Partner Spotlight: Q&A with United Playaz

April 21, 2020

In the weeks since we first learned of the region-wide shelter in place order, the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank has rapidly adjusted the way we operate to meet the ever-increasing need in our community. Last week, we served 18K more households than we did four weeks ago, and this number is only growing. 

None of this would be possible without the support of countless Food Bank partners, donors, and community volunteers. 

We recently had the opportunity to see one of these dedicated partners, United Playaz, in action. Every week, United Playaz, a youth-led violence prevention organization, helps staff the pop-up food pantry at Bessie Carmichael Elementary school. Members of the group not only help pack up and distribute food at the pantry, but they proactively stepped up to deliver groceries to 100+ seniors in their community. These are all seniors 65 and over who used to pick up groceries at our weekly pantries. 

We spoke with United Playaz Executive Director, Rudy Corpuz Jr about the group’s support of the Food Bank. 

Food Bank: What is your role at this food pantry?  

Rudy Corpuz Jr.: We are here because this is our community, we were doing this before the crisis started. We want to make sure we play our part and help out in the community for the most vulnerable population and just provide some support and help to make sure everybody is eating. 

FB: Has it been hard to recruit your members during these times?  

RC: Absolutely not. You know we want to give back. Our motto is: It takes the hood to save the hood. It’s our way of giving back. We’ve got different community-based organizations that have come together in solidarity under one umbrella, with no pride, no ego, just to make sure we take care of the community and the people. 

And all walks of life, you know what I mean. We’ve got ex-convicts, we’ve got college students, we’ve got developers, we’ve got tech people, people who went to school, who didn’t go to school – everybody who wants to help out and put their life on the line for others. 

FB: Are you concerned about your health being out here during COVID-19?  

RC: Absolutely, of course, I am. I have kids. I want to make sure I’m safe, and my kids are safe, and my community is safe. But I know there is a bigger need. Somebody’s got to do it. And so, what better way…I don’t want to die, or even get sick…but what better way to put your life on the line for others in this way. 

FB; Can you tell me a little about how you’ve been helping get food delivered to those who can’t come to the pantry?  

RC: During this crisis, everybody knows that the most vulnerable population is the senior citizens. You have a lot of seniors in this neighborhood – South of Market District 6 – who live in their apartments and live in the hotels, the SROs, and they are scared to come out. So, what we do as service providers for the community is to find out what their need is and what they want. We go out there and ask them if they need groceries, which they do, and boom, we deliver it to them. 

FB: How are you in touch with these individuals?  

RC: In our community, there are already organizations that are working with seniors. We are youth-led and there are senior groups. So what I did, I brought us all together and said, “hey look here, we’re in this crisis together. You know, service providers that serve seniors, we serve kids, some people serve reentries, the Food Bank gives food, let’s all work together in solidarity to make sure we are hitting the most vulnerable population.” 

So, the senior organizations will tell us who needs what. We provide the muscle and the leg power and energy, and we go out and do it. 

It’s like a basketball team, everybody has to play their part on the basketball court. You have the center who is in the middle and gets the rebounds, you have the guards who bring the basketball up. And so, if everybody plays their part, we’re successful, we win. 

During this crisis, these are the times that you have to stand for something that is greater than you. What a greater way to work with the food bank who provides those services. We don’t do it, they do it. 

FB: But you are out here making it possible – being the arms and the legs.  

RC: But I think that’s what I’m saying. You guys are like bringing up the ball. We get the ball, we put it in the hoop. 

Food Bank partners and volunteers like United Playaz are making it possible for us to continue our mission. Sign up to volunteer here.  

A Letter From Paul | We Are an Essential Service Provider

March 17, 2020

We are now struggling with the new reality in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. With a national emergency now declaredlocal school districts are closed, and now, our local governments have announced a ‘shelter in place’ order for all residents 

The Food Bank is still fully operational. As indicated in Mayor Breed’s press release, food banks are an essential service provider, and we must continue our work to distribute food to the community. Now, more than ever, our continued efforts are critical to ensure that our most vulnerable neighbors get access to the food they need to weather the pandemic. 

Pop-Up food pantries

We are working with San Francisco and Marin school districts to host pop-up food pantries at schools that are offering to-go meals for studentsWhen students and parents pick up their breakfast and lunch, they will also be able to get pre-bagged groceries to take home. This will help make sure families have the food they need.  

To our existing pantry network, wcontinue to purchase and send out additional shelf-stable food items each week for participants to set aside in case they can’t get to a pantry for any reason.  

Need for volunteers in the community

Our operations are being called upon to support our community’s most vulnerable. We cannot provide these services without volunteers. We anticipate that we’ll need additional help at our pop-up food pantries. Please see our special volunteer signup page to help us during this pressing time: Hunger Doesn’t Take a Break – Please Volunteer. 

We understand that there are concerns about volunteering amid the COVID-19 outbreak, and we take these concerns seriously. To protect the health of our volunteers, and staff, we have made changes to our volunteer program: reducing the number of volunteers at each shift and cutting non-essential projects.  

Safety and health first

We are in close contact with public health officials and are following their recommendations. In response to the COVID-19 situation, we have doubled down on cleaning, hand washing, and, of course, we have hand sanitizer and disinfectant readily available. The volunteers continue to use gloves, and we are mindful of social distancing per CDC guidelines. As always, the safety of our staff, partners, volunteers, and participants are of the utmost importance.  

 We encourage you to consider your own health and well-being before deciding whether or not to volunteer. 

During this time, you can also support our work to keep our community healthy and ensure that our neighbors in need have enough food by making a donation

If you, or anyone you know, are in need of food, please use the food locator. 

With gratitude,
Paul Ash
Executive Director

Hunger Doesn’t Take a Break – Please Volunteer

March 13, 2020

Here at the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, we serve some of the most vulnerable people in our community; children, seniors, homebound adults with disabilities, and families struggling to make ends meet. Now, more than ever, it’s critical to get food out to the community. Schools are closing, people are homebound, and many have their work hours cut in the wake of COVID–19.  

At this time, the Food Bank is still fully operational. As indicated in the new public health order that requires residents to stay home except for essential needs, food banks are an essential service similar to a grocery store, and we must continue to work to distribute food out in the community.

The backbone of our operation

We can’t provide food without you. Our volunteers help us pack and distribute over 1 million pounds of food per month! It’s understandable that there are concerns about volunteering at this point. And individuals should consider their own health and well-being before deciding whether or not to volunteer. We are closely monitoring the situation and we are in close contact with the SF Department of Public Health and are following their recommendations. We are reevaluating our operations daily. 

To protect the health of our volunteers, and staff, we have made changes to our warehouse volunteer program, for example, reducing the number of volunteers at each shift and cutting non-essential projects. Right nowwe are only packing senior boxes and grocery bags for delivery to homebound neighbors. We have also stepped up our cleaning and are wiping down all equipment after every shift, and asking all volunteers to keep a reasonable distance from one another while at the warehouse and when possible moving the projects outside. We also have plenty of hand sanitizer and gloves are mandatory for volunteers.

And of course, if any volunteer is feeling unwell, we ask them to stay home.

More need out in the community

Our volunteer needs are ever-changing as we adapt and respond to the challenges COVID-19 presents and determine how to best serve our community. If you are interested in learning about future opportunities in the warehouse and in the community as they arise in response to COVID-19, please, go to our volunteer page to sign up.

Questions? Read our FAQ

Thank you for your support!

PS. If you want to see what it is like to volunteer at our warehouse, press play.

Lily’s Determination to End Bay Area Hunger

February 21, 2020

Twenty-three tons is no match for Lily, one of our super-sheroes! That’s the amount of rice that was collected with her determination and dedication to ending Bay Area hunger.

Like most other teenagers, Lily’s very busy with her schoolwork, her favorite class being band where she plays the French horn. And, she loves to play classical guitar, hang out with her friends and listen to Billy Eilish and the AJR Band. What’s different is that Lily is a major fundraiser for good!

When Lily was just six years old, she began appealing for donations to buy gifts and clothes for foster kids and homeless youth through her own nonprofit, From there, she expanded to helping feed the hungry. Her desire to help those facing hunger was, in part, spurred one Halloween when she saw other kids collecting cans of food while trick or treating. Lily joined in and got over 90lbs of cans.

Her commitment continued to grow in 6th grade when several classes competed to get the most donations of canned food; Lily was determined that her class win. When her class was coming in dead last, she stepped up to collect money to buy 1,100 cans of food! There wasn’t any rule against doing that and she wanted to win–and that’s just what they did due to Lily’s ingenuity and determination.

Supersizing her donations

Lily realized that she could get more bang from her buck if she bought food in bulk for donations to the local food banks. She did some research and cold-called rice distributors, while at the same time, collected the money to buy and deliver the rice. When she first approached a bulk rice provider, she was told that $1000 would get her one ton of rice.

A week later, she called the rice supplier back, and they generously told her that now she could get two tons. While working out the delivery details, she called them again and was pleasantly surprised to find out that she would get three tons for $1,000! She quickly mailed the check and arranged the delivery while continuing to raise more money. After a couple of weeks, she noticed that her check had not been cashed and started to worry that something was wrong. When she talked with them, they said, “The rice is on us, and we’re going to tear up the check!” Lily was pleasantly surprised by their continued generosity, and now she had $1,000 to get more rice.

Once again, Lily was determined to maximize the amount of rice she could get for her money. This time, she went directly to a larger California rice distributor and bought an additional three tons of rice. Now she had six tons and arranged its delivery to us in December of 2018.

As you can tell by now, once Lily figures out how to beat her record, she keeps going. Between July 2019 and January 31, 2020, she bought and arranged delivery for another seventeen tons of rice, making her total twenty-three tons! The rice was not just for our foodbank, but also for the Alameda County Community Food Bank, the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano as well as Second Harvest. We were thrilled to bag it for the other food banks. Lily was thrilled too and so grateful for all her amazing donors for trusting her with their money and helping her with logistics.

When asked what message she has for others, Lily’s said, “Hunger is everywhere, and if we don’t help, who will?” We are so grateful for Lily’s compassion and dedication to helping provide #FoodforAll. Thank you, Lily, with all our hearts.




All Hands On Deck Needed to Fight Hunger

October 12, 2019

Early October is always a thrilling time in the Bay Area, with the Blue Angels flying in perfect formation in clear skies and balmy winds. For us, it’s an exciting time because of the Fleet Week Sailors and Marines taking civic action at our San Francisco warehouse. We greatly appreciate the military members who helped us deploy thousands of lbs. of rice as part of our weekly service to 32,000 San Francisco and Marin households, including many military families.

One of our Fleet Week helpers, Marine Corps Chaplain Andrea Gilkey said her family depended on food assistance when she was a child.

“What inspires me, and what’s exciting to me about this food bank, is that they’re set up like a farmers market. To give people health choices, which we didn’t have. So, I’m thrilled about that,” she said.

KTVU came to visit us, this is their report.

Thank you to all the military member volunteers for joining our squad during Fleet Week.

Breadwinner Spotlight | Joel Malard’s “Social Sting Operation”

November 14, 2018

In 2017, Breadwinner donor and volunteer Joel Malard approached us to propose a “social sting operation.” His objective was grassroots job creation – literally one job at a time. He achieved this by funding the salary for our Policy & Advocacy Manager Becky Gershon (pictured above right) for one year. We recently interviewed Joel about what inspired his generous gift.

Breadwinner donor and volunteer, Joel Malard

What prompted you to make such a generous gift to the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank?

First, I want to thank all of you at the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank for your openness in taking part in my bizarre pilot study about grassroots job creation. Your dedication to your mission, your work, and your vision made a success of what could have been a pointless bet on the human spirit.

After experiencing the ups and downs of working in Silicon Valley start-ups, I was laid off in 2012. My first reaction was to create jobs, drawing on the wisdom of my father who taught me “if you can’t join them, beat them.” He applied this approach to the job market, to education opportunities, to any adversity that life threw at him. So, I set a goal to employ one person for one year – my own “social sting operation.”

During this time of reflection, I remembered stories I had heard about my grandparents generosity: when a traveler came asking for food at their farm, they would give him work, food and shelter for a couple of days, and on his last morning, a packed lunch for the day. It was an old tradition that I could not directly match in these modern times. But I felt compelled to somehow fulfill this tradition in my own way.. As my plan evolved, I decided to delegate the hiring to someone else – and so I reached out to the Food Bank.

The San Francisco-Marin Food Bank was the first Bay Area institution that I contacted. It fulfills an essential, basic human need, and it has a clear mandate and immediate tangible returns to the local community. I had volunteered at the Food Bank and been impressed by its reach and operations. The Food Bank’s location in San Francisco would make a successful pilot study in grassroots job creation both immediately relevant and widely visible.

My donation came with a few strings attached, which I felt were essential for the experience to be positive for everyone. First, the money was for a new position competitively open to all. Second, it had to be fully aligned with the Food Bank’s mission. Third, the new position needed to have a fighting chance of becoming self-funded within a year. As a result, the whole cycle – from writing the job description to hiring a candidate – was solely the responsibility of the Food Bank. It was the right decision.

