Food Bank Innovations | Serving the Unhoused Population

May 13, 2019

Pick up a local newspaper, and it’s more likely than not you’ll spot a story about the challenge of homelessness and efforts to tackle it, including recent headlines about plans to build a Navigation Center along San Francisco’s waterfront, and Marc Benioff’s $30-million donation to study homelessness.

Although the Food Bank is not making headlines on this topic, we are diligently working on improving our assistance to *unhoused neighbors every day.

Food For All

We estimate that a vast majority of the food programs serving unhoused people in San Francisco and Marin today either get fresh groceries for these meals from the Food Bank or partner with us in some way.  These include the big congregate meal sites like GLIDE and St. Anthony’s Dining Room in San Francisco and St. Vincent DePaul in Marin.  in 2018 at just these three sites, we averaged three deliveries of food each week – totaling 1.4 million pounds of food, equal to about 1.17 million meals.

“Providing our unhoused neighbors with healthy food not only reduces their food insecurity, but in some cases it increases their stability so they can address other life challenges.” says Irene Garcia, Senior Program Coordinator and leader of the Food Bank’s Unhoused Workgroup.

New and Improved Partnerships

We are building new pantries and partnerships to better serve our region’s unhoused population. That work includes adjusting menus to address limited and even non-cook needs.  The goal is to ensure that we are providing products that are appropriate for their cooking and storage facilities.

  • City Team in San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood launched a pantry in spring 2018 and has grown to serve 100 households every week.
  • St. Agnes and St. Ignatius Churches in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood partnered with us to launch a pantry in summer 2018. Efforts are on-going, primarily in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood to conduct outreach to unhoused individuals, families, and at-risk youth.
  • Reinvigorated our pantry at Bessie Carmichael Elementary School in 2017 with the support of EPIC Church. Located in San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood, approximately 20% of families who attend the school are unhoused.  The pantry is now thriving, going from serving 35 families in 2017 to 95 families today.
    • In partnership with TNDC and the Tenderloin People’s Garden, we are now also able to continue serving Bessie families throughout the summer months when school is not in session.
  • Through our ongoing partnership with Starbucks’ FoodShare program, the Food Bank is rescuing thousands of pounds of fresh, prepackaged food from the coffee chain every night after closing and delivering that food to partners like St. Anthony’s Dining Room and GLIDE hours later.

Read stories about how the Food Bank assists neighbors who are unhoused or formerly homeless:

Homeless to Hopeful

Health Food for People With No Place To Call Home

Princess’ Story

Food is a Life Saver

Starbucks FoodShare

By The Numbers

The latest 2019 Homeless Counts for San Francisco and Marin are still being tabulated, so the latest data was taken from Point-In-Time surveys conducted in January of 2017.

  • The San Francisco survey found 7,499 individuals staying in emergency shelters, transitional housing facilities, domestic violence shelters, jails, hospitals, treatment facilities, and living unsheltered on the streets.
  • The Marin County Point-in-Time survey counted 1,117 individuals living in transitional housing, shelters, and on the streets.

* The Food Bank has elected to use the term “unhoused” rather than “homeless” when referring to people without a home of their own.  We believe the term “homeless” carries with it an implied bias – that because someone does not have a home (s)he is therefore considered “less” important than others.  It’s our experience that many people call San Francisco and Marin their home and their community, even though they do not have stable housing at the time.  The difference may seem subtle to some but we feel it’s an important distinction.

*Photo by Kevin Butz on Unsplash   

Kevin Butz