Building a Participant Volunteer Community One Bag at a Time

April 19, 2022

Mei has been picking up weekly groceries at our Martin Luther King Jr. pop-up pantry in the Portola neighborhood of San Francisco every week. After she retired as a seamstress, she took care of her grandchildren after they were born until they grew up. 

One day, Food Bank staffers passed out flyers asking participants if they’d be interested in volunteering. When Mei was approached, she immediately offered to volunteer and was eager to jump right in. 

“I enjoy coming here and wanted to help out,” said Mei, who smiled behind her mask while packing some carrots and winter squash into a food bag at the Martin Luther King Jr. pop-up pantry. “I always took my grandchildren to this park to play,” says Mei, “so this is my neighborhood.” 

Since then, Mei has been coming every week to pack food bags. Every Monday morning, the closed-off street next to Palega Playground and Recreation Center in the Portola neighborhood and just over a mile away from John McLaren Park turns into a food pantry. It’s a well-orchestrated symphony that participants have seen every week but are now helping to conduct. 

From Participant to Volunteer 

Louisa Cantwell, who supervises the pop-up, was looking for an opportunity to engage more with the community and decided to ask if the participants wanted to volunteer at this pantry with the Food Bank.  

“Even though the participants all speak different languages, there’s a genuine sense of community here. A participant volunteer said to me that she’s not able to donate food or money to the Food Bank. But she’s able to give her time, and she didn’t know she was able to do it before. She feels very empowered by that.” 

It’s also been easier for Louisa to fill up volunteer shifts. 

“What we found was by removing the barrier of having to sign up for a shift through our website, we were easily able to get people to come down and volunteer two to three hours of their time every Monday morning.” 

Annette, who’s a longtime volunteer, enjoyed seeing the change of pace since she started. “This is already a community-building experience,” she said. “To have participants volunteer with us too is incredible.” 

Preparing for 2022 and Beyond 

Louisa is planning to invite participants to volunteer at several other pantries. Because the community stepped up at the Martin Luther King Jr. pop-up, she’s hopeful that other pantries will see similar results 

“It’s really important to put equity at the center of what we do. These opportunities will give participants agency, choice, and power in the food distribution.” 

For Mei, volunteering while also receiving food made an impact on her. 

“I’m grateful to be able to get this food while volunteering because it helps so many people.” 

Honor Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month

October 15, 2021

We honor #LatinxHeritageMonth and #HispanicHeritageMonth and celebrate the members of the Latinx and Hispanic community. We have immense gratitude for our partners who work so hard to #endhunger in these communities in SF & Marin every day. Knowing that food insecurity rose to 19% in the U.S. amongst Latinx and Hispanic people last year, according to Feeding America, please consider showing support for our many partners who serve the Latinx and Hispanic community.

Honramos el #MesdeHerenciaLatinx y #MesdeHerenciaHispana y celebramos a los miembros de la comunidad latina y hispana. Tenemos una inmensa gratitud por nuestros socios que trabajan tan duro para acabar con el hambre en estas comunidades en SF y Marin todos los días. Reconociendo que la inseguridad alimentaria aumentó al 19% en los EE. UU. dentro de la comunidad latina /hispana el año pasado según Feeding America, considere mostrar su apoyo a estos socios.

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.

Food Bankers Tell Their Stories

March 16, 2021

365 Days of Unprecedented Need

The time before COVID-19 fully entered our collective consciousness feels so far away, so unrecognizable it isn’t fair to say they feel like 10 years ago – it is of a different place and time entirely.

It’s almost as if we all celebrated the New Year prematurely, ignoring a much more consequential marker of time: March 17, the day the Bay Area shelter-in-place order officially went into effect. The eve of which was not spent watching fireworks or drinking something bubbly, but panic shopping and hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

After a very long and very challenging year that has forever changed the fabric of our community, we do not celebrate but we acknowledge this occasion. Between March 2020 and March 2021 more than 529,300 (as of 3/15/21) people died of the coronavirus, tens of millions of people lost their jobs, hundreds of thousands of businesses shut down, and in the process, 45 million people nationwide – including 15 million children – were thrust into food insecurity.

