the analysis and the framework that this team’s wisdom created, which is understanding that we are addressing not only the consequences of hunger, but also the causes. We will work on upstream and lasting solutions and are steadfast in our commitment to ensure we are making meals possible for our neighbors right now.

As we look forward, we also need to determine what it means to sustainably serve all of those who need us – those we are currently reaching and those we hope to reach. After more than a year spent responding to this crisis, how do we return to solutions we know work, but weren’t possible during the pandemic – like a farmer’s market style distribution to enable choice – and what innovations from our crisis response do we maintain – like the grocery delivery. This will be hard work, but it is essential work. The Food Bank is part of a critical safety net that is made up of grassroots, well-established, and new community-led organizations as well as government programs. Together we will find the solutions. Because we are all working collectively to fulfill our purpose of ending hunger.

This isn’t just a vision, it will be a future, with partners, donors and volunteers making it real.

Do you think there are ways in which the pandemic has changed our community for the better?

The pandemic was a stark reminder that you can work hard, get a job, and still find yourself at risk of homelessness or relying on the Food Bank to make sure that you’re not choosing between your PG&E bill and feeding your family. You can have good job and not be able to make ends meet in San Francisco or Marin.

That’s not going to go away anytime soon. And what it has created is empathy and a deep-seated understanding that food is a human right. The community wants to be part of taking care of each other. Whether they are a 10 year-old donating their small proceeds from a lemonade stand, or a Foundation giving millions, donors of all ages, of all means are recognizing that we’ve got to take care of each other. And that has been completely inspiring.

The Food Bank just announced its Capital Campaign to expand warehouse facilities. How do you envision that helping to chart our way forward?

In this coming year, we have a tall order. Delivering on these expansion plans is really about delivering on current community need; we started this project 5 years ago with the goal of building for the future, but it turns out we are building for right now.

We are renovating not to expand, but to sustain. Because it’s not about a building and it’s not about the number of pounds of food, it’s about having the space to feed our neighbors who are making real and practical choices every day about where they’re spending scarce dollars. Our community is hurting. People are making choices–choices that weigh on families, choices that are hard and hurt.

Our job is to relieve that hurt, to make it less stressful and more hopeful. It is not about a building. It’s about what happens as a result of having that capacity to deliver on this critical need, person, by person, by person, in all of the neighborhoods in which we serve.

What has surprised you most during your first 100 days?

What surprised me was what it means to see that sheer scope upfront, to see it come alive in the field. What surprised me was how excited I would feel to see the orders being built, knowing that they would be landing in a neighborhood pantry, a pop-up or a drive-thru and put into the hands of people in our community, our neighbors. Just the magnitude of what this scale feels like, to see it and to know what it means, not just hear about it or read about it, but to see it. And just the enormous sense of… I can’t think of another word other than pride. I feel so proud to be part of this team – staff, donors, and volunteers – that is delivering food and hope to every corner of our community.

In the Head of the Architects of Our New Warehouse

January 24, 2021

Scott Shell is a principal at EHDD, the architect on the design/build team working with Truebeck Construction on the warehouse expansion project. We spoke to him about his vision for the new building and how it aligns with the Food Bank’s Mission.

Q: How did you get involved with the Food Bank expansion project?

A: There was a design competition, and the Food Bank invited three design/build teams to submit ideas. We worked over a month – toured the facilities, researched the mission and vision, and then presented our ideas. I believe we were selected because our design both showcases the mission and integrates the building into the community.

Q: How does the design showcase the mission and increase awareness of the Food Bank?

A: We wanted to make the building iconic and make a visual representation of the organization’s mission. The Food Bank has this stunning site right off the 280 Freeway that hundreds of thousands of people drive by every day. Those are all potential donors and volunteers who are currently not seeing the building. So, we enlarged and illuminated the logo of the heart and apple. The logo is about feeding people and also about loving and respecting them. And that’s why the Food Bank’s mission is so fantastic: It’s not just about the food, it’s about treating people like human beings. With more visual awareness of the building, we hope more people will be aware of the Food Bank’s mission.

