Market to Table

“It’s great to know that my produce is not going to waste — even better that it is going to be enjoyed by somebody who wouldn’t have had access fresh fruit or vegetables otherwise.” – Bob Pizza, produce vendor at the San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market and donor to the Food Bank.

Thanks to the Food Bank’s sustainable partnership with the vendors of the San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market, thousands of pounds of perfectly delectable food are saved from waste each week. Jason Chorney, the market’s Operations Manager, emphasized the mutually beneficial arrangement saying, “Donating unsold food to the Food Bank is both ethically and economically favorable for our merchants. They feel great about feeding people, and it saves them the cost of composting.”

The Produce Market, tucked away in the Bayview district, supplies produce direct from farms to upscale restaurants, hotels, and neighborhood markets.  From late in the night to the early hours of the morning, while most of the city is asleep, the market bustles with 650 employees, 25 merchant vendors and endless trucks moving in and out with fresh fruits and vegetables.

Cousins Jack and Bob Pizza are both produce vendors at the Produce Market, and both men participate in the market’s food donation program. “It’s great to know that my produce is not going to waste — even better that it is going to be enjoyed by somebody who wouldn’t have had access fresh fruit or vegetables otherwise.” Bob Pizza told us.

Bob Pizza, owner of What a Tomato, and a self-proclaimed “lifer” at the produce market, has been working there since he was a teenager. “I graduated high school on a Friday and came to work at the market that Monday!” A few docks down, his cousin Jack Pizza runs Washington Vegetable, a company started by the cousins’ grandfather Donte in 1931. Jack told us, “We try to sell all of our produce, but it’s not always possible. I’m glad the Food Bank has the ability to come and pick up what we can’t sell, so it doesn’t go to waste.”


Warehouse crew hops to it, distributing 108,000 eggs for Easter!

Our warehouse is really hopping! Dave & Al helped move 108,000 eggs out to needy families for Easter.

It’s EGGxactly what we were hoping for this Easter! California egg farmers hatched a plan to donate 108,000 fresh eggs to the SF Food Bank. Our crack (but not egg-cracking!) warehouse crew got into the holiday spirit as they played Easter Bunny to thousands of San Francisco families…

Got a donation of products or cash that would help make a hungry family’s holiday? We’re all ears!!

Farm fresh for all

Given the incredible bounty of California agriculture, there’s no reason why farm-fresh food shouldn’t be available to as many people as possible.

Thanks to the statewide Farm to Family program, the SF Food Bank has added broccoli and cauliflower to the variety of fresh produce we can distribute consistently.

Here’s how it works.


Broccoli field

Normally, growers  go through a field three times in one season to pick cauliflower and broccoli. When growers go in to make that third cut, they now harvest for retail AND state foods banks at the same time.

A harvester tags a box of cauliflower

We have the retailers’ stringent standards to thank for the bounty. Most shoppers favor uniformity and consistent color in their vegetables, which growers strive to deliver in their crops. Any off colors, odd sizes or just plain unusual-looking veggies wouldn’t normally make the cut. Of course, even the homeliest of vegetables are just as nutritious as their market-ready counterparts.

A conveyor belt moves cauliflower up onto a mobile unit for grading and packaging

Broccoli harvest

One slightly-too-small crown here and a few errant purple spots there, and soon, you’ve got a lot of vegetables that wouldn’t make it to the supermarket. 182,848 lbs. to date, in fact – all of it packed in the field in reusable plastic bins for delivery to the Food Bank…

 

…and on to our over 400 pantry sites throughout San Francisco and Marin.

 

Pantry at the Pierre Hotel in the Tenderloin

A volunteer stocks broccoli at the Pierre Hotel pantry in the Tenderloin.

The mother of all Thanksgiving shopping lists!

Food Resources Manager John Curry, with some of the 143,012 cans of veggies we'll be distributing thisThanksgiving.

You’re probably reading over your favorite family recipes and putting together a Thanksgiving shopping list this week. Well, how would you like to have this list?

  34,000 Chickens
  80,000 Pounds of yams
100,000 Pounds of potatoes
  80,000 Pounds of apples
  30,000 Pounds of carrots
  35,000 Pounds of cabbage
  70,000 Pounds of onions
  20,000 Pounds of lettuce
  40,000 Pounds of celery
  36,720 Cans of cranberry sauce
  35,000 Pounds of rice
143,012 Cans of green beans, corn and peas
  36,000 Packets of gravy mix
    6,400 Bottles of Asian sauce
  13,000 Loaves of bread
  32,000 Bags of pumpkin spice cookie mix
    3,000 Pounds of chocolates

You guessed it – these are all the Thanksgiving groceries our Food Resources department has been working to gather for distribution to families in need.

