Growing up, there was a time our kitchen cabinets were filled with blue and white generic brand food. I didn’t know my family was going through a hard time and that generic was the cheaper option. All I knew was that we had plenty.
Food was comfort. Food was family. And that’s the feeling of security the Food Bank is providing right now for over 60,000 families in this pandemic—especially for the kids who come to the pantries with their parents or grandparents. They aren’t aware of hardships, needs, or financial worries. They just see it as a fun outing.
This week, I was at a pantry in North Beach, San Francisco. The line was over 10 blocks long, weaving through the streets, nearly all the way to Fisherman’s Wharf. I saw a woman with her five-year-old grandson get in line. I knew they had a long 90-minute wait ahead of them and instantly felt bad.
I kept my eye on them and saw the woman give her grandson snacks. He held her hand as he enjoyed his food and juice box. Thirty minutes later, they had only moved two blocks. They started doing leg exercises and stretches, and then piggyback rides. The boy was cheerful, laughing, and enjoying himself.
After an hour and thirty minutes, I finally saw them coming around the corner to enter the distribution area. They were both smiling under their masks and still holding hands as they seemed to cross the finish line together. It warmed my heart, and I couldn’t help but clap and say, ‘You made it! Good job!” The little boy gave me a thumbs up. It was a beautiful thing to see him unaware of the long line he waited in for the food they needed.
The smiles on the faces of the woman and her grandson are the Food Bank’s goal. Our priority is to provide not only food, but also a welcoming, positive experience.
For all of us, there’s an uneasy feeling with everything changing in the pandemic. The Food Bank is a consistent beacon of care, compassion, and community. We’ve been here for over 30 years; we’re here in this crisis, and we will be here in the future. And we’ll always have a smile, so folks know we’re here to help each other.