A First of Its Kind: Drive-through Pantry

April 1, 2020

“It was a logistics miracle,” said Barbara Abbott, Vice President of Supply Chain at the Food Bank, beaming as she walked out of the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank’s San Rafael warehouse on Saturday afternoon.

Abbott and her team had just finished the Food Bank’s first-ever drive-through food pantry. And somehow, besides the rainy weather, the event went off without a hitch.

From the moment the pantry opened at 9:45 a.m. until it closed a little after 2 p.m., staff and volunteers loaded 30-pound boxes into cars. The length of the line waxed and waned – at some points even wrapping around the building – but the flow of cars remained steady throughout the day. By the end, we had served more than 600 households – 100 more than expected.

Necessity: The Mother of Invention

The setup was designed to promote social distancing – something none of us considered before COVID-19. Participants drove up and opened and closed their trunks, so the Food Bank could continue the essential service of distributing food while minimizing person-to-person contact.

Despite how seamless the operation appeared, it wasn’t as simple as it looked. A lot of thought went into the day.

For example, how do you efficiently pack 500-600 boxes while maintaining social distancing? “It’s not easy to keep 20 people away from each other at six feet distancing,” said warehouse manager Steve Coover. “The way we set up was pretty difficult at first. But we finally figured it out and it went smoothly.”

After a trial run on Friday, Saturday looked like a well-oiled machine. A carefully organized assembly line of volunteers slid boxes across a conveyor belt as they loaded in fresh produce, meat, and healthy non-perishables. The process was streamlined and efficient and even the social distancing was a success.

A Team Effort

Katy McKnight, Director of Community Engagement, provided a practical explanation for the team’s success:  “We applied best practices we’ve learned over our 30 years delivering food and have been able to bring that here to our San Rafael facility.”

Everyone agreed the logistical success of the drive-through was only possible because of the community support.

“The community is really rallying around us now,” said McKnight. “People have turned up to volunteer, allowing us to run a project like this, and allowing us to pre-box all of these groceries to make it as safe for our volunteers and participants as possible and as efficient for our participants as possible.”

Coover, who spent much of Saturday managing the line of cars and directing traffic heard many participants saying, “thank you, we appreciate you guys being here.”

He was also out there reminding them we’ll be back again next Saturday from 10-2. The San Rafael drive-through, at 2550 Kerner Blvd, will be a weekly operation for the foreseeable future.

For those who want to volunteer, please sign up here. We especially need the support of those who are bilingual.

 

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

Morning Snack Program Reaches Far in West Marin

December 26, 2018

When the Food Bank truck pulls up to Tomales Elementary School in western Marin County each week, a group of 7th and 8th graders help the principal, Amanda Mattea, distribute food to all the classrooms. It’s part of the Food Bank’s Morning Snack Program which serves nearly 4,700 wholesome snacks to 20 schools throughout San Francisco and Marin each day — foods such as fresh fruit, carrots, and string cheese, giving kids the fuel they need to learn.

Additionally, the Food Bank’s Healthy Children Pantries provide low-income parents with fresh produce, lean proteins, and pantry staples to prepare nutritious meals at home. These pantries are conveniently located in public schools, giving parents easy access to nutritious food as they drop off or pick up their children.

With these two programs, the Food Bank is making a dent in childhood hunger. Hungry children are often tired, have trouble concentrating, and are likely to fall behind in class. They tend to have weaker immune systems, putting them at greater risk of illness. And studies show that kids who grow up hungry or malnourished are not as well prepared for success.

Healthy Snacks Spur Conversations about Healthy Eating

Educators see a big difference when students have enough to eat. “Children’s basic needs must be met before we can even talk about learning,” says Principal Mattea. “Your body needs to be taken care of, and you need nutritious food to eat.”

For the Tomales Elementary children, their bus ride home can take as long as an hour in this rural area of west Marin. So instead of being distributed as a morning snack, Tomales Elementary School distributes snacks from the Food Bank in the afternoon so kids can stay full on their long bus rides home.

