Produce Pop-Ups | Fresh Look at Food Assistance

October 12, 2016

Recently, students at San Francisco State University were treated to a delicious, nutritious surprise:  bushels upon bushels of ripe green pears, baseball-sized onions, crisp orange carrots, and gigantic sweet potatoes – all free for the taking, right in the middle of the University’s bustling campus.

At first, passing students and staff were confused, but once they realized all the great food was for them, a long line formed. It didn’t let up for the next hour and a half.

It’s all part of “Produce Pop-Ups,” a new Food Bank initiative that aims to overcome barriers to food assistance among neighbors in need – especially people who might not consider themselves eligible, or who are simply unaware that food assistance is readily available.

“Produce Pop-Ups showcase the fabulous, seasonal produce that we distribute every day,” said Nutrition Education Program Manager Molly Burke, who noted that 60% of all food distributed by the Food Bank is fresh produce. “We are attracting new participants by dispelling misconceptions that the Food Bank distributes dented cans and bruised fruit.”

Paul, a junior studying business at San Francisco State, was delighted to happen by the free food stand: “The economy here is tough, and people oftentimes compromise on food. This is a really great option for us, a total bonus.”

Burke said the Pop-Up aims to reach people just like Paul, who struggle to make ends meet and sometimes put grocery shopping near the bottom of their to-do lists.

SF State Sophomore Toshi reveled in the abundance of pears, saying, “I need more fruit in my life.” As someone who enjoys cooking, she said the carrots and onions would come in handy for the stir-frys she often makes.

Early success builds hope for future

The Food Bank team hosted more than a dozen Pop-Ups since July, targeting high-traffic areas such as health clinics, community-resource fairs and even public libraries – places where neighbors in need congregate and seek out services. Nearly 1,700 people received free produce at our Pop-Ups, and more than 200 people were referred directly to our pantry network.

Pleased by the pilot’s successful run through the end of October, the Food Bank will push for additional funding and volunteer support so we can restart Produce Pop-ups next spring and expand them into Marin.

Help make our Spring Pop-Ups a reality with a donation.