On Art, Activism, and Community: A Q&A with Cliffton Hyson

June 15, 2022

Cliffton is a longtime San Francisco resident and artist, with a warm smile and a knack for storytelling. He’s also a participant at our Rosa Parks Pop-up Pantry, which he walks to with his good friend Sharon. They pick up groceries together, go back to one of their homes, and then plan their meals for the upcoming week (“we’re in the kitchen pretty much all the time,” says Cliffton). Though he’s not an SF native – he moved to California by way of Greenville, Mississippi – Cliffton has lived in the Western Addition since 1981. Needless to say – the neighborhood has changed dramatically.  

Cliffton and Sharon with their groceries.

Through art, youth outreach, and food, Cliffton is determined to continue building community and bringing together Black folks in the Western Addition and the Fillmore who have been displaced and neglected by the city. He’s also passionate about making sure Black youth in the community know the storied history of the Fillmore and Western Addition – “we have a lot of Black history right in front of our face.” Most recently, he worked as a sketch artist for a mural that can be found at the Buchanan Street Mall, and we also learned he will also be working on the city’s Juneteenth celebration. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation, condensed and edited for clarity.  

Food Bank: Can you tell us a little more about your advocacy work? 

Cliffton: I’m using my art as an activist in my community to help my people. It’s like I’m reconnecting with something. I want to know about the history of the community that I’m in. I want to bring those stories to life. And by me doing art, I can do that. I can bring those stories to light and bringing those stories to light helps a young black man, a young black lady, a young black girl, a young black boy. 

FB: Right. You mentioned you work with some organizations like Citizen Film doing youth outreach, and you’re working on another art exhibit that’s going to debut in 2023. Can you tell us a little about that? 

Cliffton: So, my art is dealing with trying to help the youth. I want the kids to research the history of the Fillmore during the jazz era, in the ’40s and ’50s. And see, by them researching their own history, they’re educating themselves about their people. It’s educational for the kids that’s doing the research, it’s educational for the community to know about the past, and it’s also educational for the passerby to see that history. We have a rich history. 

FB: That sounds like it’s going to be not only an informative exhibit, but it’s really going to bring to life the history of the Fillmore. 

Portrait of ClifftonCliffton: My biggest thing is for my people to get educated. What you know, they can’t take that away from you. If you want to stay in your community, you’ve got to find a way. Educate yourself on what City Hall is doing for your community, what you can do for your community. I’m helping set up the Juneteenth celebration [for the city]. I have a booth at the Juneteenth celebration, and I’ll be selling my t-shirts and stuff, and I will also bring a good portion of my artwork up there to display.  

FB: That’s awesome, I’m really looking forward to it. What does Juneteenth mean to you? 

Cliffton: Juneteenth means to me, freedom, life, happiness, and loving one another. I really can’t express what the heart feels…. freedom, freedom, freedom, that’s what the heart pumps.  

FB: That’s beautiful. Thank you for sharing that. Now, just to bring it back to food, what are some of your memories associated with food? 

Cliffton: Cooking brings back memories of my mother when I was young, in the kitchen with her and my sisters and brothers and sitting around preparing food. We’re in conversation, communicating, laughing, joking with each other and having fun, learning how to cook, you know? So, when I’m cooking now, that’s what it brings back. When we’re cooking and the kids are all in there, and we’re sitting around, preparing the meal and cooking, everybody got that conversation going, everybody got a memory going. They remember this, they remember that and we’re all laughing. 

FB: Love that. Thank you for painting that picture. My final question – what does food mean to you? 

Cliffton: Food brings you together, you know? And especially when you’re a good-hearted person and you’ve got good people around you, when you’re cooking, and you got people over and everything… take the food away, you got chaos. If you got a group of people together, bring the food. Ain’t nobody fussing. You can’t fuss because you’re eating. It’s something nourishing for the body, and the body won’t allow you to be negative at that moment because it’s food. A good hefty stomach makes you want to kick back, relax, take your shoes off and just be Black.  

Nourish the Neighborhood 

With groceries taken care of, Cliffton invests energy into his community – “we have other important things to put our finances toward, you know?” It’s an important reminder that food is the basis for so much more. Healthy groceries fuel the artists, activists, community organizers, mentors, and others who shape our neighborhoods into the vibrant, dynamic spaces that we know and love. 