What policy or advocacy issues are most important to you and why?
Food is always a top priority; as the saying goes, “a famished stomach has no ear.” We will always have needs, but today the misery in San Francisco is heartbreaking. The policy issue that matters most to me is to form outstanding leaders for tomorrow and to plan for the next generation after them, both in regards to professional mastery and moral courage. My donation is an act of faith in the American People and the resilience of its spirit.

What opportunities do you see for California to lead on addressing food insecurity?
California is positioned to lead the nation in addressing food insecurity if only because its agriculture sector is the largest. The San Francisco-Marin Food Bank has a stellar reputation in food distribution and expertise that could benefit other food banks around the USA.

Advocacy, coupled with innovation, is key. A comprehensive plan to address food insecurity must also include housing, water management, and the containment of soil pollution. Clean water distribution, recycling, and desalination are critical to food production worldwide. These are areas where Bay Area entrepreneurs may make a lasting contribution.

Last but not least, CalFresh (food stamps) is remarkable because, among other things, it brings balance to nutrition by making access to fresh, nutritious produce available to low-income neighbors. The balance between a fulfilling piece of bread and a nutritious piece of fish echoes the broader need for balance between basic human needs and the imperatives of society. California Food Banks are, in my opinion, ideally positioned to inform and encourage the lateral thinking and the moral courage required to build a striving community constantly reshaped by technological and financial progress.

Corporate Catch-Up | 5 Questions with Starbucks

October 18, 2018

In addition to sponsoring our Hunger Action Month giving match in September, Starbucks rolled out it’s FoodShare donation program in San Francisco and Marin this year. Every day, they donate thousands of pounds of freshly prepared, unsold food, which the Food Bank gathers, then delivers daily to partners like St. Anthony’s Dining Room and GLIDE Memorial Church. The food is then served to our community’s most vulnerable residents, including homeless neighbors. We recently sat down with Matt Green, Regional Vice President for Starbucks to learn more about what inspires Starbucks and their employees to give back.

5 Questions with Matt Green, Regional Vice President for Starbucks

1) Why does your company support the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank?

At Starbucks, we are committed to donating 100% of unsold food from our stores every day.  Without the support from the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, we could not make this happen. We are happy to partner in ensuring food goes to those most in need.

2) What are your philanthropic goals?

As a company serving communities globally, we are committed to giving back.  From food donations, to creating jobs and volunteering our time.  Its core to our mission and values as a company: to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.

3) What are the ways you and your employees give back?

Community service is a cornerstone of our commitment to each community we serve.  Our partners often work in the same communities they live in and making an impact is something that drives many of them. It’s part of the pride that comes with putting on the green apron…doing our part to not only deliver the Starbucks Experience to customers but making a difference in the communities we serve.

4) What advice do you have for your corporate peers when it comes to giving back to the community?

We take a great deal of pride in setting an example and working with other companies and organizations to create even bigger impact…we are always happy to share in the things we are doing and working with others to help.

5) What is something your company is doing that would surprise our readers?

Starbucks is not only innovating how we support our local communities we serve, but also how we support our employees as well! We have launched a program with Arizona State University to support part-time and full-time employees with 100% tuition coverage to earn their bachelor’s degree. To date we have supported 2,000 graduates and 10,000 current students.

Click here to see photos from the Starbucks FoodShare volunteer event in our warehouse.

Nourishing the Community through Namaste

October 17, 2018

It’s a cool evening in San Francisco’s Crocker-Amazon neighborhood, with a healthy layer of the city’s ubiquitous fog blanketing the sky above – but it’s a much different story down below, where a certain warmth glows from Tony Garcia’s home yoga studio.  It’s here where the muscular. mustachioed man in his 50s says he does his best work.

“I got into yoga several years ago as a way to center myself.  I enjoyed it so much that I decided to become a certified instructor so I could spread the goodness to friends and family,” he says.

Tony and his wife Rachel went so far as to convert the downstairs section of their home into a full-blown yoga studio – complete with bamboo flooring, rubber mats, and special mood lighting.  Soon after, they started hosting bi-monthly sessions.

“We invited family members and neighbors to give it a try.  It was slow going at first, but the idea eventually caught on,” says Tony.  “Now we see 5 to 10 people every other week.”

What also caught on was how the Garcias would use their newfound love of yoga to give back.  “I knew I wasn’t in it to make money … instead, I wanted this all to mean something more.”

