The First 100 Days | Q&A With Executive Director Tanis Crosby

May 27, 2021

100 days into her tenure at the Food Bank, Executive Director Tanis Crosby reflects on her experience, her gratitude, and on the enormity of the imperative work ahead.

Tanis CrosbyWhat’s your overall pulse, 100 days in?

I feel incredibly grateful and humbled and… at home.

What’s one memory from your first 100 days that will stick with you?

One Wednesday evening, I volunteered packing boxes of food for seniors. Music was playing through the speakers—whoever curates our playlists is just magical—and next to me was this lovely man named John, who had been volunteering with us on Wednesdays for 21 years, wearing his food bank sweatshirt as a badge of pride. Next to John were a couple of women who were having a blast working together, just completely welcoming, and some families who came to volunteer as a unit. It was this beautiful community within a community that had sprung up.

At the end of the shift, the Food Bank project leader Robert announced how many pounds we had collectively packaged, and I looked around and felt such pride and celebration of taking action to fight hunger together. It was such a clear image of our vital service and the wholly unique way in which we bring the community together for a great cause. It was a moment.

Your second 100 days may look very different from your first as vaccines roll out. How is that changing the way you think about our priorities?

The pandemic is revealing that which we already knew to be true: Poverty and racism are inextricably linked to food insecurity. That is not going to go away when the masks go away. We’re going to focus on advancing our mission with the analysis and the framework that this team’s wisdom created, which is understanding that we are addressing not only the consequences of hunger, but also the causes. We will work on upstream and lasting solutions and are steadfast in our commitment to ensure we are making meals possible for our neighbors right now.

As we look forward, we also need to determine what it means to sustainably serve all of those who need us – those we are currently reaching and those we hope to reach. After more than a year spent responding to this crisis, how do we return to solutions we know work, but weren’t possible during the pandemic – like a farmer’s market style distribution to enable choice – and what innovations from our crisis response do we maintain – like the grocery delivery. This will be hard work, but it is essential work. The Food Bank is part of a critical safety net that is made up of grassroots, well-established, and new community-led organizations as well as government programs. Together we will find the solutions. Because we are all working collectively to fulfill our purpose of ending hunger.

This isn’t just a vision, it will be a future, with partners, donors and volunteers making it real.

Do you think there are ways in which the pandemic has changed our community for the better?

The pandemic was a stark reminder that you can work hard, get a job, and still find yourself at risk of homelessness or relying on the Food Bank to make sure that you’re not choosing between your PG&E bill and feeding your family. You can have good job and not be able to make ends meet in San Francisco or Marin.

That’s not going to go away anytime soon. And what it has created is empathy and a deep-seated understanding that food is a human right. The community wants to be part of taking care of each other. Whether they are a 10 year-old donating their small proceeds from a lemonade stand, or a Foundation giving millions, donors of all ages, of all means are recognizing that we’ve got to take care of each other. And that has been completely inspiring.

The Food Bank just announced its Capital Campaign to expand warehouse facilities. How do you envision that helping to chart our way forward?

In this coming year, we have a tall order. Delivering on these expansion plans is really about delivering on current community need; we started this project 5 years ago with the goal of building for the future, but it turns out we are building for right now.

We are renovating not to expand, but to sustain. Because it’s not about a building and it’s not about the number of pounds of food, it’s about having the space to feed our neighbors who are making real and practical choices every day about where they’re spending scarce dollars. Our community is hurting. People are making choices–choices that weigh on families, choices that are hard and hurt.

Our job is to relieve that hurt, to make it less stressful and more hopeful. It is not about a building. It’s about what happens as a result of having that capacity to deliver on this critical need, person, by person, by person, in all of the neighborhoods in which we serve.

What has surprised you most during your first 100 days?

What surprised me was what it means to see that sheer scope upfront, to see it come alive in the field. What surprised me was how excited I would feel to see the orders being built, knowing that they would be landing in a neighborhood pantry, a pop-up or a drive-thru and put into the hands of people in our community, our neighbors. Just the magnitude of what this scale feels like, to see it and to know what it means, not just hear about it or read about it, but to see it. And just the enormous sense of… I can’t think of another word other than pride. I feel so proud to be part of this team – staff, donors, and volunteers – that is delivering food and hope to every corner of our community.

Phillis & Lee: ‘Boring’ Until You Know Them

January 14, 2021

COVID-19 has brought tremendous attention to Food Banks. Newspapers nationwide included images of long lines of cars or people standing six feet apart waiting for food at food pantries in their top images of 2020. But something is lost in those images of people waiting for hours – the people.

Participants at our pantries are more than their circumstances.  They are people with families and friends, with jobs and hobbies, with hopes and fears, with sorrows and joys. And many of them – like Phillis and Lee – are full of surprises.

We first met Phillis (89) and Lee (81) in a line of cars waiting for groceries at the San Geronimo Valley Community Center’s Pop-up Pantry. They started coming to San Geronimo by way of the Community Center’s weekly senior lunch held on the same day as the pantry.

“We were friends with someone else who comes here. For weeks she kept saying you’ve got to come to the lunch, it’s great, you’ve got to come. Well finally we came,” explained Phillis. “We had lunch with her, and next door was the food pantry.”

Since coming to the pantry, they no longer need to spend money on groceries – a huge advantage considering almost half their income from Social Security goes to rent. Without it, Lee says, “we could survive.” Phillis pipes in, “but it would be very difficult.”

Despite their financial situation, they both say the real benefit of coming to the pantry has been the community.

“We are just so grateful for the San Geronimo Valley Community Center,” said Phillis. “We’ve met so many wonderful people, you can’t imagine.”

The Neighborhood Pantry: A Community Gathering

Food pantry coordinator greets participant

Before the events of 2020 neighborhood food pantries weren’t just the primary way the Food Bank gets food to those who need it—they were bustling, thriving communities. Regardless of if you were a volunteer or participant or both the pantry was a chance each week to catch up with friends. The farmer’s market-style meant not only that people chose the food they wanted, but that they were encouraged to mingle with their friends and neighbors before and after picking up their food.

“When you start talking to people, they may look old or they may look funny to you, but once you start talking to them, you just can’t imagine how much background there is, and just the lives they’ve led,” said Phillis. “When people say they are retired, you never hear their story.”

Lee agrees, “that’s so true. You think ‘boring’ until you know them.”

Lee and Phillis certainly were not boring, but they did have stories to tell—stories that went far beyond the pantry.

After talking to Phillis and Lee about why and how they started coming to the food pantry they mentioned they’ve only been married for three years. The two finish each other’s sentences constantly and have the banter of an old married couple, so you’d never guess it had only been three years.

Phillis said she was living in a veterans home in Yountville and “I needed a walking partner, and I heard him say he likes to walk.” Before she could say more, he chimed in, “it just grew.”

These are the kinds of stories you hear when you spend time at a pantry. At the Food Bank, our hope is food pantries will continue to foster this sense of community, and the food people receive will help to support the lives they want to lead—because everyone deserves to do more than just survive.

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.