Students Volunteer During COVID | Leo’s Story

October 19, 2020

Volunteer after volunteer has stepped up during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, it took 1,200 volunteers each week to run our operations. Now, with new COVID-19 programming, it takes 2,000. That is an unprecedented number of new volunteers.

One of the volunteers is Leo, who is 11 years old and starting middle school this year. Leo’s mom, Amber, works at the San Geronimo Valley Community Center, and at the beginning of the pandemic, he started tagging along with her every week to volunteer at the Center’s Thursday Pop-up Food Pantry.

“I’ve just been coming along because I know that they need volunteers,” he said, adding jokingly: “and because she makes me.”

Leo and his mom have a good laugh over that. But despite any extra encouragement from Amber, Leo always has a good time when he volunteers.

“It’s pretty fun. I mean, it can get kind of exhausting because it’s really hot outside sometimes. But yeah, it’s pretty fun.”

A Strange School Year

For Leo, the Pop-up food pantry is not the only thing new in his life, he is starting middle school this year. And if middle school was not hard enough, he is doing it amid the pandemic.

“I’m excited, but I’m also not excited,” explained Leo. “I wish that I could actually start in the classroom in Middle School, but I’m going to have to be at home.”

Like many of his peers, Leo is navigating remote learning while trying to stay in touch with friends – a challenge many teenagers are currently facing.

At least he is not the only teen who volunteers at the pantry; there are several other students who regularly joined him on Thursdays in the summer. Though they aren’t his school friends, Leo says he likes meeting new people while helping out.

A Family Affair

The Food Bank has always encouraged young volunteers to join us, and we often see families volunteering together to give back while spending time together. This includes families delivering to seniors, families in our warehouses, and families like Leo and his mom, who volunteer at Pop-ups.

For other youths who are up for the hard work, it takes to pack bags and load trunks for several hours, “It helps a lot of people for the food pantry to have extra volunteers,” said Leo. “And even if you don’t like it, you can bring extra food home.”

Church Remains Open as Physical Doors Close

August 27, 2020

While COVID-19 put limits on gatherings and in-person church services, Cornerstone Missionary Baptist Church in San Francisco’s Bayview district has found new opportunities for service through its Pop-up Food Pantry during this crisis.

Minister Damonn White at Cornerstone Church Pop-up Food Pantry“Although our church can’t fellowship in person and the doors for the church are closed, we like to say that the church is still open and we’re still doing the work,” explained Minister Damonn White, who spends his Thursdays at the Pop-up Pantry Cornerstone now hosts in partnership with the Food Bank.

The Pop-up at Cornerstone opened in May, making it the second Pop-up Pantry the Food Bank opened in the Bayview District after the Bayview Opera House. Each week it serves bags of fresh produce, protein, and shelf-stable items to 600 households from all over San Francisco.

The pantry may be new, but food has always been part of the ministry at Cornerstone Church. Not only do they feed about 250 families each year through their holiday food baskets, but they are also always prepared “if somebody comes to us hungry,” said Minister White. “We have families sometimes say, ‘I’ve been displaced, we need food to eat.’ We always have some food on hand.”

Challenges of COVID-19

Cornerstone Missionary Baptist Church has experienced the grief of this tragedy firsthand. When we spoke with Minister White in July, eight of his parishioners had gotten the virus, and one person had died.

Minister White explained, “the sad part of this is that when transitioning of life happens, that we’re not really able to love on people the way we would like to. But we just have to take the safety precautions, you know. We’re learning on a day to day basis, with gloves, masks, social distancing, and it’s tough. It’s tough.”

Their experience is not unique. The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black and Brown communities is particularly evident in Bayview, where 31% of residents identify as Black compared to just 6% of San Francisco’s population overall. As of July, there were 192.91 cases of COVID-19 per 10,000 residents in the neighborhood – the highest infection rate of any San Francisco neighborhood.

Immediate Food Needs

The risk of the virus itself is not the only challenge for the Bayview community. In July, the Human Services Agency (HSA) conducted a survey of low-income San Francisco residents who receive its services. It found that Bayview had one of the highest percentages of people Cornerstone Church Pop-up Food Pantryreporting that they did not have enough food in the last two weeks.

HSA also found that while 34 percent of Black respondents reported food as their most immediate post-shelter in place need, only 26 percent reported visiting a food pantry.

