When you think of Tiburon, you probably think of multi-million dollar homes and gorgeous views from this bay side Marin County town. You probably think about the chic cafes and boutique shops that dot the quaint streets with luxury cars passing by. What you probably don’t think about is the very real hunger problem that exists in this wealthy enclave just north of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Nestled about halfway between Highway 101 and Tiburon’s tony downtown is the Hilarita Apartment complex, one of several subsidized housing facilities in the area. It is home to about 100 families, including 25-year-old Toby and his mom. After graduating from College of Marin with a degree in chemistry, Toby moved back home to Tiburon to help his ailing mother while he looks for his first “real job.”
Toby’s mother has a chronic hip problem, and for now, they are living on her disability and social security benefits. After paying rent, there isn’t much money left to spend, even for essentials like food. Toby says he was “blown away” when he learned that the Food Bank was opening a food pantry at Hilarita this past spring. He says the pantry has really saved him and his mom, at an especially vulnerable time.
“The pantry helps out a lot, because I’m still looking for work. So there’s the financial issue,” Toby says. “Eventually I’m going to get a job – hopefully something in biotech – so this isn’t our forever situation. But until then, every little bit helps. To some people, the money we save on groceries might seem insignificant, but for me and my mom, it makes a big difference.”
Since April of 2018, more than 30 families like Toby’s pick up fresh groceries at the Hilarita pantry every week – including fresh vegetables and fruits, protein like chicken drumsticks, and grains. These items help stretch dollars so residents can pay their rent, PG&E bills and medicine.
“The food pantry also helps us to stay in touch with the community. I like to see my neighbors – some of them anyway,” Toby says with a laugh. “Tuesday is a day to come down here to say hello, to check in with everybody. We see how they’re doing and then head home with fresh food for the week.”
As an added bonus, they pantry has encouraged Toby to make healthier food choices too: “I actually started eating carrots again because of this place” he says. “I used to eat them as a boy, so I grabbed some, and now I’m back to eating carrots all the time as snacks.”
Hilarita residents, many of whom are low income, have been asking about a pantry for more than two years, but issues with the property managers made collaborating with the site difficult. Then the nonprofit ‘EAH Housing’ took over and committed to making the pantry a reality. “It took some extra perseverance,” says Food Bank pantry liaison Edith Cadena, “but when we finally opened up our doors it was real source of pride, not just for myself, but other food bankers, and especially the residents.”