Partner Spotlight: Q&A with Casey Federico

May 13, 2020

When schools closed in March, parents and caregivers were immediately left figuring out how to balance work, childcare, and homeschooling their children. For the families who relied on the Food Bank every week, there was an added layer of stress – where would they get their groceries? Prior to shelter-in-place, many families could pick up the fresh groceries at their school pantry during drop-off or pick-up. Across San Francisco and Marin, school closures caused 46 of the Food Bank’s Healthy Children food pantries to stop their weekly distributions 

One such pantry was at Dolores Huerta Elementary School in San Francisco’s Mission District. When the school closed teachers and staff quickly worked to identify and contact families to let them know where they could access foodEven with new available pop-up pantries opening nearby, with vulnerable relatives at home, some families could not attend nearby Pop-up pantries. The school’s Family Liaison, Nataly Terrazas; Elementary Advisor, Luis García; School Social Worker, Sarah Volk, and school parent and pantry coordinator, Casey Federico quickly sprang into action matching families who couldn’t leave their house with volunteers who could pick up and deliver food to them. They now have 30 volunteers who trade off delivering to 13 families.  

Last week we caught up with Casey to learn more about what is happening in their community

(This conversation was edited for length and clarity.) 

Food Bank: How did you start partnering with us and what have you been doing since the start of the pandemic?   

Casey FedericoAt Dolores Huerta, which is both of my daughters’ elementary school, there was an established food pantry every Monday morning. Another parent had coordinated it before me, but their son graduated, so I took on the job of being the pantry coordinator this fall. Even before shelter-in-place, we were seeing a huge expansion in need for the pantry. We grew from a 50person pantry last year to a 70- or 80-person pantry in November.  

When the shelter-in-place happened, I was in communication with Edith, our neighborhood representative from the Food Bank, and knew everything was shifting. At the same time, I was getting all these texts and messages from families at the school saying, ‘we are about to be out of food’ There were lots of different challenging situations. And so, from discussions with the school team – Sarah, Luis, and Nataly – we found out who couldn’t leave their home for whatever reason and identified 12 families who needed food delivered. We started with a group of volunteers –families who did have transportation and could go to a food pantry and pick up a box and then deliver it to those people’s homes.  

Our School Social Worker, Sarah Volk, is such an inspiration. She was just so careful and thoughtful about confidentiality. Sarah asked families who they’d be okay being paired with, because to have someone know you are receiving food from the Food Bank and then know where you live, that is a big deal. She was just super thoughtful about that and got everybody’s permission all along the line. 

FB: What are you hearing from people in the community now? 

CF: I’m still hearing a lot of people saying, you know, we got this [food], but it isn’t really enough. That is the hard reality. So many families that are part of our community are hospitality workers, etc.  

Another amazing thing that happened is one of our teachers, her fiancé owns a restaurant and every time somebody from the community buys a meal in his restaurant, Toma, he’s donating a meal to a family in need. He’s also delivering meals. So, families are getting additional support from that too.  

But what I just heard from Sarah last week, is just the numbers are increasing so much. So, we are talking about how to meet new needs. It’s really challenging. 

FB: Do you talk to the families you deliver to? How are they doing?  

CF: One thing that’s been really good, is a lot of relationships have been built between the families who are delivering and the families who are receiving. I know everybody’s been sending texts like, I’m going to drop it off. They text, I got it, thank you.  

There’s also been some specific communication around needing health items like toothpaste and soap and tampons, and that kind of stuff. A few volunteers who have the capacity have also been sharing those types of items with families. Many of the families who are delivering are also out of work or running low on food themselves.  

FB: We see this too, it’s incredible how many of our volunteers say, ‘oh yeah, I’m out of work right now and so I have free time and I’m going to do this.’ 

CF: I know, it just takes my breath away. One of the women who is helping deliver said ‘oh yeah, we both lost our jobs last week, but this is just so important, it’s the one trip I have purpose around. I have to do this.’  

FB: Is there anything else that you wanted to share about the experience? 

CF: I think the one thing that the Food Bank really does is bring together a community of people. Almost everybody who volunteered at the weekly food pantry at Dolores Huerta is also receiving a box of food. And so, I think our, our community of folks who really view themselves as part of the system were ready to jump in. The group of parents who help us to set up, fold up boxes, and do all that kind of stuff are really jumping up again to help out, which is cool. 

That sort of friendly, joyful mood that was at our Monday morning pantry translates over and made people feel comfortable to be both asking and giving. I’m so proud to be part of this community! 

 

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.  

Camp Fire Relief | Bay Area Food Assistance Continues

January 28, 2019

“I got up that morning at 8:30 and looked outside and it was pitch black,” said Jean Bauman, a retiree who lived in Paradise, California. “I went back into the bedroom and I said to my husband Jim, ‘You’ve got to get out of bed.'”

At first, Jim and Jean were hoping the Camp Fire would be contained before reaching their small home. What they didn’t know was that the raging inferno was devouring an entire football field of land every second.

