CROps: Community Feedback on the Menu

June 14, 2022

Tomatillos. Collard greens. Tilapia. Black-eyed peas. What do all these items have in common? Well, for one, they’re all pretty darn tasty when cooked. They’re also all part of the new Culturally Responsive Food Options pilot at the Food Bank – CROps for short. Every week, participants at Cesar Chavez Pop-up Pantry and Rosa Parks Pop-up Pantry, in the Mission and Western Addition respectively, are presented with two additional food items that they can choose to take home, or decline. 

Creating a More Welcoming Pantry 

Tomatillos - part of CROps add onsCROps is an effort to provide more culturally responsive foods and more choice for our Black and Latinx participants, By supplying culturally relevant items people like and know how to use in the kitchen, this pilot hopes to increase satisfaction with the food choices offered, help us learn more about what people like and want to see, and create a more welcoming pantry environment.  


Some community members like Cliffton at Rosa Parks Pop-up Pantry are also eager at the prospect of influencing what foods may appear next: “it’s a wonderful thing, to have a survey to see what the community wants. I got the email, and I will be filling it out.” Surveys among participants helped decide what foods went into the first few weeks of the pilot, and now participant feedback will help decide what items are offered going forward. 

Community Response 

So far, the items seem to be striking a chord with participants. Victoria, a participant at Rosa Parks Pop-up Pantry, cooks for herself and the older gentleman she cares for. On the day we spoke, she had picked up both add-ons: green onions and white mushrooms.  Mushrooms and green onions are two add-on items offered through CROps

“Sometimes I don’t know the vegetables that they give out here, so the new items have been great for me, because they’re things I’m familiar with and already know how to cook. I know what I can do with them,” said Victoria. And what does she do with them? “I cook about as much Mexican food as I do food from my country – El Salvador. So, the green onions are great to make a carne asada, or a carne entomatada.”  

Maria holding up tomatillosWe also caught up with Maria at Cesar Chavez Pop-up Pantry, who is recovering from an operation on her stomach to remove a tumor: “I can’t eat out – my stomach is really fragile from the operation. Street food makes me sick. So, I need to cook at home, for my health.” New food and spice choices, like tomatillos and oregano, allow Maria to make comforting foods that aid her recovery.  

“The oregano that we had today – I use it to make salsa with tomatillo, oregano and a little onion. Then I top off my bean taquitos, and it’s really tasty.” 

“Just What I Need” 

Friends Sharon and Cliffton walk together to Rosa Parks Pop-up Pantry on Wednesdays, and they’ve both been enjoying the new CROps offerings. Once they get their groceries, they’ll go back to the kitchen together to whip up a menu for the week – but they cook separately. Their collard green recipes brought up a friendly rivalry. Cliffton says he has to make his “Southern style, with the bacon, salt pork or hog bone,” and Sharon opts for “more of a Brazilian green. I love the flavor of garlic in my greens.”  

Despite how their cooking may differ, they agree that the new options are a welcome addition. As Sharon, who is disabled and lives in a senior community in the Western Addition, told us, “People in our age group tend to go through dietary restrictions, so this was most accommodating for me.”  Cliffton and Sharon with their groceries

She also shared that food from the pantry is helping her stay fit “just by changing my diet, and the way that I prepare food for myself. I love mushrooms and fresh vegetables – they’re actually things that I can use at home. The add-on items are just what I need.” 

Looking Forward 

What’s next for the CROps pilot? Food Bank staff will be evaluating the feedback from participants to learn more about participants’ preferences, and how best to continue providing more choice and culturally responsive foods that folks want and enjoy cooking. Through this feedback loop, we hope to continue an ongoing dialogue with participants about how we can offer more options they want and are looking for through our pantry network.  


Nutrition Education | Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies

April 28, 2017

The day you find out you or your partner is pregnant is one of the true joys in life. It can also be a time of great stress, especially for first-time moms.   There are new health and nutrition issues to think about, not to mention big changes to your body and your lifestyle.

Fortunately, the Food Bank is here to help!  This year our Nutrition Education Team launched its first-ever Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies Program.  It’s aimed at helping new mothers and their children be healthy and well nourished.  We are pleased to share the important nutrition tips that they are teaching moms.

When assembling a menu, pregnant women should look for “The Mighty Four”:

  1. Protein: found in lean meats, poultry and eggs, beans, seeds, nuts and nut butters, and tofu. Protein gives moms and babies the power to grow muscles and tissue, essential parts of a baby’s development
  2. Calcium: found in dairy, dark leafy greens, fish, and fortified cereals and beverages. Calcium keeps teeth and bones strong. If mothers do not get enough calcium during pregnancy, the developing baby uses calcium from the mother, making her bones weaker, which can lead to osteoporosis.
  3. Iron: found in dark leafy greens like spinach and kale, beans, and lean red meats. Iron helps create red blood cells, which are essential during pregnancy due to increased blood volume.
  4. Folic Acid: found in beans and legumes, dark greens, citrus, and nuts. Folic Acid is important for neural tube development, which later becomes the baby’s spinal cord.

“Good nutrition is essential during pregnancy, especially in the very first months,” said Nalleli Martinez, Senior Nutrition Education Coordinator for the Food Bank.  “Our hope is to provide tips and resources that will help moms and caregivers more easily make healthy food choices during and after pregnancy.”

Want nutrition tips for the whole family (whether you are expecting or not)? Sign up for our monthly newsletter here.

Nutrition Education: Six Tips for Shopping on a Budget

November 29, 2016

by Nalleli Martinez, Senior Nutrition Education Coordinator

At the Food Bank, our work doesn’t end once food is delivered to our pantries. Our Nutrition Education Team provides recipients with tips and tools for how to best use Food Bank ingredients to prepare healthy and filling meals. And, we strive to offer information in a culturally relevant way so that participants can find ease and comfort in connecting to the nutrition messages that we share.

In our “Shopping on a Budget” class, one topic that brings a smile to everyone’s face starts with the question, “Who could use a little extra money in their pockets?” The answer is almost always a unanimous chorus of agreement.

For most people, groceries are the second largest monthly expense after housing.
The good news is that people who use a food spending plan and shop carefully can cut their food costs by 20%. Yes, you read that correctly, 20%!

Here are six tips to help you save on groceries:

  1. Set a budget; it can be daily, weekly, or monthly.
  2. Make a shopping list, which will help you stick to purchasing only what you need.
  3. Freeze and store produce as space allows for later use in smoothies, stir-fries, soups, stews and much more.
  4. Don’t shop while hungry!
  5. Shop during sales. Find out when sales happen at your local markets or grocery stores. Typically, sales begin on Wednesdays.
  6. Visit your neighborhood food pantry. We’re here to help! If you are struggling to make ends meet, our food pantries in San Francisco and Marin can provide staple foods and produce to supplement your grocery purchases. Learn more here.

Our goal in Nutrition Education is to provide resources and information that everyone can use to improve their quality of life. In addition to the tips above, our workshops cover the “ins and outs” of navigating grocery stores and markets to facilitate healthy, cost-consciuous choices. What I love about these techniques is that they apply to everyone and anyone who steps into a grocery store, ready to brave the many aisles, shelves, and brands of food.

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