Food pantry line

“I was naïve.”

Food Bank staff packs bags

“I’m pretty sure I was at the office,” said Michael Braude, thinking back to when he first heard about the shelter-in-place order. “We already had been meeting to address our response efforts, but I don’t think anyone expected a complete shut-down to come from out of the blue as it did.”

Looking back none of us expected to be here a year later.

“I was naïve. I thought it would be over when the order was lifted – three weeks later,” remembers Gunilla Bergensten.

Food Bank staff and volunteers

“A devastating blow.”

As the months wore on, we all saw the images of food bank lines nationwide and the heart-breaking portraits of those in them. For the Food Bank staff, this need was not distant. Day in and day out we saw our community hurting, we saw our neighbors, our friends, and our family in need.

Cars wait for food pantry

“COVID has magnified the existing health and income disparities in the community I support,” said Lucia Ruiz. “This has been a devastating blow, which often causes me to feel both sadness and anger.”

Lucia Ruiz

Almost overnight we saw the need in our community double. In just 2 months we went from serving 32,000 households a week to 62,000 (we are now steadily seeing about 55,000 households weekly).

“Seeing the surge in people who needed food, oftentimes for the first time in their lives, kept me going,” said Joseph Hampton.

Food Bank warehouse

Keeping up with that level of demand was no small feat.

“The biggest challenge I think was getting food quickly while the retail market crashed. And operating at such a high UOS (Food Bank term for households) without increasing our physical working space,” said Angela Wirch. “With everyone panic shopping there was no getting rice…there were so many challenges. The money and infrastructure were gradual, but the need was immediate. We filled that second warehouse so fast.”

Angela Wirch

Two tractor-trailers, 10 bobtails, two new warehouses, and one giant tent to cover our parking lot later, we somehow found the space for 77 million pounds of food to meet the tremendous need.

Food Bank warehouse

Finding the People Power

“Never in my career have I experienced a more profound threat of not having a safe work environment for workers or enough workers available to run the operations,” said Nadia Chargualaf.

Nadia Chargualaf

“Half of our team was incapacitated because of COVID, so we were short-staffed for a long period,” said Johnny Lee, remembering how many staff members needed to stay home because of their health. “Many of our sites were closed at the beginning, and a few remain closed to this day. We used some PPE before COVID, but now we follow all the guidelines given to us by the CDC and strictly try to enforce distancing between participants.”

Johnny Lee

Cody Jang remembers, “I was at work when the news came in. Within hours we had lost close to 3,000 volunteer reservations. We were worried about how we would complete the work without volunteers.”

Cody Jang

But the community not only stepped up, they stepped up in droves. Within a matter of months, if not weeks, we were seeing twice as many volunteers as we welcomed pre-pandemic – that’ more than 157,000 volunteer hours since March 2020. Not to mention the support of Disaster Service Workers, corporate partners and community groups.

United Playaz

Challenges: Emotional and Physical

“The biggest challenge has been trying to stay safe during the days that I physically need to be at the office. Even after all this time, I still get a bit of anxiety when working in the office due to the extra layers of planning and endurance (mask-wearing, sanitation, etc.) that go into working within close proximity to others during the pandemic,” said Joseph Hampton.

Joseph Hampton

“The biggest challenge is really the emotional toll that COVID is taking,” said Ken Levin. “Both in people we may know that have been directly affected, or those affected tangentially. This past Saturday, I brought food to a friend who had just lost a family member. I left it at her doorstep. Then on Monday, I attended an online memorial for another friend’s husband. Not being able to see, hug, and be with these people in their time of need has been particularly difficult.”

Ken Levin

“There were multiple types of challenges to face. But one that I really wasn’t ready for was the isolation and loneliness of being separated from my loved ones,” reflects Lauren Cassell. “A lot of things in my life changed because of the pandemic, and I wish I had been more kind to myself. Having hard, unproductive days in the midst of a pandemic is okay.”