Having a filling snack tides them over until dinner so they can do homework and play. “Our kids’ favorite snack is fruit,” says Principal Mattea. “The other day, they were very excited to get oranges, and we talked about all the ways to eat an orange, from orange juice, to fruit salad. It spurred some great conversation about different kinds of snacks and healthy eating.”

“Game-changing” Expansion in Marin County

March 23, 2018

It’s no secret that the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank is constantly on the lookout for new ways to expand in order to feed more of our neighbors in need.  We took one giant step in that direction with the purchase of a large warehouse in San Rafael in January 2018.

“This new facility is a game changer for us,” said Executive Director Paul Ash. “For several years, we have been looking for additional warehouse space that would enable us to continue growing our operations and serve even more neighbors in need. This new facility will enable us to do just that – to increase our food distribution, add more services, and engage with more Marin residents who wish to volunteer their time in our warehouse.”

Room to Bloom

The new building is 38,000 square feet, about three times as large as the Food Bank’s old warehouse in Novato.  It includes a vast, wide-open warehouse, plus ample office space for the Food Bank’s growing staff and programs.

The Food Bank will move out of our leased facility in Novato at the end of March. Our Marin Shop Floor, where partner agencies visit to pick up fresh produce and groceries, will be up and running in the new warehouse in early April. In a relatively short time, the Food Bank expects to increase services and food distribution in Marin through the new facility.  Another exciting benefit is considerably more space for volunteers and community events.

Marin Volunteer Program Temporarily Suspended

The only interruption expected by the Food Bank during the transition to the new space will be a temporary pause in the volunteer program in Marin.  “We are already in the process of constructing a Volunteer Welcome Center and work space in the new building,” said Volunteer Services Manager Cody Jang.  “We hope to invite all of our dedicated Marin volunteers – along with hundreds of new volunteers – into our new building in 3 to 6 months.”

Get the latest updates on Marin volunteering by joining our Marin Volunteer email list – click here to subscribe.

You can count Food Bank Board Member and Marin resident Chef Tyler Florence among those excited by all the possibilities.  “One of my goals is to reach out to more young people, and really expose them to the issue of hunger in Marin County,” Florence said while touring the new facility. “I envision school kids taking field trips here, volunteering their time, learning and immersing themselves in the fight against food insecurity and food waste in their communities.”

The building was previously owned by Food Bank supporter who not only sold the property at a favorable price, but who also made a generous donation to help facilitate the sale.  Ash says that kind of generosity helps fuel the Food Bank’s mission to end hunger in San Francisco and Marin.

“We’ll need more of that kind of generosity to really feel the impact that a building like this can provide,” he said. ” Right now, we need to make $2 million worth of upgrades to get the new facility  ‘Food Bank Ready.’ We will launch a capital fundraising campaign soon and asking the community to come together, give, and help make this dream property a reality property.”

Food Distribution Uninterrupted During Move

The good news is that even though the Food Bank is transitioning out of the old building and moving into the new building, services to Marin residents will not be impacted.  Our Operations team will still be hard at work, as usual, building orders for the nearly 50 pantries operating in Marin, with the San Francisco team filling in when needed.  The last time the Food Bank expanded was in 2011 when the San Francisco Food Bank merged with the Marin Community Food Bank.  Since then, the amount of food distributed in Marin County has nearly tripled, from 2.1 million pounds to 6.1 million pounds.

Hunger in Marin

In spite of the phenomenal growth and success that the Food Bank has achieved since 2011, there still remains a substantial unmet need in Marin. The latest data from the Food Bank’s Missing Meals Report shows that Marin residents missed out on approximately 9 million meals in 2015, a significant meal gap that persists even with the food provided by government programs and nonprofits like us.

Media Coverage

Click here to check out all the local news coverage generated by the purchase of this our new building.