That’s when Tony hearkened back to a volunteer shift he attended at the Food Bank as part of his employment with the City and County of San Francisco. “It was a while ago, but I remember being so impressed with the operation…about how much work goes into feeding people in this city who don’t have enough food to be healthy,” he recalls.  “And I thought that THIS was the time that I could do more to help.”

The Garcias decided to ask their “students” to give whatever they felt the lesson was worth, with all of the proceeds making their way into a special teapot that sits in the yoga studio.  Then, every few weeks when the teapot gets full, Tony or Rachel donate it to the Food Bank.

“That was about 7 years ago…and I’m happy to say that we have never wavered,” Tony says. “100-percent of all the money that’s been raised through my yoga classes has been used to help feed the less fortunate.”

Food Bank spokesperson Mark Seelig applauds the Garcias’ extraordinary efforts. “It goes to show you that there are more ways to be philanthropic than by just pulling out your checkbook or swiping your credit card.  The best part is that these funds all add up, and help us make a real difference in our mission to end hunger in San Francisco and Marin.”

Over the years, the Garcias have become way more savvy in their gift-giving.  “We now wait until the Food Bank offers some sort of corporate match to donate – so we can double the impact!”  They’re not finished just yet either.  Tony says he plans to keep doing this … “as long as my body holds out, and as long as we have friends and family who want to support the Food Bank in the most calming way possible!”

If you are giving to the Food Bank in a creative or unusual way, please leave us a comment.  And click here if you would like to make a generous donation to the Food Bank.

Our Volunteers Make A Difference

May 31, 2018

Forty thousand!  That’s the number of volunteers who have walked through our doors and helped sort produce, pack one-pound bags of rice, or staff one of our Produce Pop-Ups.  Volunteers are not just a way for us to involve the community in our mission to end hunger in San Francisco and Marin – they are intrinsic to our entire operation.

We’ve done the math, and 40,000 volunteer working shifts in our warehouses and out in the community put in as many hours as 62 full-time employees. To put it simply, we couldn’t accomplish all that we do without the support of our amazing volunteers.

Carly Levin is a Food Bank board member and the executive director of JP Morgan Chase & Co.  She and other employees have been among our biggest supporters, volunteering dozens of hours in our warehouse, and making generous donations – including a $25,000 match for our first-ever volunteer-only matching gift challenge in April.  Their support is essential for keeping many of our vital programs up and running.

“There is no better way to spend the day,”says Levin, who recently volunteered at a food pantry. “Participants are filled with gratitude for the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables they receive to feed their families. And our job as volunteers is to make them feel welcome.”

In April, we hosted a special celebration in our San Francisco warehouse to mark Volunteer Appreciation Week.  We invited some of our most ardent supporters for a day of fun, food and carnival games as a way to show our gratitude. Click here to view our photo album from Volunteer Fest 2018.

We distribute 48 million pounds of food to nearly a quarter of a million people every year and volunteers are essential to this work.  Thank you, volunteers – for your dedication and enthusiasm for  helping our community.



Plant a Seed, Grow a Legacy | Radha Stern & Gary Maxworthy

February 20, 2018

When you enter Gary Maxworthy and Radha Stern’s home, the scent of Radha’s homemade oatmeal-chocolate-chip cookies wafts through the air. If you catch them around mealtime, Radha is likely to offer you lunch.

Food is family, friendship, and community to the couple. They’ve made feeding struggling neighbors their personal mission. Their connection to the Food Bank is so strong that when they got married in 2000, they tied the knot at our San Francisco warehouse.

Food Connects Us

“Food is nurturing,” said Radha, who has been a volunteer fundraiser for the Food Bank for many years. “Whether it’s a hot dog or a gourmet meal, food connects us. It’s the time when people come together. But if you’re hungry, you can’t think, and you can’t succeed.”

Both Gary and Radha have experienced scarcity in their lives. Gary grew up post World War II in England where there were often shortages. Radha grew up in a working-class American family, and she was a single mom in her 20’s, struggling to put food on the table.

The couple met later in life in the food brokerage business. After a successful career, Gary decided to retire in his mid-50’s and devote his life to service. He ended up working at the Food Bank and creating the Farm to Family program.

A Food Revolution

Farm to Family radically changed food banking in the Bay Area, and across the country. Before the program, people received mostly canned and boxed food, but Gary convinced farmers to donate their extra produce. Today, the majority of what the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank distributes is fresh fruits and vegetables.

“I’m so proud of the fact that we are able to provide people with healthy, nutritious food both with Farm to Family and the work Radha has done,” said Gary. “Our small ideas have turned into something.”