Lauren Cassell

Policy Makers Rise to the Occasion

As the need rose, so did the public consciousness around food insecurity. Even before the pandemic 1 in 5 San Francisco and Marin residents was at risk of hunger. Food Banks can’t meet the need alone.

“Before COVID, getting movement from elected officials on policies that impacted low-income people was much more of an uphill battle. By thrusting millions more Americans into hardship, COVID forced politicians to listen to anti-poverty and anti-hunger advocates much more seriously and take immediate action,” reflects Meg Davidson. “Things we’d been told were impossible for years we were able to make happen in a matter of weeks. Turns out, we were onto something when we’ve been repeating that making it easier for people to get the help they need when they fall on hard times is good for everyone.”

Meg Davidson

“We adjusted, pivoted and made the necessary changes to help more in our community to reduce food insecurity during the pandemic. I’m proud of some of our legislative victories, such as, improvements to CalFresh, like waivers, increases in benefits, the P-EBT rollout, online EBT purchase ability, etc.,” said Marchon Tatmon.

Mayor London Breed with Food Bank staff and volunteers

Perseverance Despite the Weight of the World

“I feel very lucky to work at the Food Bank. As challenging as this year has been, I am grateful for my colleagues. I’m heartened by the generosity of our supporters,” said Iris Fluellen.

Iris Fluellen

“There have been challenging moments, and breaking points, and everything in between, but we’ve kept the work going for our communities and for ourselves,” said Claudia Wallen. “My mom always says, ‘You must have a plan B, and if possible, a plan C.’  Never before has she been more right.”

Claudia Wallen

“Being able to help so many new people get CalFresh benefits – and getting to know my staff’s pets – has kept me going,” shared Liliana Sandoval.

Liliana Sandoval

“Although I haven’t sat in my pod or met everyone internally or externally, I’m humbled to be a part of the team,” shared Denise Chen. “The dedication and commitment we have in serving our community is truly amazing.”

Denise and Donna

“Growth is messy, even when you plan it. We definitely haven’t felt like the most organized bunch on some days, but we did the work that needed to get done clear-eyed and together. My heart is so full of respect and love for each and every team member,” said Kera Jewett. “We may have been tired, sore, in PJs, short-staffed, and completely overwhelmed, but I know for a fact everyone did their level best every single day. I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to go into battle with.”

Kera Jewett

“Looking back I would tell myself, this looks really bad, but there are many, many good people doing amazing things to turn this situation and this world around, politically, scientifically, and morally, so keep your eye on the prize and don’t give up,” said Bob Brenneman.

Bob Brenneman


Statement on Recent Attacks | 關於最近攻擊的聲明 | Declaración sobre ataques recientes

February 12, 2021

The Food Bank unequivocally denounces the surge of violent, racist attacks that are being perpetrated against Asian Americans in the Bay Area and around the country.

The pandemic has exacerbated anti-Asian racism and hate. Between March 19, 2020 and December 31, 2020 Stop AAPI Hate received over 2,800 firsthand accounts of anti-Asian hate incidents, and more than 700 of those took place in the Bay Area. We are horrified by the trauma being inflicted on our community as a result of violent racism and xenophobia.

We are in resolute solidarity with our Asian American staff, participants, partners, and supporters during this incredibly challenging time. The community continues to suffer lost wages, businesses, and lives due to COVID-19. We also echo the recent calls of many Asian American organizations in the Bay Area to demand action from our local leaders to do more to stop these attacks.

More than half of the Food Bank’s participants are Asian Americans, many of them elders, and we see firsthand the fear and trauma the community is experiencing. Our team cares deeply for our participants and is working to ensure our food distributions remain safe, so those who need food will be able to continue to come without fear of violence. Over the coming days and weeks, we will also be working with our community partners who serve Asian American communities to ensure we are supporting them in the way they need during this challenging time. No one should forgo food due to fear and racism.

Systemic racism and white supremacy are pervasive. The same issues of institutional racism that perpetuate food insecurity are threatening the lives of people of color in our community. Anti-Asian racism, like the attacks from recent weeks, is often underreported and cannot be ignored. If we are to work towards being an anti-racist organization, then we must advocate firmly against all forms of racism.

As many celebrate Lunar New Year today, we will continue to support our community in healing from this moment.

If you would like to take action and support the Bay Area’s Asian American community, please see the resources below from many of our partners and other Asian American organizations around the Bay Area.

In solidarity,

Tanis Crosby



這個疫情加劇了反亞裔的種族主義和仇恨。在2020年3月19日至2020年12月31日期間,Stop AAPI Hate收到了超過2,800宗反亞裔仇恨事件的第一手資料,其中超過700宗發生在灣區。暴力種族主義和仇外心理給我們社區造成的創傷使我們感到震驚。







Tanis Crosby


  • 如果您或您認識的任何人遭受反亞裔攻擊,請在stopaapihate.org上舉報。
  • 閱讀:橫跨灣區的亞裔組織合力要求採取行動打擊暴力
  • 參加2月14日(星期日)下午1點在市中心廣場愛我們的人民:恢復我們的社區集會

El Banco de Alimentos denuncia inequívocamente la oleada de ataques violentos y racistas que se están perpetrando contra los estadounidenses de origen asiático en el Área de la Bahía (en inglés: Bay Areay alrededor del país. 

La pandemia ha exacerbado el racismo y el odio contra los asiáticos. Entre el 19 de marzo de 2020 y el 31 de diciembre de 2020, Stop AAPI Hate recibió más de 2.800 informes de primera mano de incidentes de odio contra Asia, y más de 700 de ellos tuvieron lugar en el Área de la Bahía. Nos horroriza el trauma que se inflige a nuestra comunidad como resultado del racismo violento y la xenofobia. 

Nos declaramos en solidaridad absoluta con nuestro equipo, participantes, y colaboradores asiático-americanos y quienes nos apoyan durante este período tan increíblemente difícil. La comunidad continúa sufriendo la pérdida de salarios, negocios y vidas debido al COVID-19. También, hacemos eco a los recientes llamamientos de muchas organizaciones asiático-americanos  en el Área de la Bahía para exigir acción por parte de nuestros líderes locales para hacer más para detener estos ataques. 

Más de la mitad de los participantes del Banco de Alimentos son asiático-americanos, muchos mayores de edad, y vemos de primera mano el temor y el trauma que sufre nuestra comunidad. Nuestro equipo se preocupa profundamente por nuestros participantes, y está trabajando para asegurar que nuestras distribuciones de alimentos permanezcan seguras, para que aquellos que necesitan alimentos puedan seguir viniendo sin miedo a la violencia. Durante los próximos días y semanas, también trabajaremos con nuestros socios comunitarios que sirven a las comunidades asiático-americanos para asegurarnos de que los estamos apoyando de la manera que ellos necesitan durante este período difícil. Nadie debe privarse de comida debido al miedo y racismo. 

El racismo sistémico y la supremacía blanca son omnipresentes. Los mismos temas de racismo institucional que perpetúan la inseguridad alimentaria están amenazando las vidas de las personas de color en nuestra comunidad. El racismo anti asiático, al igual que los ataques de las últimas semanas, frecuentemente no se denuncia, pero no se puede ignorar. Si vamos a trabajar para ser una organización antirracista, entonces debemos abogar firmemente contra todas las formas de racismo. 

Mientras muchos celebran el Nuevo Año Lunar hoy, seguiremos apoyando a nuestra comunidad para que sane por lo que sucede ahora. 

Si usted desea tomar medidas y apoyar a la comunidad asiática-americana del Área de la Bahía, favor de revisar los recursos a continuación de muchos de nuestros socios y otras organizaciones asiático-americanos en el Área de la Bahía. 