The Food Bank is trying to address this by working with community partners like Cornerstone Baptist Church and the Bayview Opera House to ensure there are food pantries in the neighborhood. But we know simply opening a pantry is not enough. After hearing from local residents that lines were too long, we implemented an improved line management system where individuals registered for timeslots to reduce wait times. And we will continue working with community leaders to improve our outreach to the local community.

In the meantime, Cornerstone is happy to be of service to San Francisco residents far beyond its immediate community. “We want to make sure we meet the masses. We don’t want to be considered a Black church. We’d like to be considered a community church for all.”

And if you visit the pantry Thursdays, you’ll see they’ve achieved this. The Pop-up Pantry at Cornerstone serves a diverse cross-section of people. Thanks to the welcoming environment the Cornerstone community provides, we continue to see strong interest from neighborhood residents in wanting to join.

“For me, this is what it’s really all about. It’s nice to wear a suit and get up and say an elegant speech in front of a room full of people and inspire them to live a greater, a better life,” said Minister White. “But this right here is where the rubber hits the road. For me, I’m a people person. I’m a community person. I like to do whatever I can do to help people. So today and every Thursday, when I’m here, it’s so gratifying, you know, to walk away and know, okay, we actually helped some people today.”

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! 

 

Pop-up Pantries: a Lifeline to Those Newly Out of Work

May 6, 2020

To meet the exploding need for food during the pandemic, the Food Bank opened 20 Pop-up pantries across San Francisco and Marin, each serving roughly ten times more people each week than our regular pantries. In the south-east corner of San Francisco, the Bayview Opera House was one of the first Pop-ups we opened after shelter in place went into effect.  

Set up in the parking lot between the Opera House and Joseph Lee Recreation Center, the pantry is staffed by volunteers outfitted with masks and gloves always maintaining a safe distance. They say there are many “this is why we are out here” moments – whether it’s participants’ relief that they’ll be able to put food on the table for the week or folks new to the Food Bank who are surprised to open their bag and find that about 70% of what the volunteers bagged for them is fresh produce. 

Finding A Way During the Shutdown  

The Bayview Opera House is now serving more than 1,000 households every Monday. The line often stretches down Newcomb Ave, around on 3rd Street, and back up the hill on Oakdale, but it moves quickly – social distancing can be deceiving.  

Once at the front of the line, participants are greeted by a friendly volunteer with a clipboard who asks them how many people are in their household, before they are handed a bag of groceries.  

For Maria, who lost her job in the crisis as a childcare worker, standing in line is worth it, “I know there are a lot of families who are thinking: rent or food?” She has been trying to figure out what to cut from her budget so she can support her family as the shelter in place continues. “This really helps because I have two teenagers at home who eat a lot. Before I was spending $150 per week for just one meal a day. Now, they are eating three meals.” 

James, a tour bus driver, said: “I came to work, and it was just shut down.” Without the tours he has had trouble making money, “my savings are gone so the Food Bank helps.” He loves that he can still get a variety of proteins. “Last week I got eggs. I killed those eggs! Once, there was pork loin. I killed that too!”

For Jasmine’s familythe pop-up pantry is a lifeline. Jasmine lost her hotel job and lives with her mom, who has a health condition that makes her vulnerable to COVID-19, and with her brother, whose hours were cut as his airline job. “Honestly, I don’t even know how we are getting by. By the grace of God, we are living day by day,” she said. “It’s a little stressful figuring out the craziness of how you are going to pay rent and buy food.” But the pop-up pantry helps, “because two out of three of us are not working, it helps 

us save money and not waste the last of our savings.”  

The Pop-ups are a welcome sight, with passing cars often giving us a friendly honk. The Food Bank and our volunteers make sure the community knows we’re here for them in this crisis, and we are all in this together. 

Support our programs here

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 Bank Helps Furloughed Workers, Coast Guard Families

January 21, 2019

As the government shutdown continues, the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank is stepping up to assist furloughed workers, including U.S. Coast Guard members and their families who have gone weeks without a paycheck. The Food Bank operated a pop-up pantry on Saturday morning at Hamilton Field in Novato and provided free, fresh groceries to about 150 Coast Guard families.

Meghan and family

“The food being available here – such great food! – is just amazing. We are overwhelmed with thankfulness,” said Meghan, who came to the pop-up pantry with her husband, who serves in the Coast Guard, and their two young children. “With our kids being so young, I work just a few hours a week, so we rely on my husband’s income to cover most of our bills. Not getting his paycheck last week has already caused us a little bit of hurt. And the prospect of not getting the next paycheck is really scary. Because we’re saving some money on food, we’re able to cover our bills this month. Right now we are just hanging on to every dime, because we’re not sure how long this shutdown is going to last.”

Read thank you letters we received from the U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Peter Gautier and the Coast Guard North Bay Spouses Club.

Click here to view photos from Saturday’s pop-up pantry.

Fresh Food for Families

The Food Bank delivered seven pallets of fresh food on Saturday morning- including whole chickens, fruits & veggies, and pasta and sauce – to help the Coast Guard families get through these lean times. In addition, our CalFresh (food stamps) enrollment team was on hand to help eligible families sign up for benefits. Because they have missed paychecks, many Coast Guard members could now meet income requirements for CalFresh.

The Coast Guard families in Novato held their own community food drive last weekend and collected thousands of pounds of nonperishable items, diapers, and cleaning supplies. The fresh groceries from the Food Bank’s pantry supplemented the distribution of these items.

Get Help

Are you a furloughed government employee who needs food assistance because of the government shutdown? We can help! Call 2-1-1 or visit www.sfmfoodbank.org/find-food to get connected with food assistance in San Francisco and Marin.

Give Help

With your support, we can continue to help furloughed workers and their families. Make a donation now.

In the News

CNN

San Jose Mercury News/East Bay Times – Food banks fill in for paychecks as shutdown drags on

Newsweek Magazine – Government Shutdown: Unpaid Federal Workers Are Now Turning to Food Banks To Feed Families

San Francisco Chronicle – Editorial: Crippled Government is the Threat Within

KQED – Bay Area Food Banks prepare to help feed local furloughed federal workers

Marin Independent Journal – Coast Guard Families Tread Water

SF-Eater – Food Bank Hosts Massive Mobile Pantry for Unpaid Coast Guard Workers

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.

Food Bank Response | North Bay Fires

October 11, 2017

Updated Sunday, October 15

As massive wildfires continue to decimate the North Bay, causing thousands of people to flee their homes, Bay Area Food Banks are responding. We have been working together all week to provide emergency food assistance to displaced neighbors. Our hearts and thoughts are with our North Bay neighbors who are seeking support.

Need food? Marin food pantries welcome fire evacuees: If you or someone you know in Marin has been impacted by the wildfires (and is not already receiving meals from an evacuation center), food is available from the Food Bank’s pantry network. Click here to use our Food Locator tool to find weekly food pantries that are open in Marin. To help individuals and families recover, the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank is making emergency food assistance available to evacuation centers and encouraging new participants to enroll at our weekly pantries.

Want to help? Monetary donations are the most effective way to assist right now.  

> Donate here to support Redwood Empire Food Bank,which is in the middle of the disaster zone, serving Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino Counties. 

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

How San Francisco-Marin Food Bank is supporting relief efforts

In times of emergency, Food Banks play a key role as “second responders,” providing food and water in the immediate aftermath of disaster, as well as longer-term food assistance as neighbors rebuild their lives.

At the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, our Food Resources and Operations teams sprang into action early last week, assembling 12 pallets of shelf-stable snack items, drinks, and peanut butter. These ready-to-eat foods are being delivered to shelters that are housing people displaced by the fires.

On Tuesday, we moved those pallets of food to our Marin warehouse, which is much closer to the fire lines, and much closer to the people who need it. Within hours of arriving in Marin, two pallets were delivered to an evacuee shelter in San Geronimo Valley in West Marin County, helping 30 people who were forced from their homes the day before. Other shelters are opening daily, and our emergency-relief food is close by, ready to be shipped out as soon as it’s needed.

This weekend (October 14-15), we are providing food for breakfast for 400 evacuees at the Marin Civic Center evacuation shelter. The 11 pallets of food delivered today include cereal, peanut butter, jelly, beverages, apples, and pears.

Our team has also delivered a truckload of food and water to the Redwood Empire Food Bank (REFB), which is in the middle of the disaster zone, serving Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino Counties. We have also sent four of our skilled forklift operators to help out at the REFB warehouse this weekend. Four members of our warehouse team – Rich, Steve, Leonardo and Carl – will travel to Sonoma County to provide assistance.

In the news, San Francisco-Marin Food Bank was featured on KTSF-Channel 36 TV (Chinese language). Click here to view the 3-minute segment; we are mentioned at the 1:43 mark.