CROps: Community Feedback on the Menu

June 14, 2022

Tomatillos. Collard greens. Tilapia. Black-eyed peas. What do all these items have in common? Well, for one, they’re all pretty darn tasty when cooked. They’re also all part of the new Culturally Responsive Food Options pilot at the Food Bank – CROps for short. Every week, participants at Cesar Chavez Pop-up Pantry and Rosa Parks Pop-up Pantry, in the Mission and Western Addition respectively, are presented with two additional food items that they can choose to take home, or decline. 

Creating a More Welcoming Pantry 

Tomatillos - part of CROps add onsCROps is an effort to provide more culturally responsive foods and more choice for our Black and Latinx participants, By supplying culturally relevant items people like and know how to use in the kitchen, this pilot hopes to increase satisfaction with the food choices offered, help us learn more about what people like and want to see, and create a more welcoming pantry environment.  

 

Some community members like Cliffton at Rosa Parks Pop-up Pantry are also eager at the prospect of influencing what foods may appear next: “it’s a wonderful thing, to have a survey to see what the community wants. I got the email, and I will be filling it out.” Surveys among participants helped decide what foods went into the first few weeks of the pilot, and now participant feedback will help decide what items are offered going forward. 

Community Response 

So far, the items seem to be striking a chord with participants. Victoria, a participant at Rosa Parks Pop-up Pantry, cooks for herself and the older gentleman she cares for. On the day we spoke, she had picked up both add-ons: green onions and white mushrooms.  Mushrooms and green onions are two add-on items offered through CROps

“Sometimes I don’t know the vegetables that they give out here, so the new items have been great for me, because they’re things I’m familiar with and already know how to cook. I know what I can do with them,” said Victoria. And what does she do with them? “I cook about as much Mexican food as I do food from my country – El Salvador. So, the green onions are great to make a carne asada, or a carne entomatada.”  

Maria holding up tomatillosWe also caught up with Maria at Cesar Chavez Pop-up Pantry, who is recovering from an operation on her stomach to remove a tumor: “I can’t eat out – my stomach is really fragile from the operation. Street food makes me sick. So, I need to cook at home, for my health.” New food and spice choices, like tomatillos and oregano, allow Maria to make comforting foods that aid her recovery.  

“The oregano that we had today – I use it to make salsa with tomatillo, oregano and a little onion. Then I top off my bean taquitos, and it’s really tasty.” 

“Just What I Need” 

Friends Sharon and Cliffton walk together to Rosa Parks Pop-up Pantry on Wednesdays, and they’ve both been enjoying the new CROps offerings. Once they get their groceries, they’ll go back to the kitchen together to whip up a menu for the week – but they cook separately. Their collard green recipes brought up a friendly rivalry. Cliffton says he has to make his “Southern style, with the bacon, salt pork or hog bone,” and Sharon opts for “more of a Brazilian green. I love the flavor of garlic in my greens.”  

Despite how their cooking may differ, they agree that the new options are a welcome addition. As Sharon, who is disabled and lives in a senior community in the Western Addition, told us, “People in our age group tend to go through dietary restrictions, so this was most accommodating for me.”  Cliffton and Sharon with their groceries

She also shared that food from the pantry is helping her stay fit “just by changing my diet, and the way that I prepare food for myself. I love mushrooms and fresh vegetables – they’re actually things that I can use at home. The add-on items are just what I need.” 

Looking Forward 

What’s next for the CROps pilot? Food Bank staff will be evaluating the feedback from participants to learn more about participants’ preferences, and how best to continue providing more choice and culturally responsive foods that folks want and enjoy cooking. Through this feedback loop, we hope to continue an ongoing dialogue with participants about how we can offer more options they want and are looking for through our pantry network.  

 

Paying a High Price: Inflation Impacts

June 2, 2022

On a hot Wednesday afternoon in May, Victoria arrived at Rosa Parks Pop-up Pantry to pick up groceries like a gallon of milk, white mushrooms, and green onions for the older gentleman she provides home care for. She carried the bags out to the sidewalk and then paused to chat for a few minutes, shielding her face from the sun and setting down her heavy groceries. We learned she’s lived in San Francisco for Victoria holds up her milk and grocery bagthe past 40 years, and understandably, she’s seen the city change a lot in her time here. “When I came here [in the 80s], you could buy a thousand wonders for $50. You could fill the refrigerator for at least a month [for $50]. Now, everything is so expensive. There are times when there’s not enough to buy food. It’s terrible.”  