En solidaridad, 

Tanis Crosby 


The Food Bank Hires a New Executive Director

January 26, 2021

Dear Friends,

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 fieldThank 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.

Irene’s Story | We’re All In This Together

August 4, 2020

Growing up in San Francisco, my grandmother was everything to me. She had migrated from Nicaragua, re-married into a food family, and helped run a restaurant. So, she knew how to cook, and prepared meals for us regularly. Her kitchen was the epicenter of our family.

Today, I work at the Food Bank, supporting many of our Marin pantries. I see the space we created with our partners, and just like my grandmother’s kitchen, it’s at the center of our community, with food hitting the bullseye.

Pre-pandemic, it was a real family atmosphere—with music, food samples, and information about services. The pantry coordinator and volunteers knew every participant by name and often gave hugs. You’d hear them ask, “How are you feeling?” “How’s your daughter?” or “Are you coming to the event tonight?”

You’d feel the warmth and see that participants were comfortable with not only getting help but helping each other.

Since COVID-19 struck, the music and hugs have taken a pause, but the welcoming atmosphere has not. In Marin, we’ve changed many of our operations to drive-thru pantries. Folks drive up, open up their trunks, and a volunteer puts their groceries in. It’s a “no-touch” experience, but you can still see everyone smiling beneath their masks.

At a San Rafael drive-thru pantry, a woman got out of the car to open the trunk, and you could just see the appreciation in her eyes. She said, “You have no idea how much this means to me.” A group of us standing there all gave her an “air hug” from six feet away.

In Marin, there’s more space to have a line of cars, but it requires a lot more coordination. Our partner organizations, volunteers, and county worker support has turned everything upside down to make the food distribution work. For some pantries, we need anywhere from 30-50 volunteers. Folks get there early and set up assembly lines to prepare up to 600 bags of food.

Working six feet apart but alongside each other, we all feel a sense of unity: unity with volunteers and participants. We’re all in this together. When all is said and done, the new normal can be distressing. But I’m certain between the Food Bank, our partners, volunteers, and community supporters, we will get through this together.

CalFresh Responds to Unprecedented Need

April 8, 2020

Nutrition Program Reduces Barriers to Access 

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as CalFresh here in California, helps people get the food they need to weather economically challenging times. With unemployment reaching staggering new heights, more people are turning to CalFresh than ever before.  

The Food Bank is deeply invested in helping eligible people access this program. Our CalFresh Outreach team provides application assistance year-round, walking first-time applicants through what can be a confusing and frustrating process. Our Policy & Advocacy team regularly works with lawmakers at the local, state, and federal levels to improve the administration of the program.  

During this pandemic, Congress has included investments in this program in all three COVID-19 economic stimulus bills. Additionally, both the State of California and the Federal government have heeded the demands of advocates to increase flexibility in the CalFresh program to help people more easily access and maintain the benefits they need to survive this crisis. 

Federal Changes – Learn more from the USDA 

  • Pandemic EBT – families with children who receive free or reduced-price lunch whose schools are closed due to the pandemic will receive a pre-loaded EBT (credit-like) card in the mail to spend on food. No application is necessary. 
  • Emergency SNAP – states are able to provide a “boost” for all CalFresh recipients, bumping their benefit amount up to the maximum allowed for their household size.  If you live alone and were receiving $50 pre-COVID, your allotment would be increased to $194/month for the months of March and April. 

State Changes – Learn more here 

  • Waived Interview Requirement – Applicants no longer need to have an interview with a county eligibility worker to be approved for benefits. They only need to apply and submit necessary documents to receive a determination of their eligibility. 
  • Waived Periodic Reports – CalFresh recipients are temporarily exempt from having to submit documentation to re-verify their need for benefits. This will help people continue to receive money for food without interruption during this period. 
  • Allowance of Telephonic Signature – For now, applicants can complete the entire application, including their verbal signature, over the phone. 
  • Request for Online Purchasing – California requested the ability to allow CalFresh recipients to use their benefits at online retailers including Walmart and Amazon.  The USDA approved this request 4.8.2020, and CA plans to implement it in May.

