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.”

Full Circle | A Volunteer’s Perspective

November 16, 2017

Barbara Elliott caught herself chuckling the other day as she was breaking down food boxes inside St. Dominic’s Catholic Church in San Francisco’s Lower Pac Heights. It was Monday morning and the longtime parishioner was volunteering her time at the food pantry in the downstairs community room.

“I’m laughing because I recently volunteered at the Food Bank’s warehouse, and my job there was to build the food boxes… here I am now, tearing them down!”

Indeed, the 74-year-old Elliott has come full circle. She has seen how the food comes into our warehouse and how it’s packed for distribution and is also intimately aware of where it goes — into the hands of our neighbors in need.


Elliott is one of 40,000 volunteers who gave their time this year to help the Food Bank in its mission to end hunger in San Francisco and Marin. That’s the equivalent of 70 full-time employees, and every last person is needed to distribute just over 48 million pounds this year. “There is absolutely no way we could move that much food and feed that many people if we didn’t have volunteers like Barbara, willing to give up a few hours of their time each week, to pack food, hand out food, and do it with a smile,” says Food Bank Community Engagement Manager, Cody Jang.

A volunteer shift is fast-paced and exciting. Many of our warehouse shifts involve boxing up thousands of pounds of fruits or vegetables. Sometimes our volunteers are tasked with repacking rice into family-friendly one-pound bags. Every volunteer leaves knowing just how much they packed or sorted, and how much of an impact it will make on the community later that week.

You can count Elliott as a believer.  “I really enjoyed my volunteer shift in the warehouse, but find it much more rewarding to see the smile on people’s faces when they receive these fresh groceries every week at my pantry.”

If you’d like to donate your time at one of the two Food Bank warehouses, please sign up here.

Leaving a legacy to help end hunger

November 3, 2017

Mr. David and Rev. Dr. Susanna Singer have been Bay Area residents for 35 years, and advocates for its most vulnerable residents for that same tenure. Both born and raised in London, Susanna recalls that, while her family led a modest life, they always did for others and taught their children to have the same mindset.

“It was an absolute given that we should give back; it’s kind of bred in the bone,” says Susanna. “Our mother in some way was always organized in service outside of the home. It was just normal for her to do that; she has always done it. It was a value we grew up with.”

When they moved to the Bay Area in 1981, David started work in Silicon Valley and Susanna began her training to become a priest.

It was in 2001, around the time of the first recession, that Susanna and David began giving to the Food Bank. Susanna recalls she and David reading an article in the San Francisco Chronicle on food insecurity, and they knew they wanted to join the Food Bank in becoming part of the solution. Their first visit to the pantry and warehouse, where they witnessed the amount of fresh produce distributed, the quality of the food and the efficiency of the regional operation, served to impress them.

“That visit sealed the deal in terms of making it a regular part of our local giving,” says Susanna.

In addition to their annual giving, Susanna and David recently incorporated charitable provisions to the Food Bank into their estate planning, helping to ensure the future of the organization. They have become members of the Food For Life Circle.

“We thought, the Food Bank isn’t going anywhere; there is longevity to it. And the need is going to be there too,” explains Susanna. “It’s really very simple. The Food Bank is the best way we’ve seen to get food to people who need it.”

Military Fights Hunger During Fleet Week Visit

October 5, 2017

The battle against hunger in San Francisco and Marin really heated up this month when active-duty members from the U.S. Marines Corps and the U.S. Navy stopped by the warehouse for a volunteer shift as part of the 2017 Fleet Week celebration in the Bay Area.

These men and women in uniform rolled up their sleeves (literally) and helped bag thousands of pounds of frozen corn.

Check out their visit in this video produced by the Marines:

Lance Corporal Christine Carter told KCBS Radio that her job in the Marines centers on combat logistics. Her role at the Food Bank was something a little easier, but still vitally important to the community. Listen to KCBS Radio reporter Jenna Lane’s story:

The visit was all part of the community work carried out by the military during the annual Fleet Week celebration in the Bay Area.  This was the fourth year in a row that uniformed volunteers  descended on our warehouse for active-duty food packing.

When it was over, the Marines and Navy personnel had managed to bag 2,800 lbs. of corn, just in time for it to be trucked out to the 250 food bank pantries this week and next. Mission Accomplished!

Click here for more information about how YOU can volunteer your time at the Food Bank.

2017 Community Partner Honoree | Gary Maxworthy

September 19, 2017

After spending much of his adult life leading a Bay Area-based food distribution company, Gary Maxworthy suffered through a tragedy.  It was 1994, he was 56 years old, and his first wife died.  As the grief slowly began to subside, Gary’s three children came together and suggested a change.  They wanted him to do something with his life that would strengthen his community.  Gary agreed and soon joined AmeriCorps as a VISTA volunteer. His first and only assignment was with the San Francisco Food Bank. His mission: to think of ways to address the growing problem of hunger.

This was at a time when food banks were distributing mostly boxed and canned non-perishable foods.  Gary had an inkling of an idea that not only would increase the amount of food we distributed, but also to provide tons of fresh, healthy produce for our participants.  He started reaching out to his old food distribution contacts – growers and packers up and down California – and asked if they would be willing to donate their extra produce to the Food Bank.  The initiative was called Farm to Family.

Eventually the idea took off.  Now, nearly two decades later Farm to Family serves a statewide network of 43 food banks, providing 180 million pounds of fresh produce every year.  Six-hundred thousand Californians are nourished by this food every week.  Just last year, Farm to Family delivered its one billionth pound of fresh produce!

While Farm to Family would be enough to make someone a “Food Hero,” Gary went beyond all of that.  He has been revered for his innovative spirit, his leadership, and his mentoring of Food Bank employees.

Gary announced his second retirement earlier this year, but before he could ride off into the sunset, he was chosen as the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank’s 2017 Community Partner Honoree for his incredible legacy and contribution to food banking, not just locally, but around the nation.

Watch Gary’s tribute video above.  And listen to Gary, in his own words, in this recent KQED Perspectives piece.

Meet Vivienne Flesher and Ward Shumaker | Members of the Breadwinners Circle

June 29, 2017

Artists Vivienne Flesher and Ward Shumaker have achieved international acclaim, exhibiting their art around the world. Through it all, they remain rooted in our community.

Thirty years ago, Ward purchased a charming, century-old house two blocks from the Food Bank. “I remember when the warehouse was built,” he said. “We’ve enjoyed watching the neighborhood change, and the addition of the warehouse made us doubly happy.”

Ward and Vivienne made their first gift to the Food Bank in 1995 and have supported our work over many years. Their generosity stems from a strong belief that everyone should have food, clothing, and a roof over their heads. For Ward, tithing was part of his Nebraska upbringing. Vivienne weaves philanthropy into daily life — when going out, she often brings warm clothing to give to homeless neighbors.

Wishing to get more involved, Vivienne recently offered pro-bono photography to the Food Bank. We jumped at the opportunity. She spent a morning at San Francisco State University, where we help low-income students enroll in CalFresh (formerly food stamps). We also provide free groceries on campus every week.

Rather than hide behind her camera, Vivienne talked with students, listened to their stories, and captured their essence with photographs — some are on this page.

“The kids were so warm and willing to share,” she said. “It broke my heart to see them struggling, and it was so moving to be able to help. It was an honor to photograph them.”

We are grateful for Breadwinners like Vivienne and Ward, who feel a personal responsibility to ensure everyone in our community has enough to eat.

Click here to find out how you can get involved!

Home-Delivered Groceries | Food & Friendship Door to Door

June 12, 2017

For many of our most vulnerable neighbors, food is more than the difference between an empty plate and a full stomach. It is also a lifeline – especially for neighbors who participate in the Food Bank’s Home-Delivered Groceries (HDG) Program.

For a closer look at the Home-Delivered Groceries program “in motion”, check out this video, taken at City Hope Community Center in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, featuring a beloved participant by the name of Susan who is visually impaired.

Then there’s the story of Marianne, who says the weekly delivery of fresh groceries she receives from the Food Bank is a life saver. She lives in a single-room-occupancy (SRO) hotel in San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood and struggles with many health challenges.

“I’m disabled and have a hard time getting around, so being able to get my hands on this food at home is literally saving my life,” she said.

Before enrolling, Marianne recalls it was a constant battle to get enough food to eat.  “I couldn’t feed myself. Thankfully neighbors would offer me meals every once in a while. But there were days when it was really scary just how hungry I was.”

Marianne is one of 1,400 people enrolled in the Food Bank’s Home-Delivered Groceries Program, which assists low-income seniors and adults with disabilities who are unable to get out to pick up groceries, but still able to prepare meals for themselves.

The goals of the program are to provide supplemental nutrition to neighbors in need, to reduce loneliness, and to check on the well-being of our homebound residents.

HDG Program Director Andy Burns recalls one volunteer who had been delivering groceries to a senior for more than a year.  “Of course she’s performing a check in with this gentleman each week to make sure he’s doing okay.  At one point, the volunteer became ill, and had to be hospitalized.  While she was recuperating, the participant became so concerned for her that he started calling her to check on how she was doing!”