Q: How is the building integrated into the community?

A: Some people think the area is an industrial neighborhood. But Dogpatch is a vibrant area, and we think it’s going to transform to have an active pedestrian life. The Food Bank is a volunteer-driven organization, and so our design is meant to welcome anyone who passes. Right now, there’s a fence, and you have to walk up the stairs to get to the reception. We wanted to bring the welcome center right down to the street. There will be lots of graphics and photographs connecting to the community right behind the glass. We want it to say, “Come on in and be a part of our mission: You are welcome here.”

Q: Now that you’ve been working closely with the Food Bank, what’s noteworthy to you?

A: First of all, the quality of the food is impressive. It’s not an outdated notion of canned food. It’s healthy, fresh food that’s important for physical and mental health. Fresh fruits and vegetables are what we all want for our families. The second thing is how the warehouse is a logistical powerhouse. It’s buzzing with activity with huge quantities of food coming in and out. When you watch the warehouse crew unload trucks, it’s thrilling to see them weave forklifts in and out doing an amazing dance. It’s like a professional sporting event.

Q: The design is all about the warehouse. Tell us about the expansion.

A: The warehouse isn’t just an empty space. It’s highly technical. The design is 30,000 additional square feet with two new loading docks, expanded refrigerators and freezers, a welcome center on the ground floor, and expanded offices on the 2nd floor. But it’s not just about increasing the square footage – it’s about optimizing storage capacity to feed as many families as possible. To that end, the Food Bank has also brought in a racking specialist and a refrigeration specialist to maximize the space inside. Our firm is responsible for the overall plan – from the building to the additional loading docks to space for staging, storing, sorting, and then redistributing out to the pantries where participants pick up their food.

Q: Are there any special features of the expanded building?

A: It’s an all-electric building with solar panels on it. It’s going to have a super low carbon footprint. If you google the most polluted cities in this country, many are in California, and that pollution is typically concentrated in low-income communities. The same people who suffer from food insecurity also suffer the most because of pollution. We are proud that the new building will contribute to cleaner air and contribute to people’s good health – just like healthy food.

Q: How will the building contribute to the Food Bank’s mission?

A: There’s too much inequality in the world today, and people can’t dig out of a hole without a helping hand. The Food Bank is that helping hand when it comes to food. The expanded building will make the Food Bank more visible and show off what the organization does in a physical form. We hope that awareness will lead to more donations and volunteers, which ultimately will lead to more families served. And that’s what this is all about.

Take a photo tour of our warehouse in Marin and our future one in San Francisco.

Meet the Chairs for the Capital Campaign Committee

January 23, 2021

The scale of the Food Bank’s warehouse expansion is enormous, and with a $40 million price tag, it can’t happen without the broad support of donors like Mike and Alison Mauzé, who chair the Capital Campaign Committee. 

Mike and Alison Mauzé are like many Food Bank donorsThey devote an enormous amount of their time, talent, and treasure to our mission to end hunger. As chairs for the Capital Campaign Committee, they have been leaders in our donor community over the last three years. 

Mike manages a private equity fund and invests in entrepreneurial food brands, while Alison chairs the board for Davidson College and works full-time in philanthropy. They moved to the Bay Area in 2000 and have witnessed the need for food grow. 

 “We are seeing a tremendous increase in food insecurity,” said Mike. “With the rising cost of living, rent takes up more of the paycheck than ever before, while government programs have been cut and are more difficult to tap.”

Alison concurred: This is why the couple first got involved with the Food Bank. “Food is a universal need, and food insecurity affects people from different backgrounds,” she said. “But what strikes me the most is how it affects kids. Children aren’t as prepared for school when they are wrestling with hunger.” 

Nearing the goal

During the time the Mauzés have been volunteering with the Food Bank, they have gotten to know other donors from all different walks of life and industries, but they say there is a tie that binds them together around the Food Bank’s mission to end hunger.  

