Our Community Cookbook: Holiday Recipes and Stories

November 15, 2022

How many of our favorite holiday memories revolve around food? Spanning different cultures, regions and families, food is at the center of our tables and our traditions, especially during this time of year. So, inspired by the season, we set out to ask Food Bank staff, volunteers, and our community what some of their favorite holiday recipes and food-related memories are. Please enjoy this collection of stories and tasty treats – and let us know if you make any!

Hui Yu’s Soy Sauce Turkey and Potatoes

We met Hui Yu at her neighborhood pantry in the SOMA district, where she volunteers regularly and picks up groceries for her and her husband as well. Prior to retirement, Hui Yu worked in a restaurant kitchen, so she’s no stranger to feeding others. Now, she often cooks meals for friends in her senior living facility who can’t make it out to the pantry. Poultry was at the top of Hui Yu’s list as a holiday main: “With chicken, sometimes I’ll roast or fry it. Or, we’ll have the whole family over and then celebrate together with a turkey. On the outside, I’ll use Chinese soy sauce, put it all over the skin, massage it, and then inside, put some potatoes.” Sounds delicious!

Katherine’s Pfeffernüsse

Katherine, Donor Database Coordinator at the Food Bank, shared a Pfeffernüsse recipe (German spiced cookies) that brings back the memories of a winter trip with friends years ago. “One of the joys of food for me is that it can so easily evoke memories and sensations from good times with those I love, or on adventures in places I love. Pfeffernüsse will always remind me of the Christmas I spent in Berlin visiting friends. One bite and I’m suddenly coming in from the biting cold to have a small treat of the spiced cookie and a cup of hot tea after my daily ritual of wandering through the neighborhood Weihnachtsmarkt. The glazed version is common, but I also like them with a dusting of powdered sugar or just plain.” Keep scrolling for her full recipe!

Barbara’s Okra, Cornbread, and Sweets

Barbara, a senior living in the Fillmore who picks up groceries at her neighborhood pantry, sees the holidays as an opportunity. “My favorite recipes for the holidays are things you don’t make on a regular basis, traditional recipes that comes down from your family. My favorite recipe that was passed down to me is my mother’s okra.” At first thoughtfully pondering what else makes up her usual holiday table, Barbara began quickly listing other favorites: “I’m a dessert person, so I make lemon pies, coconut pineapple cake, peach cobblers and banana puddings. Oh, and cornbread dressing! Because there’s no recipe for that – it has the basics, the trinity: onion, pepper, celery. But it’s more of a feeling. So, the trick to that is to make a scratch cornbread.” We agree. Often, the best recipes aren’t written down or in a cookbook – they’re a feeling, or a memory.  

Steve’s Turkey Dinner

“I think holiday meals are always a way of coming together with family,” Steve told us at his neighborhood pantry. He’s a military retiree and a volunteer at his local pantry, where he also picks up groceries for him and his wife. For his family, the holidays are about the joining of different traditions. “I have a traditional turkey dinner, where I usually go up to my sister’s house for Thanksgiving. And then I host a turkey dinner for my wife’s family. My wife’s Chinese, so we tend to do Chinese vegetables, mashed potatoes and cranberries [on the side].”

Kim’s Naw Mai Fan

As Program Manager at the Food Bank, Kim is around good food quite a bit! But nothing quite compares to her family recipe for naw mai fan. “This is my mom’s recipe. She learned how to make this from my grandmother, an immigrant from the Toisan region of China in Guandong province. My grandmother came to San Francisco’s Chinatown right after World War II, where she raised my mother. We make naw mai fan every Thanksgiving and Christmas and it is my all-time favorite food.” Full recipe is included below, so please let us know if you give it a try!

María’s Ponche con Piquete

Sharing is caring! María is a mom, volunteer, and pantry participant in San Rafael. She told us that her family embraces potlucks during the holidays, but also for camping trips and other gatherings throughout the year. “Our tradition for Christmas is to get the whole family together, and everyone brings a little something. Someone brings the pozole, someone else the tamales, the champurrado, the ponche. We make ponche con piquete, like we call it back home – it’s made from fruit, and you add wine to your liking.” 

 

 

This is just a small sampling of the wide variety of food traditions in our community – a huge thank you to all who shared with us! To neighbors across San Francisco and Marin, we wish you a happy holiday season. We hope some of these recipes and stories inspire your next culinary adventure!

Detailed Recipes

Thank you to Katherine for sharing her Pfeffernüsse recipe. Here it is, in full: 

 

Thank you to Kim for sharing her family’s naw mai fan recipe. Here it is, in full:

 

More Than a Food Pantry

April 19, 2022

Sharon Murphy looks forward to her weekly visit to the North Marin Community Services in Novato (NMCS). She knows that’s where she and her son, Rob, can get healthy, nutritious food, feel part of a welcoming community, and see friends.  

The North Marin Community Services in Novato is one of the Food Bank’s partners that exemplifies a holistic approach to caring for their community. They realize that many issues in our lives are interconnected, and that when we need help, it can be for several reasons. That’s why they offer assistance for food, financial aid, health and childcare. Every Tuesday they offer nutritious food through their Food Pantry and Childcare Healthy Food Program. They’ve been a life-saver for Sharon. 

Redefining Independence  

Sharon had lived an independent life and worked at a brokerage firm until she was 71. She also struggled with vascular difficulties. Sharon has had numerous surgeries for her medical condition, one of which required that her leg be amputated. Her life changed drastically, and tasks like shopping for groceries became very difficult. “I can’t do much with the loss of my leg, but I’m learning,” said Sharon. 

One of Sharon’s friends who volunteers at NCMS, recommended the pantry for food assistance for herself and Rob, who is now her caregiver. They had never gone to a food pantry before, yet from their very first visit, they felt welcomed by everyone there. “I think this place has really helped me in so many ways. The volunteers have made my experience enjoyable because they’ve all been friendly. I’ve made friends over the last six months–good friends. My son has made friends there too. 

When life brings unaccustomed changes, Sharon and Rob know that they can count on NMCS for food, friendship, and a bright spot in their week. As Sharon expressed, “The pantry has enhanced my life. Tuesdays are my pick-me-up days.” 

Phillis & Lee: ‘Boring’ Until You Know Them

January 14, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Neighborhood Pantry: A Community Gathering

Food pantry coordinator greets participant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.”

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.