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.  

Food Bank ‘Mini’ Team Favorites: Tomato Recipes for Your Enjoyment

August 27, 2019

The Food Bank ‘Mini’ team lives to figure out-of-the-box ways of delivering fresh, nutritious food to our neighbors in need.  To help celebrate the wonderful fruit offerings as we head into summer, we asked members of our Nutrition Education team to help us out with a few refreshing tomato recipes. They pulled up a few delicious ideas from our friends at EatFresh.org.  Enjoy!

Baby Tomato Bites

INGREDIENTS

12 (4-inch) slices of French bread
¼ cup low-fat mozzarella cheese shredded
5 Tomatoes diced
½ teaspoon Black pepper
8 Basil leaves chopped

PREPARATION

*Preheat oven to 300°F.
*Place thin layer of mozzarella cheese on each slice of bread.
*Toast French bread slices in oven until cheese melts, about 5-8 minutes.
*Mix diced tomatoes with black pepper.
*Place diced tomatoes on top of cheese and garnish with chopped basil leaves. Serve immediately.

Tomato and Garlic Omlette

INGREDIENTS

½ slice Whole wheat bread
½ teaspoon Olive oil
1 Clove of garlic finely chopped
Non-stick cooking spray
¾ cup Egg substitute
2 tablespoons Part-skim Mozzarella cheese grated
1 Large tomato chopped
1 teaspoon Dried basil

PREPARATION

*Preheat oven to 300°F.
*Cut the bread into cubes; toss with oil and garlic in a small bowl. Spread the cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 15 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown, tossing once or twice. Transfer to a plate to cool.
*Spray a medium pan with nonstick cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Pour in egg substitute.
*When the egg begins to set, spread evenly across the bottom of the pan and reduce the heat to low.
*Once the top layer of egg is almost cooked, sprinkle the cheese and basil on top and scatter the tomatoes and bread over half of the omelet; fold the unfilled omelet half over the filling. Slide the omelet on a plate and serve.

Nutrition Education | Tips To Create Easy, Healthy Meals

August 27, 2019

The kids are back in school, schedules are getting hectic, and chances are your busy weeknights are quickly becoming one of the biggest barriers to healthy eating.  If you find it’s a challenge to whip up a quick weeknight meal, check out these 5 tips great tips, shared by our fabulous Nutrition Education Team!

  • Cook grains in large batches and store for later use. Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, or whole wheat pasta, add healthy bulk to our meals and they are a great source of fiber! 
  • Stock your pantry with canned proteins such as canned fish, canned chicken, canned beans, etc. and add them to meals for a good source of protein. Check out this Whole Wheat Pasta with Diced Tomatoes and Salmon for a healthy meal option. 
  • Roast veggies in batches and store for later use. These add a variety of nutrients to meals in addition to fiber from the vegetables’ skin. Remember, the richer the color of a fruit or veggie, the more nutrients we get from them. Try choosing root veggies such as beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, etc. for nutrient-packed options. 
  • Chop fruits and veggies in advance of dinner time and store them in your freezer. This way you will have choices ready to go when it comes to selecting ingredients to mix into those one-pot dishes, such as omelets, soups, or pastas.

A Letter From Paul | Public Charge Rule

August 13, 2019

News this week that the Trump Administration had decided to finalize the Public Charge Rule has hit our community hard.  This decision essentially forces immigrant families to choose between getting the food they need through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or CalFresh in California) or jeopardizing their chance to remain legally in the U.S.  Many of these people will choose to suffer without food. It’s objectionable that we as a country offer benefits like SNAP only to have our own government discourage hard working, well-meaning people from using them.

This is how the cycle of hunger begins.  A family that is just getting by becomes a family where parents skip meals, so their children have something to eat.  Where children get their best meal of the day at school or at an after-school program (but not today because school isn’t in session for everybody).  When children and parents go undernourished many things happen, but none of them good.  We only need common sense to know that children who come to school hungry cannot learn.  We don’t need more studies to confirm that children and adults who eat “cheap” food (high in carbs, sugar and preservatives) are on their way to diet-related illness like diabetes and hypertension.

What drives our leaders to do this?  Of all the things our country can easily give the world, it’s food.  We are the world’s powerhouse in producing food and to promulgate rules that – with a backhanded stroke – remove meals from a child’s plate is beneath us as a nation.