That tie is so strong that people have gladly chipped in for the warehouse expansion, knowing it means feeding more people struggling to put food on the table. In fact, donors have been so enthusiastic that the Capital Campaign Committee has already raised over 90% of the needed $40 million.  

Alison attributes this to donors recognizing the growing needs. “There is economic hardship in the community, and so many people have lost their jobs in the pandemic, or they are working hard but still can’t make ends meet,” she said. “Struggling families have even more expenses with kids out of schoolHaving food means one less thing to worry about and provides that basic fuel to take on life’s other challenges.” 

While there is still more to raise, the Mauzés are confident that the expansion will continue to win support from the broad donor community. “We are in the middle of the pandemic and a recession,” said Mike. “I’m not a prognosticator of the economy. But I know for certain that the Food Bank’s donors will step up for anything our community needs. People are having a hard time making ends meet, and we need to lend a hand. Now more than ever is the time to make a difference.” 

Why is the Food Bank Expanding?

December 14, 2020

Michael Wirkkala is the Chief Operating Officer at the Food Bank. He has been directing everything from our needs assessment to planning to being an ambassador in the community for the project. We sat down with him to learn more about what’s going on behind-the-scenes with the project.

Q: Why is the Food Bank expanding?

A: The short answer is that hunger is growing, and we want to serve more people. The longer answer is that we’ve occupied our current warehouse since 1997; we were bursting at the seams before COVID, and since the pandemic, it has become even more critical to expand our facilities. The building was originally intended to support the distribution of 30 million pounds of food per year, and pre-COVID, we were handling 48 million pounds. Since the pandemic began, that number has jumped up to 56 million. The expansion will enlarge the site by approximately 32,000 square feet and allow us to grow our annual food distribution to 75 million pounds, serving up to 200,000 people per week.

Q: How has the pandemic impacted the expansion?

A: We were already almost five years into planning and designing the expansion when COVID hit. Since then, we’ve doubled the number of families we serve at our pantries, and we dramatically grew our Pantry At Home program from 250 participants to almost 12,000 seniors and people with disabilities. The lack of space has been costly and requires additional coordination.

Given that the warehouse was already stretched beyond capacity, we erected a makeshift tent in the parking lot, then rented additional warehouse space, then another, then another, and then another. Managing inventory for eight separate warehouses has been incredibly complex. In addition to the cost related to space, transportation, and coordination, we’ve been less efficient than we could be if we were all in one warehouse.

Q: How much will the expansion cost, and where will the money come from?

A: The total price tag is $40 million. The support from donors has been incredible, and we’ve already raised 90% of the $40 million. People have been especially generous during the pandemic as COVID has left thousands of people out of work. The need to expand is even more urgent, as the economic effects of the pandemic are not going away anytime soon.

Q: Has the community been involved in the planning process?

A: After we had done some initial planning and drafted our initial designs, we solicited feedback from the community. Because of their input, we’ve improved our designs to provide additional pedestrian safety and much easier and efficient truck access to the site which will result in less traffic congestion. We now have unanimous support from key neighborhood groups such as the Dogpatch Neighborhood Association, the Potrero Boosters, and the Green Benefit District.

Q: Will the construction alter your food distribution services?

A: Our goal is to not disrupt the flow of food to the community. When we expanded our Marin warehouse, there was no disruption. This will be a complex renovation given our current footprint, and we will temporarily have to back trucks into Pennsylvania Avenue. We’ll have flag people on the streets for safety, and trucks will be staged off-site until we are ready. It will require a lot of strategic planning to ensure we can get food to the community without adding traffic congestion to our neighborhood.

Q: When will the construction be complete?

A: As you might imagine, the pandemic has slowed the process. Permitting from the City has been significantly delayed as those offices were closed for months. We hope to break ground in the spring of 2021 and complete construction in 2022. It’s going to be very exciting to open our new doors. The building will be beautiful, but more importantly, it will allow us to meet the needs of the community, making a difference in people’s lives.

Take a photo tour of our warehouse in Marin, and our future one in San Francisco.