 

Heather’s Story | Young Marin Family Grateful for Pantry Food

November 23, 2017

Life’s not perfect – far from it at times – but you won’t hear Heather complaining about it too much.  She would much rather spend her time counting her blessings, like the time she spends with her two young children and her fiancé.  Unfortunately, sitting down for a family meal is a rarity these days.

MAKING ENDS MEET

Heather wakes up before dawn each morning so that she can get to work stocking candy machines at 5 am. She puts in a two-hour shift, then returns home, so her fiancé can leave for work. He has two jobs as a cook and works six days a week, twelve hours per day.

They hardly see each other, but it’s the only way the family can scrape by to pay the high cost of rent. Heather depends on the Food Bank pantry at the Ritter Center in San Rafael to feed her kids. “This is a life changer, and I think this place is keeping us alive,” she says. “It’s where I get the fresh fruits, vegetables, and eggs that make up most of our food.”

This time of year is particularly hard time for Heather’s family because both the kids’ birthdays are in November and then Christmas is right around the corner. She wants to provide them the happiness of opening gifts. “I get them toys at the Goodwill,” she says. “They are young so they don’t know that they are used.”

FOOD BANK SUPPORT

No matter the situation, the Food Bank is ready to respond to the needs of participants, especially during the holidays.  We served fresh, nutritious food to over 32,000 households during the months of November and December of last year, and are on pace to top 33,000 households this year.

In spite of her hardships, Heather keeps a positive attitude. “When I look at our finances, it’s so stressful,” she says. “But life is too short, and I’m thankful for what we have. We aren’t going hungry, and I’m grateful to the Food Bank and its supporters for that.”

You can ensure that families like Heather’s have enough to eat everyday by making a cash donation to the Food Bank today.

Advocacy Wins 2017

November 1, 2017

We are happy to report that there is a lot to celebrate from California’s 2017 legislative session.

At the beginning of the year, our Policy and Advocacy Team set our sights on 11 bills and two budget issues that we knew could improve food access for our neighbors in need. Throughout the year we wrote letters to our legislators in Sacramento, encouraged our supporters to call their own legislators, and even testified at hearings in the Capitol. And thanks to our partners at the California Association of Food Banks, the California Food Policy Advocates, and the Western Center on Law and Poverty – among many organizations – we saw several important victories in our collective goal to end hunger.  Here are some of the highlights:

Starting in 2018, we will see more State funding for food banks across the state:

  • $8 million for the CalFood fund in 2017-18, which will provide State funding to food banks to purchase more California-grown fruits and vegetables – a big victory considering the fund only received $2 million last year! Thank you to those of you who signed a postcard for Governor Brown or Assemblymember Ting.
  • Senate Bill 61, authored by Senator Hertzberg, will renew and extend the Emergency Food for Families Voluntary Tax Contribution Fund. This will allow taxpayers to keep contributing to the work of food banks in California through their tax returns.

Children and students in California will have better access to nutrition at school:

  • Senate Bill 138, authored by Senator McGuire, will require school districts to identify children who are already on Medi-Cal so that they can automatically be enrolled in free school meals. The legislation also allows very high poverty schools across California to serve universal free breakfast and lunch to all of their students – not just those who are enrolled in free or reduced-price meals.
  • Senate Bill 250, authored by Senator Hertzberg, will ensure that schools cannot deny lunch nor punish students if their parent or guardian hasn’t paid their lunch bill on time.

CalFresh (food stamps) will become easier to access for families and individuals in need:

  • Several bills will make it easier for eligible people to receive and stay on CalFresh benefits starting next year. This includes SB 278, authored by Senator Wiener, which will protect CalFresh participants from penalties related to over-issuances when they were caused by county errors, and SB 282 also authored by Senator Wiener, which will provide clarity to counties on whether they can encourage people to use their CalFresh benefits at restaurants.
  • Assembly Bill 607, authored by Assemblymember Gloria, will streamline and modernize the Disaster-CalFresh program, making it easier and quicker for people to receive benefits in the case of a natural disaster.

You, as supporters of the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, empower our Policy & Advocacy team to advance legislation and policies that improve food assistance at the local, state and national level.   For that we say thank you.

Click here to sign up for our Advocacy Alerts, so that you can help us to advocate at critical moments in the legislative session in 2018!

Joe’s Story | Dedication and Spirit

January 5, 2017

From the first meeting, you know Joe has a background in performing comedy. Funny, quick with jokes and full of antics, his energy is upbeat and infectious. He emanates positivity.

So it is a big surprise to hear his story — the tough times he endured before he started to work at the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, where he manages volunteers as well as food donations at the Novato warehouse.

Two decades ago, Joe was immersed in a successful career in computers, doing tech support and later testing sophisticated accounting software. Then, one day, the industry shifted, and Joe’s position was outsourced overseas. His career of 17 years came to a screeching halt.

Undaunted, Joe set out to find other work, first in his industry and later relying on the ingenuity every actor must have in his arsenal. But restaurants wouldn’t hire someone who didn’t speak Spanish, and service stations no longer employed folks at the pumps. It was 2008. The recession had just hit. Every job opening big or small was swamped with 100 applicants.

Things got rough for Joe and his wife. Every day he scanned Craigslist for jobs. Even with his wife’s salary as a registered nurse, expenses began to pressure them. Plunging from full-time employment to joblessness was a huge blow.

The demoralizing hunt for work crawled on for a year and a half, and the Food Bank became a lifeline. Never had Joe imagined how grateful he would be for the simple gift of walking into a pantry and being greeted with warmth as he filled a bag with groceries. So, before long, he too began volunteering at the Food Bank — to give back while he continued to look for work.

In a stroke of luck, a position in the Novato warehouse opened up. Joe jumped at the chance. At age 57, Joe had to learn a lot of new skills. There he was, a confirmed vegetarian, sorting donations of frozen meat every day! But he felt motivated by the contribution he was making, and thankful to be earning a living again.

Seven years later, Joe has moved up to be Food Bank Community Engagement Coordinator, and clearly loves his work. He makes volunteers howl with laughter as he plays air guitar or clowns around in his hair net. He inspires them with his dedication and spirit.

Story and photographs by Marilyn Englander, Food Bank volunteer and founding head of REAL School Marin

Directions to the Marin Warehouse

October 12, 2016

2550 Kerner Boulevard, San Rafael

From the North:

From US-101 South, take the exit toward Richmond Bridge/Francisco Blvd/I-580. Turn left onto Bellam Blvd, then turn right onto Francisco Boulevard East. Turn left onto Shoreline Pkwy and then turn right at the first cross street onto Kerner Blvd. Our building is on the left, at the intersection of Kerner and Glacier Point.

From the East:

Take I-580 West onto the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. Use exit 2B for Francisco Blvd toward San Quentin. Continue onto Francisco Blvd E then turn right onto Morphew St. Turn left at the 1st cross street onto Kerner Blvd. Our building is on the right, at the intersection of Kerner and Glacier Point.

From the South:

From US-101 North, keep right for Interstate 580. Exit at Bellam Blvd/Francisco Blvd. Turn left onto Bellam Blvd., then turn right onto Francisco Boulevard East. Turn left onto Shoreline Pkwy and then turn right at the first cross street onto Kerner Blvd. Our building is on the left, at the intersection of Kerner and Glacier Point.

To Deliver Food:

Heading South on Kerner, turn left onto Glacier Point. Go straight and make a sharp left into our parking lot. Food can be dropped off, 8:00 am – 3:00 pm, Monday – Friday via our Agency/Shop Floor door. Our staff will assist you and give you a receipt.

Click here for Google Map directions.

Click here to download our parking map.