IT WAS TOO LATE

An hour later, fiery chunks of debris were pelting the couple’s home. When it was all over, they were left with nothing but their brick chimney and charred sludge and debris. “We lost fifty years of everything in that house,” Jean said. “It’s numbing.” The couple is now navigating insurance to begin rebuilding their house and their lives.

Help has arrived in the form of weekly food distributions, bolstered by weekly deliveries from Bay Area food banks that have been providing tons (literally) of fresh groceries every week.

“We had a suspicion that once things settled down in Paradise, that the community was going to need some food assistance,” said Barbara Abbott, Food Resources Director at the Food Bank.  “The call eventually came in December, and we have been sending full truckloads of fresh produce, protein, beverages and snacks ever since.”

THANKFUL FOR FULL BELLIES

The food assistance is starting to make a difference, helping people like Martin and Ashley feed themselves, as well as their two young children, Lilliana and Rylee.

Martin moved his family from Kansas to Paradise to help with his ailing mother after she recently suffered a stroke. And while the family didn’t lose any property in the fire, they did lose stability. Martin was due to start a logging job the day the Camp Fire started. Logging jobs have since dried up and now the family finds itself visiting the food distribution site in nearby Chico to help provide nourishment until things get better.

“The food got us through,” Ashley said. “It’s been filling in the gaps.”

While Martin hasn’t found a job yet, he’s still searching every day and he’s confident he’ll find something soon.   “It’s a lot easier to go to sleep and focus on finding a job when you know your kids aren’t hungry,” he said. “We’re thankful for having full bellies.”

Food for Mendocino and Lake County Fire Evacuees

August 1, 2018

When disaster strikes, you can always count on the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank to lend a hand. In the case of the Mendocino/Lake County Complex Fires, it’s not just a hand we’re lending – it’s multiple pallets of emergency food and water for fire evacuees.

Our Food Resources team has been monitoring the situation, and when contacted by our friends at Redwood Empire Food Bank (REFB), we leaped into action – assembling ten pallets of emergency water, easy-open food pouches, and ready-to-eat food. This week, emergency food supplies from our Food Bank warehouse will help REFB restock its rapidly-depleting emergency food inventories.

“We are once again saddened by the news of these fires, but we are glad to be a part of the Food Bank regional network so that we can help out, even from afar,” said Barbara Abbott, Director of Food Sourcing and Allocation at San Francisco-Marin Food Bank. “Our hearts and thoughts are with our Northern California neighbors whose homes and lives have been damaged by the fires.”

Because of the generous support of our donors, our Food Bank collaborates year round with other Food Banks around the region – and across the country – to prepare for and respond to disasters.

TAKE ACTION

  • Get updates and stay connected with news about how San Francisco-Marin Food Bank is supporting the wildfire recovery efforts by following us on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Make an emergency plan with your loved ones so you know what to do when disaster strikes. Visit www.readymarin.org or www.sf72.org for information and useful guides to help you get prepared.

NOTE: At this time, the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank is not accepting donations of food, water, or other supplies for the fire relief effort.

Responding to Hurricane Harvey

September 6, 2017

Food Bankers know that our primary task – today and every day – is to help hungry people get enough to eat.  Most of the time, we focus on neighbors close by – people living in our city, county or region. But during times of disaster – like Hurricane Harvey – making nutritious food available to all who need it crosses county lines and even state lines.

As Hurricane Harvey pounded southeast Texas, we at the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank were eager to help. With flood waters receding, thousands of people who lost their homes and most of their belongings are now in need of food.

The San Francisco-Marin Food Bank is responding by sending both food and staff to Texas. As a member of Feeding America, San Francisco-Marin Food Bank is part of a national network that provides assistance to food banks impacted by natural disasters.

Food Bank Staff Head to Houston

Associate Director of Operations Geno Geerlof departed yesterday, and Director of Food Sourcing and Allocation Barbara Abbott will head to Texas on Sunday. They will assist the Houston Food Bank with the massive food sourcing and distribution efforts now underway, helping provide food and water to thousands of people impacted by the storm and its aftermath.

The response from the community has been overwhelming – the Houston Food Bank is receiving as many as 120 truckloads of food every day.  They are operating 24/7 to receive donations and get them out into the community as quickly as possible.

Barbara is excited and ready for the challenge. “I imagine I’ll be looking at very long hours, and no days off while I’m in Houston, but I’m ready to help in any way I can,” she said.

40,000 lbs. of Food and Water 

In addition to sending personnel, San Francisco-Marin Food Bank is also gathering food and water for relief efforts. We have teamed up with two other Bay Area food banks (Alameda County Community Food Bank and Second Harvest Food Bank in Santa Clara) to provide foods requested by the Houston Food Bank.  This week, we will ship more than 40,000 lbs. of peanut butter, granola bars, bottled water, crackers, canned meats and veggies, instant oatmeal, and other ready-to-eat foods.

Want to help Hurricane Harvey survivors and food banks in Texas?  At this point in the disaster, monetary donations are the most effective way to provide support. Make a donation now at FeedingTexas.org.

Check out recent media coverage about our efforts to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey: