We at the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank pride ourselves on helping out whenever and wherever we’re needed. When called, we rise to the occasion. Little did we know that our mettle would be tested by multiple disasters in a matter of weeks.
In the aftermath of the devastation left behind by Hurricane Harvey, we dispatched food, resources and employees to assist the Houston Food Bank. Then, about a month later, when massive wildfires broke out in Sonoma and Napa counties, we heeded the call for help by sending fork lift drivers and warehouse experts to help our sister food bank manage a huge influx of food donations.
And because disasters don’t end when flood waters recede or flames are extinguished, a second wave of employees – most volunteering their own time — have travelled to help food banks and residents in affected areas to recover.
Rebuilding in Houston
Program Manager Berkeley Adams recently wrapped up a two-week stint in Houston where she put her knowledge of establishing new pantry partnerships to work.
“Houston’s network of food distribution locations suffered a huge blow from ‘Harvey’, mostly from all the flooding that occurred,” she said. “I was brought in to assist their team in building new community partnerships and build new pantries in neighborhoods that were most affected by the storm. We spent a lot of time identifying the best locations for outreach. After that, it was going door to door and cold calling to local churches and nonprofit agencies people.”
Giving a lift to Santa Rosa
Rich Faafiu is one of several operations staff members who have been pulling long shifts driving a forklift at the Redwood Empire Food Bank since the Tubbs Fire leveled entire neighborhoods in Santa Rosa. He says the biggest challenge is maneuvering all the donated food that continues to pour in from a generous public.
“I met a woman who relocated to Ohio after living in Santa Rosa for many years,” Rich said. “As soon as she heard about the fires, she jumped into her pickup truck, drove all the way here, picked up a pallet full of water from Costco and delivered it to the Redwood Empire Food Bank warehouse. That kind of response gives me chills, and energizes me to keep working long hours to help the great people of Sonoma and Napa counties.”
Helping victims access CalFresh (food stamps)
In late October, several members of our CalFresh (food stamps) outreach team were dispatched to Sonoma and Napa counties to help fire victims enroll in the Disaster-CalFresh program, which provides a month’s worth of food stamps benefits to low-income families and individuals who were impacted by the fire. The team visited evacuation shelters, churches, and community centers, hoping to enroll as many victims as possible.
Program Manager Francesca Costa said, “These wildfires have been devastating for so many in the North Bay, but the community’s grace and resilience is beyond inspiring. We hope that connecting folks affected by the disaster to D-CalFresh will mean they have one less thing to worry about during this difficult time.”
“Helping is what we do best, and we will continue to answer the call when disasters strike,” said Food Bank Executive Director Paul Ash. “We’re all one big family and survive by having each other’s backs. After all, one day we will be on the receiving end of one of these life-changing catastrophes, and will be the ones needing help.”