We know that the first excuse to justify such action will be that people can use “Food Banks” or get help from another charity. The reality is that the benefits from SNAP are so ‘supplemental’ that families who are on the program are likely already attending food banks to get food for the many meals the SNAP program doesn’t cover.  Those who don’t rely on a Food Bank like ours might soon line up to feed themselves and family members.  The system will overload, bend and then break.  Plainly stated, there is no easy substitution for the reliable source of food that the SNAP program provides.

What has transpired in Washington under this administration the past two years is not only unusual, it’s destructive to our communities.  It’s yet another example of a coordinated attempt to erode our entire social safety net, and a plan that I believe will only succeed in creating a poorer and hungrier nation by denying people the assistance they need to lead healthy, productive lives.

Let’s be clear.  Hunger doesn’t care if you’re a Republican or a Democrat.  Food insecurity doesn’t seek out red states or blue states.  But I do remember a time when both sides of the aisle took this issue very seriously.

As an anti-hunger leader in communities across San Francisco and Marin, we cannot afford to abdicate our responsibility to speak up in opposition to policies that cause direct and catastrophic impacts to our neighbors.  You can join our efforts by asking your Member of Congress to support HR 3222 – No Federal Funds for Public Charge Act.  We become stronger, more compassionate, and more productive communities when our neighbors are able to access the services they need to thrive without fear.

Queen’s Story | Grateful for CalFresh

August 2, 2019

71-year-old Queen shows off her wide, regal smile – befitting her name – as she emerges from the Career Link Center in San Francisco’s Mission District.  She was scheduled for an appointment in this county office recently, to learn more about the new state program giving SSI recipients access to CalFresh benefits for the first time ever.

“Even 25 extra dollars will mean a lot to me,” she says as she looks over her paperwork in anticipation of her appointment.

It’s been a difficult time for this single expat from the tiny western African nation of The Gambia.  She moved to San Francisco more than ten years ago – hoping to make a big splash by opening up her own clothing boutique with authentic items from her homeland.  Shortly after arriving though, Queen had to have major knee surgery, and was also diagnosed with glaucoma around the same time. Both ailments sent her spiraling into a deep depression.  She couldn’t work, and before she knew it, she found herself surviving on less than a thousand dollars every month in SSI benefits.  Access to healthy food was hard to come by, leading to days and weeks when she wasn’t eating much. Queen was starting to really worry about her health.

Life got a little more bearable when Queen found housing at Bethany Center – a housing center for senior citizens in the Mission District.  She quickly enrolled at a nearby Food Bank pantry, healthy eating resumed, and that lead to Queen feeling the difference.  “I wasn’t smiling very much before…and my energy level was very low, but I feel stronger and I think it’s because of all the great food I get at the pantry.”

Now Queen is ready for access to even more food after learning that she’s eligible to receive 50 dollars in CalFresh benefits each month. “I heard I could stretch my dollars even further at the farmers market through the “Market Match” program.” she said.  “Being able to pick up even more healthy fruits and vegetables to make sure I never go hungry again makes me very grateful.”

 

Food Bank ‘Mini’ Team Favorites: Summer Squash Recipes for Your Enjoyment

July 26, 2019

The Food Bank ‘Mini’ team lives to figure out-of-the-box ways of delivering fresh, nutritious food to our neighbors in need.  To help celebrate the wonderful offerings we are still distributing this summer, we asked members of our Nutrition Education team to help us out with a few refreshing Summer Squash recipes. They pulled up a few delicious ideas from our friends at EatFresh.org.  Enjoy!

Slow Cooked Summer Squash

INGREDIENTS
6 medium summer squash – cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1 teaspoon salt – divided into two 1/2 teaspoons
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion – chopped
1 medium red bell pepper – seeded and chopped
1 garlic clove – minced
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
⅓ cup Parmesan cheese – freshly grated
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter – cut into small cubes

PREPARATION

*In a large colander, combine the zucchini slices with 1/2 tsp of the salt. Let stand until the zucchini gives off its juices, about 30 minutes. Rinse well under cold running water to remove the salt, drain and pat dry with paper towels.
*In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and red bell pepper and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring often, for 1 minute. Removed from the heat, add the zucchini, and mix well.
*In a medium bowl, mix the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the pepper.
*Place half of the zucchini mixture in a buttered 3.5-qt slow cooker. Sprinkle with half of the crumb mixture. Top with the remaining zucchini mixture, the sprinkle with the remaining crumbs. dot the top of the crumbs with melted butter.
*Cover and slow cook until the zucchini is tender, about 4 to 5 hours on low.

