Every Tuesday, volunteer Ruthanne McCunn arrives around 8 a.m. in the morning at Mission High School. She packs grains like rice or pasta, protein, and produce like carrots, apples, onions, and potatoes into bags before the Pop-up Pantry opens. Once 9 a.m. hits, a few volunteers including Ruthanne position themselves to pass out food bags to participants while the rest of the volunteers continue packing.
As participants arrive at the front of the line, Ruthanne greets each person with a smile and recommends, in both English and Cantonese, to be mindful of the eggs that are inside each bag.
Since the beginning of shelter-in-place, Ruthanne has volunteered at a few Pop-up pantries, including Mission High School and Gordon J. Lau Elementary School, each week.
“It’s been therapeutic to do something purposeful,” she said. “It’s an opportunity and a gift to be able to actually do something positive for the community.”
Prior to the Food Bank, she volunteered with Martin de Porres House of Hospitality for 27 years. However, they can no longer allow volunteers in their building and Ruthanne wanted to help.
Serving Communities for Years
“I’ve known about the Food Bank for many years,” said Ruthanne. “[Martin de Porres House of Hospitality] gets a ton of their food from the Food Bank and works with the unhoused population. Because of this pandemic, I decided to go the source of the food, the Food Bank, and signed up to volunteer.”
What surprised her the most from this experience is the number of participants that arrive at these pop-up pantries. She recalls an instance at the Gordan J. Lau Elementary School pop-up.
“I remember this one time, the line went around the block and stretched all the way towards the Fairmont Hotel. I arrived there at 7:30 a.m., and the line was already two blocks long. I asked a participant that was standing at the very beginning of the line, ‘What time did you get here?’ She said she got there at 4:30 a.m., which is mind-boggling to me.”
A Continuing Effort
Since her first shift, Ruthanne has witnessed the many changes the Food Bank is making to accommodate everyone at the pop-ups, including, for example, introducing timeslots to make sure people don’t have to wait in line for hours. Ruthanne has also seen the growing need firsthand. But her many years of experience on the frontlines of addressing food insecurity has taught her that this issue is not new.
“People don’t have enough food, even though this is purportedly a rich nation,” said Ruthanne. “Because of that, no one should go hungry, especially here in San Francisco.”