These temporary changes will help the hundreds of thousands of Californians who have found themselves in need in the past few weeks get access to the food they need to survive this crisis and the Food Bank applauds them. However, there is still more to be done. 

Action Needed: Contact your Members of Congress (House and Senate) and urge them to support Speaker Pelosi and Democratic Leader Schumer in putting SNAP among the priority programs for any COVID-19 package. Ask for:

  •  15% increase in food stamps benefits 
  • An increase in the minimum benefit from $16 to $30

Need help finding your Members of Congress? Use this tool, which provides the phone numbers and social media accounts for Senators and Representatives by state and zip code.

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.


Pop-Up Food Pantries Keep Food Flowing

March 25, 2020

On a chilly Thursday morning, a San Francisco-Marin Food Bank truck pulled off the unusually quiet Dolores Street into the parking lot at Mission High School. Sergio Salguera, Sr. Lead Driver at the Food Bank parked and started to unload pallets of fresh produce, rice, milk and eggs 

Salguera, who has delivered to several popupssaid this delivery gives him a whole new appreciation of our mission, “I experienced a newfound strength to be able to set-up and deliver to face the crisis and help our community.”  

Soon after he arrived, volunteers trickled in with coffee in hand and ready to hear their marching orders.  

Tina Gonzales, director of community partnerships at the Food Bank called everyone’s attention and gave a firm reminder of social distancing. Then she asked line managers to greet participants, and volunteers to pack grocery bags with specific amounts of each item – six carrots, four potatoes, three apples, one bunch of celery, etc. Anyone without a task was to make sure boxes of food were open and accessible.  

Food is Essential 

COVID-19 precautions have caused around 100 food pantries in San Francisco and Marin to close. To fill the gap and ensure our neighbors can still have access to healthy food, the Food Bank team is working around the clock to open interim pop-up pantries.  

“We had a lot of pantries close in the community and a lot of people in need of food without accessSo, we decided that we needed to reach out to community partners and set up pop-up pantries with the help of volunteers,” said Gonzales.  

The pop-up pantries have been a huge success. The pantry at Mission High School was just one of six pop-up food pantries the Food Bank set up that served over 1,800 people last week. And we will continue to bring more online to serve different neighborhoods.  

These pantries are here to serve anyone whose regular pantry has closed or who is struggling to afford food because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Practicing Social Distancing 

The Food Bank is an essential service, and still allowed to operate, but we are adapting to new realities. “We are trying to do the best we can,” said Gonzales. “We are finding new ways to spread out but still get the work done.” 

Instead of having participants walk through the pantry in the typical “farmer’s market style, they were handed a bag of pre-packed groceries to minimize waiting in line and food handlingLine managers reminded participants to keep six feet between one another, and staff reminded volunteers that spacing out was more important than efficiency 

Volunteers and participants alike understood the need for these new measures 

Neighbors Helping Neighbors 

“It warms my heart being able to hear how much the community appreciates our mission and the sense of relief they receive from us,” said Salguera. 

The outpouring of support and eagerness to volunteer has come from everywhere in the community – participants, local churches, staff, and individuals. It has deeply inspired both Salguera and Gonzales.  

“One of the greatest things is our website is blowing up with volunteers. We have seen a lot of people who want to come help” said Gonzales 

And it’s not just volunteers who are pitching in. Friends, family, and neighbors are pitching in to pick up free groceries for vulnerable family and neighbors who could not leave their homes.  

People see it and tell us they have a neighbor, or they are taking care of their mom and need to take another bag. So not only are we helping the people in line,” said Gonzales. We are helping people who should not come out and cannot come out, so it’s been really great to be able to do that.” 

Each pop-up pantry is led by a Food Bank staffer or volunteer, and we currently recruiting more volunteers to help us expand. Sign up to learn about opportunities as the arise here