Squash and Corn Pasta Soup

INGREDIENTS

3 cups Low-sodium chicken broth
4 Small zucchini (or any summer squash) diced
½ Small onion chopped
1 Large clove of garlic minced
2 cups Canned corn (16 oz.) drained
10 ounces Whole grain angel hair pasta (thin spaghetti) broken into 2” or 3” pieces
1 cup Tomato sauce (8 oz.)
Olive oil

PREPARATION

*Coat bottom on large skillet with a little bit of olive oil. Add broken pasta and mix well to coat. *Toast pasta over medium heat, stirring and turning constantly until golden. Pasta will burn easily.
*In a 2-quart saucepan, heat chicken broth to boiling. Add zucchini, onion, and garlic. Cook, covered, until zucchini is soft.
*Stir in corn and remove from heat.
*Carefully stir toasted spaghetti into saucepan with zucchini; add tomato sauce. Heat to boiling; reduce heat and simmer 8 to 10 minutes until spaghetti is tender.
*To serve, ladle into shallow bowls.

Advocacy: Summer Hunger Solutions

July 10, 2019

The Problem:  Hunger doesn’t take a summer break

The Food Bank works hard all year to make sure kids have access to fresh, healthy food through our Healthy Children Pantries, our Morning Snack Program, and efforts by our very active CalFresh enrollment team.  But for many of these children, summer break means they miss out on school meals and miss out on nutritious food they need to thrive and return to school in the fall ready to learn. These kids are also affected disproportionately by summer learning loss, which hits low-income children harder than their high-income peers. That means that these children often return to school academically behind higher-income peers and struggle to catch up before classes even start.

The San Francisco-Marin Food Bank has created new programs and is advocating for policies to directly address summer hunger.

The Solution: Creative programs and policies

To combat this summer hunger gap at the local level, the Food Bank continues our support of the Summer Continuation Pantry model.  For the second year we are operating a large-scale pantry at Gordon J. Lau Elementary School in San Francisco’s Chinatown.  There, upwards of 400 families are being served nutritious groceries – so children attending several nearby schools can continue to get the nourishment that they need.

We’re advocating for action at the Federal level

Childhood hunger during the summer months is not just a Bay Area issue.  Nationally, only 1 out of every 7 kids who need free meals in the summer is getting them.

Thankfully, our federal elected officials are responding to demands of advocates to improve access to free summer meals for kids.  The Food Bank has signed on in support of The Stop Child Summer Hunger Act introduced by Senator Pat Murray (D-WA) and Representative Susan Davis (D-CA). The bill would provide low-income families whose children are eligible for free and reduced-price school meals with an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card to help them obtain nutritious food during the summer, just like with food stamps.

Along with our national anti-hunger partners, the Food Bank is calling for major investments in federal programs like the Summer Food Service Program and Summer EBT that would dramatically reduce summer hunger, provide far more student enrichment opportunities, and create jobs.

We are committed to making sure that hunger does not hold back any child from living up to their full potential.

 

Nutrition Education | Tips for a Tasty and Healthy Summer BBQ

July 1, 2019

The weather is heating up and chances are folks are planning a few summer barbecues.  With that in mind, we asked our Nutrition Education team to provide a few helpful tips and here is what the came up with.  Enjoy!

  • Consider grilling veggies – Burgers and hot dogs are tasty, but they don’t provide us with lots of nutrients. Consider grilling veggie burgers or kabobs instead of, or in addition to, barbecuing main dish staples that often feature processed meat.Choose hearty sides instead of chips to round out your meal! – Regardless of what you serve as a main dish, choose veggie filled side dishes to feel full and satisfied throughout your day. We recommend this sweet summer corn salad or this zesty bean and corn salsa.
  • Quench your thirst – Refresh your thirst by choosing unsweetened sparkling water instead of soda or juice. If you crave something sweet, try mixing seltzer water and juice like in this raspberry-lime fizz or in a fruit-forward smoothie such as this summer breeze treat.
  • Satisfy your sweet tooth – If it feels like no meal is complete without a sweet ‘something’ then skip the brownies and cookies and choose icy fruit pops or grill some tropical fruit. These delicious treats taste wonderful and provide you with vitamins, minerals and fiber as opposed to empty calories.
  • Get moving – Play some lawn games, jump in the pool or put on some music and dance at your next barbecue. Movement helps us digest our food and keeps our body strong and healthy.