On this particular Tuesday afternoon, the knock on Marianne’s door comes right on time, as she is busy preparing a crockpot stew and needs fresh carrots to make the meal sing. In addition to carrots, this particular delivery included apples, chicken, rice and other staples that will nourish Marianne until her next weekly delivery.

Home-Delivered groceries are also a treat for the volunteers on Marianne’s route – a team of developmentally disabled adults who are enrolled at the Pomeroy Recreation and Rehabilitation Center, where they learn work and life skills. On Tuesday mornings, the volunteers work together to pack these grocery bags, then they head out in the afternoon to make deliveries to 13 neighbors.

Pomeroy’s LouBee Zielinski coordinates the program and says the volunteers are thrilled to help. “They love the looks on peoples’ faces when the groceries arrive. And, to be empowered with something like providing food for others – that’s huge.  It’s like Christmas every week, and we get to be Santa Claus!”

In addition to the Pomeroy Center, there are eight other nonprofits which partner with the Food Bank’s HDG Program, but more partners are needed. For more information on our Home-Delivered Groceries program, how it operates, and how you can get involved, click here.


Meet Jayden, a Hunger Hero

May 26, 2017

Fifth grader Jayden and his family rely on weekly food assistance from the Food Bank, but his superpower is giving back. This little hero wakes up every Monday morning, two hours before school starts, to volunteer with his grandmother at their neighborhood food pantry.

When we asked him whether it’s hard to get up early, he says, “I do it to make sure that everyone who comes to school won’t be hungry.”

All year, kids like Jayden step up to help their families and community face hunger. But when schools close for the summer and families lose access to school meal programs, childhood hunger reaches its peak. Right now, proposed cuts to food assistance programs threaten to make childhood summer hunger even worse.

Luckily, today you have twice the power to fight childhood hunger. Through June 15th, PG&E is matching all gifts to the Food Bank. Please make a gift today and be a Summer Hunger Hero for kids like Jayden. Please donate here.

Thank you, Volunteers!

April 28, 2017

A message from Paul Ash, Executive Director

Happy National Volunteer Week!  This is the week when we at the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank celebrate our amazing volunteers – even more than we usually do.

Our staff has created a special video to thank our volunteers. Click below to view.

When I first came to the Food Bank nearly 30 years ago, I had one goal in mind – to end hunger here in our community. While our staff was small, the need for our services was not.  It was clear right from the start that we would need the support of volunteers.

Year after year, as we grow and innovate, volunteers continue to be the cornerstone of our work. They are essential connectors between the fresh food that arrives in our warehouses every day and the children, seniors and families who rely on us daily for nutritious food.  With the support of our volunteers, the Food Bank will nourish 225,000 neighbors this year. 

Because of our volunteers, we have never wavered in our belief that we can provide food for all. For that, we say thank you.

Hold The Coffee: A Donor Story

February 22, 2017

Please forgive Amy Lawson if she seems a little “low-energy” at her next photo shoot.  She has decided to disrupt her regular coffee habit for a cause.

The 41-year-old make-up artist recently worked on an ad campaign for the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank and was so impressed with the entire operation, and with the mission to feed people in need, that she couldn’t help herself: “I just had to become a donor.”

And it’s not just a one-time gift either.  Due to her experience, Lawson now donates $10 every month and couldn’t be happier.


“It’s such a cliché’ yet it’s so true.  With all the coffee I drink, its easy to see how cutting back on a couple of cups a month could really make a difference,” she said. “Even if it’s $10 dollars a month, you sometimes don’t know just how many people you could feed with that.   Don’t get me wrong, a one time donation is great, but people are hungry all year long.”

Lawson learned at an early age that giving back is almost a duty.  Her mother grew up in Korea right after the Korean War, and her father was the son of a coal-miner with 12 brothers and sisters.

“They both were extremely poor. My mother didn’t have any social-services programs where she grew up.  And my father recalls eating cheese and Christmas hams provided by the government,” Lawson said. “They literally would have died if not for the generosity of others.”

Although she never experienced poverty herself, Lawson was always taught to be considerate of people who don’t have access to food.


So here she is now, doing what a lot of people do when they want to give back.  She’s skipping that latte’ and using the money to support her neighbors in need.  “It’s easy to do, the money is automatically deducted out of my account each month, and I don’t even notice it, yet I know that it will impact someone else’s life so much.”

It certainly does. Ten dollars can be turned into 50 dollars worth of food at the Food Bank.

If you would like to become a monthly donor like Amy, visit our donate page here.