Food Bank Innovations | Learning to Cook Pantry Offerings

June 13, 2019


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.”

Blanca’s Story | SF Survival

June 6, 2019

Monday mornings have a reputation for being kind of a drag.  Many of us rush around in an effort to get the work week – or school week – off to a good start, and things can sometimes get hectic.

Food Bank participant Blanca certainly does her fair share of rushing around, getting her kids off to three different schools in San Francisco’s Glen Park neighborhood. But Monday has become a day she enjoys because after dropping off her daughter at Dolores Huerta Elementary School, Blanca heads straight for our weekly food pantry, located right on campus near the school’s playground.

“My oldest eats a lot – he’s 6 feet tall – so it’s hard to keep him happy and full,” Blanca says. “The other kids are big eaters too.  But we manage, partly because of the groceries we get here every week.”

Blanca is a stay-at-home mom for now.  Her husband is a painter and makes what she describes as a decent wage – but not necessarily enough to get by in San Francisco. Some months are harder than others, but Blanca’s family always seems to get by with a little help from the Food Bank.

“Oh my goodness!  It’s not even a joke how hard it is to survive in this city right now,” she exclaims. “There is enough food here every week to provide several days worth of meals, allowing us to save our money to pay for other things that are important, like clothes and medicine.”

As Blanca walks through the pantry, she finds several items that she likes and puts them in her bag.  As she holds up a package of fresh asparagus, she explains, “We bake this in the oven so they stay crunchy. We also really like the potatoes; we turn those into baked potatoes and fried potatoes.”

Blanca is certain that her family, and many more in the neighborhood, would suffer greatly if it weren’t for the Monday morning pantry offerings.  “Thank you for helping all low-income families in this neighborhood and this city…it really does make a difference.”


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

May 6, 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 this spring, we asked members of our Nutrition Education team to help us out with a few refreshing strawberry recipes. They pulled up a few delicious ideas from our friends at  Enjoy!

Strawberry Spring Rolls


½ cup Daikon cut into thin strips
½ cup Gailon cut into thin strips
½ cup Chinese cabbage cut into small strips
½ cup Strawberries cut into small strips
8 rice wrappers
4 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon Sesame oil


*Mix together all vegetable strips
*Place strips on soaked rice wrappers and roll up burrito-fashion.
*Combine soy sauce and oil; use for dipping sauce.

Strawberry Pineapple Lemonade


4 cups 100% pineapple juice
2 cups Fresh or frozen strawberries sliced
¼ cup Fresh lemon juice
½ cup Water


*Put all ingredients (except ice) in a blender container and churn until the mixture is smooth
*Pour into glasses over ice cubes and serve.

Nutrition Education | Springtime Fun Facts & Recipes

May 3, 2019

With spring in full bloom, you may have noticed a plethora of fresh produce at your local pantry or neighborhood market.  Here are some fun facts and tips for our favorite spring produce items, plus easy-to-follow recipes from our Nutrition Education Team. Enjoy!

Fabulous Asparagus

  • A good source of fiber, folate, and Vitamins A, C, and K
  • Store upright in the fridge with the base of spears in water for 2-3 days
  • Quick-and-easy prep:
    • Steam full spears with a little water in a pan on your stovetop for about 5 minutes.
    • Cut into pieces and sauté with other vegetables in a little oil.
    • Cook in the microwave in a glass dish with a little water for about 5 minutes.

Recipe: Asparagus and Red Quinoa Salad

Amazing Artichokes

  • A good source of Vitamin C, Folate, Magnesium, and fiber
  • Store in the fridge: cut a small slice from the stem, sprinkle with water, and store in an airtight plastic bag. Cook them within 7 days from storage.
  • Quick-and-easy prep:
    • Steam whole, with a little water in a pan on your stovetop for about 30 minutes on high heat (add enough water so it doesn’t evaporate part way through cooking)
    • Boil whole by submerging in water, and simmering for about 30 minutes
    • Drizzle with olive oil, wrap in foil, and bake for 1 hour at 425˚ F.

Recipe: Boiled Artichokes

Flavorful Fennel

  • A good source of potassium and Vitamin A
  • Store by separating the long stalks from the bulb and store the two parts separately in plastic bags. You can also store the full fennel upright in a cup of water on the counter. Use within a couple of days to avoid loss of flavor.
  • Keep in mind that the entire plant can be consumed, from bulb to stalks.
  • Quick-and-easy prep:
    • Fennel bulb can be enjoyed raw in salads, but can also be sautéed, roasted or grilled with the stalks.
    • The stalks are more fibrous than the bulb and are best enjoyed cooked.

Recipe: Salmon with Roasted Fennel and Citrus

(artichoke photo courtesy Martin Adams on Unsplash)

Big News in Hunger for Seniors and Adults With Disabilities!

April 30, 2019

For the first time since 1974, SSI recipients in California are eligible to receive CalFresh benefits. That’s 40,000 people in San Francisco and 3,000 neighbors in Marin – seniors and people with disabilities – who will be newly eligible for food stamp benefits.

With CalFresh benefits for a one-person household averaging $130 a month, this change can make a huge difference for someone in need. And, participating in CalFresh will not reduce SSI benefit amounts in any way.

Boosting food access and the local economy

Even conservative estimates suggest that connecting SSI recipients with CalFresh will result in many millions of dollars a year for low-income seniors and people with disabilities to spend on groceries. This won’t just improve the lives of SSI recipients, but the local economy gets a boost too. Every $1 spent in CalFresh benefits generates $1.79 in economic activity!

It took years of dedicated advocacy efforts by our Food Bank and our partners to achieve this historic change, which will improve the lives of some of our most vulnerable neighbors.  It wouldn’t have been possible without the generous support of our donors and coalition partners. Thank you!

In the coming weeks and months, the Food Bank’s Policy & Advocacy team and CalFresh Outreach team will work closely with the state, our counties, and other local partners to share this exciting news and assist hundreds of neighbors with CalFresh enrollment.

Learn More

  • This fact sheet from Californians for SSI provides a simple summary of the changes to CalFresh eligibility for SSI recipients

Take Action!

Are you an SSI recipient interested in applying for CalFresh benefits?

  • CLICK: Apply online:
  • CALL: Call our hotline to get application assistance in English, Spanish, or Chinese: 415-549-7021
  • COME IN: Walk into a county office to apply in person: Locations are listed on the Human Services Agency website

Are you a community-based organization interested in helping your clients enroll? 

  1. The Food Bank provides CalFresh Outreach and Application Assistance training for agencies who work closely with SSI recipients. For San Francisco-based agencies, contact Ada Lai at 415-282-1907 x258 or For Marin organizations, contact Alexandra Danino at 415-282-1907 x014 or
  2. Check out the San Francisco Human Services Agency Partner Toolkit, which includes helpful resources and outreach materials
  3. Another helpful resource is the California Department of Social Services Outreach Tool Kit for Partners
  4. Download informational flyers to hand out and post at your organization:

Want to get engaged with Food Bank’s Advocacy efforts like this?

This historic victory was made possible through the advocacy of the Californians for SSI Coalition (CA4SSI). As a partner and ally in improving the lives of SSI recipients, we want to invite you to join us on one of our CA4SSI membership conference calls every other Tuesday at 11:30am to share updates and discuss strategy. Why stop at CalFresh? Please join us as we advocate to increase the grants to people on SSI!

Check out this video of our listening session with SSI recipients on how hard it is to make ends meet on SSI:

Click here to sign up for our eNewsletter and follow us on Twitter @SFMFoodBank

Food Bank Milestone | Paul Ash’s 30th Anniversary

April 10, 2019

In the land of food banking, you won’t find too many people with the institutional knowledge and experience of our executive director, Paul Ash.

Paul joined the then San Francisco Food Bank when it was just getting off the ground – April 1st, 1989 to be exact.  Fortunately for us, this was no April Fool’s Joke. And even more fortunate is the fact that Paul never left!

He’s been a guiding light for ending hunger for so many years, but don’t take our word for it.  Check out what others are saying about Paul and add your own message in the comments section below.

“For over 30 years, Paul has dedicated his career to serving hungry residents in San Francisco. We celebrate not only his commitment to supporting our underrepresented communities, but also his steadfast leadership of one of San Francisco’s most important institutions.”
-San Francisco Mayor London Breed

“We congratulate Paul Ash on his 30th anniversary with the Food Bank.  Paul Ash has been for these decades an essential partner with GLIDE in our mutual commitment to alleviate suffering, hunger and food insecurity.  Paul is a relentless warrior for the poor and those who are pushed to the margins of our society.  We extend our gratitude and admiration and love to Paul Ash.”
-Rev. Cecil Williams and Janice Mirikitani, CoFounders, GLIDE

“Cheers to you, Paul!  When you joined the food bank it was just a small but mighty team in a dilapidated warehouse on 3rd street, distributing less than a million pounds of food a year and operating in the red. But you had a belief that access to food is a basic human right and a vision for how to grow the organization to the tremendous community leader it is today. You were always generous with your time, and a leader at the state and national level.  You are also a mentor to many current leaders in the food bank network (Paul is the only ED who can say three current food bank CEOs are former direct reports). Creative and disciplined, you have always kept the organization focused on how it can corral any available resources to have the biggest impact on ending hunger, and that is a very special talent.”
-Leslie Bacho, CEO of 2nd Harvest Food Bank of San Jose and San Mateo

“When I started working for the Food Bank we were distributing about 3 million pounds per year. Paul was just a couple of years into the job and already forming his vision for the organization.  The first thing I noticed was he had the ability to always pick the opportunity that fit with the Food Banks vision.  It made our growth possible with the limited funding available. His vision still endures today as we distribute close to 50 million pounds of food per year.
-Gary Maxworthy, Former Board Member, creator of the state’s Farm to Family program.

“Congratulations Paul…you have done an amazing job transforming the then San Francisco Food Bank from a very small, but needed, organization in the late 80s to a Bay Area powerhouse charity that now serves over 200,000 people in San Francisco and Marin each year. It would be impossible to quantify just how many lives you changed and saved in your tenure, but it’s a lot and you should be  commended for that.”
-Michael Terris, Food Bank Board President & partner at Terris, Barnes & Walters

Please take a moment to leave your own well wishes and recollections about Paul in our comments section below.

Food Bank ‘Mini’ Team Favorites: Celery Recipes to Enjoy This Spring

March 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 mark April as National Celery Month, we asked members of our Nutrition Education team to help us out with a few celery recipes. They pulled up a few delicious ideas from our friends at  Enjoy!

Apple Celery Slaw with Nuts


1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
¼ teaspoon mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 apples diced (skin on)
2 large celery ribs cut into 1/4 inch-thick pieces
2 cups raw cabbage shredded
¼ cup nuts chopped
chopped parsley (optional)


*Whisk the vinegar with the mustard in a large bowl.
*Add oil in a stream, whisking until blended.
*Toss apples, celery, and cabbage with the dressing.
*Just before serving, sprinkle with nuts (and parsley).

Chickpea Dip with Fresh Celery Sticks


1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans) drained and rinsed
3 garlic cloves
¼ cup plain lowfat yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vegetable or olive oil (or nonstick cooking spray)
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon paprika
⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
4 medium celery stalks sliced


*Put the first eight ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth.
*Serve at room temperature with celery slices and enjoy!

Letter From Paul | President Trump’s Budget

March 22, 2019

For the third year in a row, we at the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank find ourselves on the defensive with a harmful budget proposal from the Trump Administration.

The President’s spending plan calls for massive cuts in vital safety net programs – including $220 billion in deep cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, CalFresh in California) over the next 10 years.

If you’re a longtime supporter of the Food Bank, then you probably know just how devastating this proposal would be for our community. SNAP helps put food on the table for over 40 million Americans, four million Californians, and tens of thousands of people in our service area of Marin and San Francisco.  It’s THE most important and effective program we have to fight hunger and serves as a lifeline to those who don’t make enough money to provide three square meals a day for themselves and family members.


Now is the time to invest in food assistance efforts rather than diminishing them. While the economy is strong, we should bolster programs such as SNAP with benefit levels that support better nutrition. Income requirements for these programs should be designed to account for cost-of-living disparities, so that applicants in high-cost areas—such as San Francisco and Marin—are guaranteed equitable access to food assistance.

Through cruel and ill-conceived ideas, like a renewed push to replace SNAP benefits with so-called “harvest boxes”, the President’s proposed budget poses a grave threat to our most vulnerable neighbors. The harvest box proposal stigmatizes people who are struggling to make ends meet.  More importantly, it replaces SNAP, an efficient system where people shop for themselves in a grocery store and pay with an electronic benefits card, with a program requiring an entirely new distribution system that would likely be more expensive, less efficient, and provides less nutritional value for those it purports to serve.


We continue to remain firmly committed to using our voice to elevate the importance of federal nutrition programs like SNAP and call on the community to reach out to their members of Congress to oppose these cuts to SNAP and other vital programs.

Our tagline at the Food Bank is “Food For All” – a simple phrase with a big meaning. When we make healthy food available for all, our community thrives.  Any effort to undermine that is simply undermines the greatness and health of our country.

Policy and Advocacy Update | Tackling Hunger in Washington D.C.

February 28, 2019

In February, our Policy & Advocacy team joined 1,100 passionate advocates in Washington D.C. for the National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference.  Co-hosted annually by Feeding America and the Food Research and Action Center, the conference is an exciting opportunity for anti-poverty and anti-hunger advocates to collaborate. We celebrated the bi-partisan 2018 Farm Bill – which reversed proposed cuts to federally-funded food programs.  We also geared up to fight attacks on food programs anticipated from the current administration.

NOTE: Photo courtesy of FRAC. Click to watch Congresswoman Blunt Rochester’s keynote address

Day 1 – Sunday – “We’re Not Going Back!”

We spent our first morning learning from fellow food bank representatives about new opportunities to use client-level service data to influence policy and advocacy. Then, during lunch, Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE),  ignited the room  with a powerful keynote address.  She reminded us that we have come so far in our advocacy to provide neighbors with the basic human right of food, and encouraged us to continue challenging attacks on these programs.

NOTE: Photo courtesy of FRAC. Click the photo to view Mayor Benjamin’s speech

Day 2 – Monday  “The Rent Eats First”

Our second day kicked off with another outstanding speaker: President of the US Council of Mayors, the Honorable Steven K. Benjamin of Columbia, SC.  He spoke about addressing the root causes of hunger, including institutional racism, limited access to financial education, insufficient wages, and the “unlivable” cost of living in cities across America.

He highlighted income volatility – citing recent studies that show half of US families can’t pay for an unexpected $400.00 bill.  Our Food Bank learned this firsthand during the recent government shutdown, when we saw a spike in need from people who had never required food assistance before, but found themselves two paychecks short and unable to cover their expenses.

Day 3 – Lobby Day! – SNAP benefits inadequate for Bay Area’s hungry

L Meg Davidson, Food Bank Associate Director, Policy & Advocacy, R Paul Ash, Food Bank Executive Director

By Day 3, we were all ready to take our anti-hunger priorities to Capitol Hill, where we met with staff members for Senators Kamala Harris and Diane Feinstein. We also connected with staff members of Congressman Jared Huffman, who actively supports our advocacy efforts on behalf of his constituents in the northern coastal region, including Marin.

We thanked them for their leadership and asked that they turn their attention to the inadequacy of benefits for current SNAP (food stamp) recipients.


Right now, the average SNAP recipient gets $1.49 per meal, which we know with the cost of living here is simply impossible to stretch. We were joined by Patricia, a Contra Costa County resident, who shared her personal experience of having her SNAP benefits cut to just $15 per month.  We are asking Congress to reevaluate the criteria used to determine how much money a household can get in SNAP benefits.

The Conference was an energizing reminder that we are not in this struggle alone.  We are part of an incredibly diverse and tireless community of advocates and elected officials who have never stopped fighting for policies that feed and protect our neighbors who need us most.