Working as a gardener and caretaker for seniors, San Francisco has been her home – the place where she says, with a twinkle in her eye, she has lived her “most beautiful life.” But while Victoria has seen SF through its fair share of economic ups and downs over the decades, including high inflation in the 80s, the current climate is unlike anything she’s seen before. These days, she’s trying to focus on the fact that “I’m okay, and the gentleman I take care of is okay – that’s what gives me peace.” 

With grocery prices up 10% in the SF metro area, and gas prices soaring alongside them (up 43% compared to this time last year), the Food Bank is a lifeline for our community in this particularly challenging time.  

Shrinking Savings 

Like Victoria, many folks are worried. Every week we speak with community members like Arnoldo, who echo this feeling of constantly falling behind. Arnoldo has been coming to Cesar Chavez Pop-up Pantry ever since his small package delivery business in the Mission was forced to close during the pandemic. Without the income from his business, Arnoldo is left looking for work as a painter and scraping together what he can. He rents a room from a friend, but even sharing a space is expensive.  

“Right now I don’t have a job, and all my bills are so high. The little savings I had, went straight to rent,” he said, shaking his head.  

Impossible Choices 

Sharon lives just a short walk from Rosa Parks Pop-up Pantry, and the groceries she picks up have been a huge help – she even told her friend Clifton about it, and now they come to the pantry together. But that doesn’t mean it’s erased the rest of her worries, especially operating on a fixed budget due to her disability income.  

“We’re forced to make choices, you know? I literally don’t go grocery shopping. I can’t afford to. I’m caught, stuck between the choice of paying my housing and utility costs and purchasing food. So, I literally gave up on purchasing food, and without the Food Bank…” she trailed off, but the implication is obvious.  

“Really Rough Right Now” 

For Anna, sticker shock is just another worry on top of caregiving and supporting her parents, who are both disabled. Her dad needs 24/7 care, but hiring a full-time caregiver is financially out of reach. “My parents only get Social Security, and it isn’t enough, so I have to help them with rent,” she said. RightAnna holds her groceries in front of the park now, Anna is working anywhere from six to seven days a week as a nurse at Highland Hospital, and teaching UCSF nursing students as well. She stops by Cesar Chavez Pop-up Pantry to pick up food for her parents on her one day off.  

She leaned against the fence for a little support, watching kids play in the park next to the pantry while telling us about her situation. “It’s really rough right now. Everything is going up in price. It’s affecting me too, because I have to pay my own rent, my own food, the car and insurance – everything is going up in price now. I went to the store and the prices are crazy.”  

Take Action  

If you’re wondering why we’re still seeing so many folks at our pantries, two years into the pandemic – this is your answer. The pandemic has exacerbated issues that were already present – a housing/homelessness crisis, a cost of living that outpaces wages, the highest income inequality in the nation – and introduced new ones, like lingering isolation and mental health impacts from shelter-in-place. 

That’s why we must keep pushing for comprehensive social safety nets that ensure the safety, dignity, and health and well-being of all in our community.  

Reality Check 

Over the course of our conversation, Anna grew reflective. She explained that growing up in Ukraine, she held an idealized image of life in the US – one that dissolved almost immediately when she moved to San Francisco in ‘95.  

“I think before [my family] moved here, we thought a little differently about this country. Once we got here….it’s not as easy to live here as people think it is. When they show the US back home, it [seems] so glamorous, like money comes from the trees. When people move here, it’s a very different story.” 

We owe it to our neighbors and ourselves to contend with that reality. Volunteer. Advocate. Donate.

A New Kind of Pantry: Kain Na Community Food Hub

June 1, 2022

If you’ve ever walked through San Francisco’s Mission Bay, you know the district is new and modern, home to Bay views, public parks, and the iconic Chase Center. Much of the neighborhood is recently developed, and adding to the spirit of transformation in the district is a new kind of food pantry: Kain Na Community Food Hub, which opened its doors on February 4 this year. 

Kain Na was informed by the Mission Bay community and is operated by the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (TNDC) to provide free nutritious and culturally relevant food in an open market space. Food is provided by the SF-Marin Food Bank and the Deep Medicine Circle. 

Local artist ChiChai included an acknowledgement of the Ohlone land Kain Na occupies in her mural for the space.

“TNDC has a successful and powerful legacy of engaging the community and taking direct action to meet people’s needs,” said Maurilio León, TNDC CEO. “Kain Na is an example of our values and the impact we can make in advancing food and health justice.”