Food Bank Innovations | Learning to Cook Pantry Offerings

June 13, 2019

NUTRITION CLASSES FOR HEALTHIER LIVING

Do you know how to cook maitake mushrooms? Or how to prepare bok choy? And what’s the difference between acorn squash and spaghetti squash? Our Nutrition Education team answers questions like these at nearly every event they attend.  The idea is to set people up for success through thoughtfully prepared menus.

LEARNING HOW TO COOK NEW FOODS

People like Kamurrah, a retired seamstress and artist living on a fixed income in San Francisco.  She relies on our food pantry at Bayanihan House for much of her weekly groceries. She recently attended a Nutrition Education class at the pantry to learn how to cook some of the food she received recently. “I love the Food Bank,” Kamurrah says, “I have never eaten so well in my life. With the pantry, I try all kinds of fruits and veggies that I’ve never seen before. But I try it, and I’m always getting new foods that I like. There are vegetables that I didn’t even know how to eat, but I learned how because of the Food Bank.”  The classes have expanded her horizons and have empowered her with the skills needed to cook and eat fresh foods she would not have known about or chosen otherwise.

FEDERAL GUIDELINES FOR HEALTHIER LIVES

The Food Bank’s food sourcing policy is grounded in the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans: We always include fresh produce, healthy grains, and proteins in every bag or box of food we send into the community. In fact, 60% of the food we distribute is fresh produce. So, it’s essential that we also empower the people we serve by providing information and education to support healthy eating. Our Nutrition Education program does this every day by providing community members with nutrition classes (just like the one at Bayanihan House), recipes, and cooking demonstrations.  We also offer training programs to staff at our nonprofit partners, so they can spread the word about healthy eating and share nutritious recipes for the foods we provide.

 

Jacques Story | A Changing Economy Makes It Harder To Make Ends Meet

June 8, 2019

Each morning, Jacques rises early, gets ready for the day, and takes his 10-year-old daughter, Shaila, to school. As a single dad, Jacques cares for Shaila and his 80-year-old mother.  Mondays are especially busy, but in a good way.  When Jacques drops off Shaila at Dolores Huerta Elementary School, she heads for her classroom and her father heads for the Food Bank’s Health Children pantry near the campus play yard.

“If I open up the fridge on a Sunday and nothing is in there, then I have to make sure to put something in there,” he says.

It didn’t use to be like this.  Jacques was a mortgage broker until the 2008 recession made it hard to find work in real estate.  He now drives for a ridesharing company in addition to juggling several other jobs to make ends meet.  “I’ve been [in San Francisco] for a while, and I’ve never seen poverty like I’ve seen in the past couple of years,” says Jacques.

KEEPING FAMILY AT THE CENTER

Shaila is a bright girl, at the top of her class, and Jacques wants to ensure that she has no limits to her future ambitions — which currently range from being a pop star to a police officer to a vet. Once Shaila is at school, Jacques starts driving for the ridesharing company until it’s time to pick her up. He then takes her home to her grandmother while he heads out for more driving until dinner, a special time that Jacques never misses. It’s a central part of their family’s routine; a time to share about their day, a time to connect and enjoy a nutritious meal.  “I ask her about her day, and try to be present as a father because that’s so important,” he says. Often, he has to go back out for more driving after his daughter goes to bed.

STRUGGLING IN A HIGH-COST CITY

As he drives, Jacques thinks about how to provide for his family, and what they will have to eat for the next day and week. The weight of his role as the sole earner is heavy in a costly city like San Francisco.  Jacques and his mother plan out their meals for the week, usually starting on Monday when he comes home with a big box of groceries from the pantry. “This pantry has been great,” he says. “It’s been a life saver and eye opener. I needed it because food is so expensive.”  For Jacques and his family, the groceries they receive from the Food Bank help to fill the gap as he works hard to make ends meet. He says, “Thank you for taking care of me and so many people like me who are really trying to do the right thing but who are having a hard time making it.”