Walking into Kain Na, which means “Let’s Eat” in Tagalog, it’s clear that the space was designed to welcome people inside. The name itself pays homage to the Filipino community of San Francisco and celebrates the universal language of food. Local artist ChiChai covered the walls with murals, including a prominent acknowledgment of the Ohlone land the building occupies. Paintings show people coming together and sharing platters of food, mirroring the abundant selection of fresh produce, meat and eggs, and pantry staples filling the food hub’s aisles.

Kain Na is a multifunctional space, and the rows filled with produce during market hours can be reworked into tables where food and nutrition classes are held. Cookbooks and pamphlets fill some of the shelf space. The space is bright, clean, and welcoming – much like the Mission Bay neighborhood it occupies. Located on the ground floor of TNDC’s supportive housing 626 Mission Bay Boulevard, Kain Na serves many building residents and is part of a holistic approach to addressing the root causes of food insecurity. 

A Shift to Empowerment 

Kain Na builds on the concept of a food pantry to offer even more choice and flexibility. Many food pantries are open for only a few hours once a week. For many participants, having a set appointment time is convenient – parents know they can grab groceries when they pick up their kids from school, or people who work during the week can depend on their Saturday time slot without needing to wait in line while doing their weekend errands. Kain Na, on the other hand, takes a flexible approach by staying open all day for several days a week, a better option for someone who has a more unpredictable schedule.  

“If a participant can’t make it one day to get their weekly food, they can visit the hub on the other days it’s open,” said Tina Gonzales, the Food Bank’s Director of Community Partnerships. “This reduces anxiety and fear of scarcity, making the food hub a positive shopping experience.” 

Participants are free to select their own food items.

The food pantries run by our partners like TNDC are committed to serving people with dignity, and one of the key elements of that is offering choice. Before the pandemic, all our pantries were set up like farmers’ markets, where participants were free to select the amount and type of food they received. For the last two years, we’ve had to pivot to pre-bagging groceries for our participants – but we’re working to bring back the empowerment inherent in folks choosing their own food in a farmers’ market setting. Kain Na is a great example of how to offer food options safely going forward. 

“It gives participants the choice to pick the food they need to feed themselves and their families,” said Tina. “Participants grab a watermelon when they are in season because their kids like the fruit. If they want to skip receiving 10 potatoes one week, they can choose the four potatoes they need instead.” This allows pantries and hubs to adjust their offerings to include foods they see their community wants.  

Kain Na also serves as an information center with free food and nutrition workshops. “It offers other community resources to improve participant wellbeing,” said Tina. “Things like CalFresh (food stamps) outreach, eviction defense resources, tax assistance, and summer programming for kids make Kain Na a community resource as much as it is a food program.”  

At the Food Bank, we’re looking to Kain Na Community Food Hub as an example of what some food pantries could look like in the future. It is offering yet another kind of service to help meet people where they are at. The food hub’s insight into what strategies work best to solve food insecurity in a post-COVID world will be invaluable. We’re proud to support TNDC and Kain Na in trailblazing solutions to hunger in San Francisco. 

$1.5M in Matching Grants for Donor-Advised Funds

April 16, 2021

Charitable giving not only has positive effects in our community, but it is also a popular tax deduction. Many choose to invest in donor-advised funds (DAFs) as a way to stretch their dollars for greater impact. The Food Bank is engaging with donors about DAF gifts, as well as partnering with #HalfMyDAF, an organization that is committing donors to spend half their DAFs and awarding $1.5 million in matching grants.

A donor-advised fund (DAF) is a charitable giving account through a financial institution designed to invest, grow, and give to charities. People donate into a DAF and recommend how those assets should be invested. Contributions are tax-deductible, and donors can then distribute all or part to a nonprofit whenever they want.

The benefit of a DAF is that money can earn interest, which increases the amount donors can give to charities over time. The drawback is that once a donor gives to a DAF and takes the tax deduction, people often forget – or do not know – how to release the funds. In fact, it is estimated that about $5 billion in charitable donations are locked up in DAF funds that could be released to help fund important work such as the Food Bank’s.

The #HalfMyDAF Challenge in Response to the COVID Crisis

#HalfMyDAF was founded by Jen and David Risher to help facilitate greater giving during the pandemic. Donors sign a pledge to give half their DAFs by September 30 to help sustain nonprofits – many of which, like the Food Bank, are taking on additional work to support those directly impacted by COVID.

“We want to inspire people to give and get their money put to work when that money is needed the most,” said Jen. “COVID has shifted everything, and nonprofits are having to do more with less. Donors may be thinking they might be saving for a rainy day. The pandemic is that rainy day, and now is the moment.”

Spending Down DAFs Now to Double Donors’ Impacts

On May 15, #HalfMyDAF will award $1.5 million in matching grants, including one $100,000 match, one $50,000 match, and many dollar-for-dollar matches of up to $10,000. So, spending down DAFs could potentially double a donor’s impact in the world.

“The silver lining of COVID is that it’s shining a light on the need in our communities,” said Jen. “When you can’t see it, you can’t make change. The pandemic has made it so clear, and the time to act is now to come together and create a real social safety net.”

Make a DAF Grant & The Food Bank Could Receive $100K

The Food Bank is working with donors directly and partnering with #HalfMyDAF to potentially double the amount of food we can provide to the community. “#HalfMyDAF provides donors with the opportunity to express their philanthropic intent and the kind of impacts they want to have on the world,” said Kera Jewett, Director of Leadership Gifts at the Food Bank. “And when donors partner with #HalfMyDAF, they can potentially double their gift to the Food Bank.”

Do you have a donor-advised fund? If you make a DAF grant to the Food Bank and commit to spending down half the money in your DAF by September 30, we’ll be eligible to receive up to $100K in matching funds. Look for details at halfmydaf.com or contact Kera Jewett at kjewett@sfmfoodbank.org.

 

The Perfect Storm: Increased Need & Higher Food Prices

June 18, 2020

Most of us try to limit our trips to the grocery store – trying to make it in and out as quickly as possible to protect everyone’s health. But when we venture out, it’s hard to miss the shortages and increased prices – it can seem like the bill keeps going up even as we can never get everything on the list.

At the Food Bank, we’re feeling it too, as Barbara Abbott, Vice President of Supply Chain can tell you. “The pandemic has been like a giant wrecking ball through our food supply chain.”

Barbara is something of an air traffic controller here at the Food Bank, overseeing the sourcing and moving of food from the growers and packers to our warehouse before it heads out to the community.

Grocery Prices Spike

“The general public has seen many of the same things we have at the Food Bank – like a spike in the price of eggs – a whopping 16%. There has been a shortage of meat. And the cost for pre-packaged rice, beans, and other pantry staples has gone up, and grocery shelves are often bare as folks stock up.”

According to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we’ve had the largest one-month price spike for food in nearly fifty years. Overall, food prices climbed an average of 2.6%, the highest increase since February 1974. Two-point-six percent might not seem like a lot, but when your family is stretching the dollar to put food on the table, every penny is accounted for.

Decreased in Supply & Increased Demand

To make matters worse, the Food Bank has moved away from buying grain and other items in bulk. Since the virus is airborne, we simply can’t have staff and volunteers working side-by-side in small sorting rooms. This means not only are we spending more on pre-packed goods, but we are now competing with grocery stores and everyday consumers for family-sized portions of many staples.

These operational challenges have collided with a huge spike in the need we are seeing in our community – we are now serving 62,000 households each week, up from 32,000 pre-pandemic.

“We’ve had to re-engineer our operations in so many ways,” Barbara said. “But the biggest change is that we’re serving nearly double the number of families with so many of our neighbors out of work.”

To meet the need, we not only need more food, but we must find additional storage space, hire more warehouse staff, procure more trucks, and hire more drivers.

As Barbara explained, “the increased need plus higher food prices is really the perfect storm to create shortages.”

However, thanks to the outpouring of generosity from donors, the Food Bank has been able to rise to the challenge. We are ensuring every family receives fresh produce, healthy grains and beans, and high-quality protein.

“We can’t predict when this pandemic will end,” Barbara reflected. “Right now, we are sprinting–but we know this crisis will be a marathon. We are counting on our supporters to make sure the Food Bank can respond to our community’s needs.”

A Letter From Paul Ash | In Community

June 4, 2020

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

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

Income inequality

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

#FoodForAll

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

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

With Gratitude,
Paul Ash
Executive Director

Partner Spotlight: Q&A with Casey Federico

May 13, 2020

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

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

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

(This conversation was edited for length and clarity.) 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Elisabeth’s Story | Delivering Food to Homebound Seniors

April 30, 2020

Food Bank delivers food to 11K seniors 

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

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

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

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

A fleet of volunteers and partners 

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

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

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

 

A thank you smile  

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

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

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

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

If you are interested in volunteering, sign up here. 

Thank You to Our Volunteers and Partners

April 9, 2020

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

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

Volunteers Stepping Up

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

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

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

Working Together in Solidarity 

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

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

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

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

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

Partner Spotlight 

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

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