Just imagine three semi trailers of potatoes pulling up to your house. That’s how many we’ll be delivering for holiday meals. Not to mention a couple more truckloads full of yams!

Just a few of the 100,000 pounds of potatoes headed for Thanksgiving meals.

Thanks to Del Monte, we have canned veggies stacked to the rafters, plus tons of fresh produce sourced through the Farm to Family program.

“I’m particularly excited that we’re able to offer people a holiday cookie mix this year,” Food Resources Manager John Curry explains. “Even though we had to pay to store it for several months, it was a great donation.”

We were especially excited to get our hands on 32,000 bags of pumpkin spice coookie mix.

While some holiday foods are donated, SF Food Bank has had to buy many others, including 34,000 chickens set to arrive in our warehouse over the course of four days. Each shipment will be turned around instantly and delivered to grocery pantries across San Francisco and Marin. These “just-in-time” deliveries, thanks to supplier Pacific Agri-Products, save us a bundle on cold-storage.

In addition to holiday classics like gravy mix (36,000 packets!) and cranberry sauce (36,720 cans just arrived!), we also try to offer culturally appropriate foods, including bottles of Asian oyster sauce.

This year, we’re targeting to provide Thanksgiving food to 35,705 families – more than a million pounds of food in all. If you’d like to help us with our massive shopping list, go here. As always, every $100 donation enables us to distribute $600 worth of food. And for that, we truly give thanks!

San Francisco Food Bank ‘Egg-static’ over large egg donation

Today, the San Francisco Food Bank received 88,650 eggs just in time for Easter from NuCal Foods. They were all  sourced locally from a farm in Petaluma, CA.  Fresh eggs are always a prized item for Food Banks due to their dense nutritional and high protein content.  And they’re one of the hardest food categories for food banks to acquire.

The eggs we got were slightly smaller in size than what’s generally considered most desirable by consumers.  But wggs of any size are very popular out at our pantries.  We recently spoke to an unemployed nanny at a pantry in the Bayview who told us that her kids love to eat eggs for breakfast.

This donation of over 7,000 dozen eggs from NuCal will help to feed the 1 in 4 children and 1 in 5 adults at risk of hunger in San Francisco.  They’ve already been sent out to our pantries, including senior centers and community centers serving large families.

Giant celery!

Here’s something you won’t see at the supermarket: a thicket of giant celery!

giant celery

Its size may render it unmarketable – but it’s still perfectly fresh, perfectly good and ready to go out to our pantries. Many people still associate canned and dry foods with food banks. And while we still have staple foods like pasta, rice and beans on hand,  it’s actually fresh fruits and vegetables like this celery that make up the bulk of what we distribute.

Hunger Takes Over the Headlines

A pantry volunteer holds golden beets, one of many healthy SF Food Bank offerings for Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving, the San Francisco Food Bank made sure that 30,000 households enjoyed a fresh, healthy holiday dinner. But shocking news stories about hunger in the Bay Area – and across our country – underscore the fact that more and more people every day are seeking help.

In the past two years, San Francisco has seen an 18% increase in people receiving food stamps; in Marin the increase is an astounding 45%. This New York Times article talks about the rising need all across the U.S. – and notes that many of those eligible in California aren’t even receiving food stamps:

Food Stamp Use Soars

With food stamp use at record highs and climbing every month, a program once scorned as a failed welfare scheme now helps feed one in eight Americans and one in four children…

Also, the Times has created an interactive map showing changes in food stamp usage across the country.

You might be amazed to know how much of our food goes to waste. This NBC story reveals that…

40% Of Food Produced Goes To Waste, While One In Six Go Hungry

Vicki Escarra, the president and CEO of Feeding America [the national organization of food banks], calls hunger America’s “dirty little secret.” Mara Schiavocampo from NBC Nightly News discovered America’s hunger problems first-hand as she visited a struggling family…

Seniors have been hit particularly hard by the recession. Read about it in his Associated Press story:

Recession sends older Americans to food pantries

The number of seniors living alone who seek help from food pantries in the U.S. increased 81 percent to 408,000 in 2008, compared to 225,000 in 2006, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture…

Locally, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on the ever-growing number of requests that the San Francisco Food Bank is receiving for help:

More Americans going hungry

The San Francisco Food Bank has seen requests for assistance increase 20 percent compared with this time last year, with fewer donations, and will deliver Thanksgiving meals to 30,000 households, up from 22,000 last year…

The Chronicle reminded its readers that the holidays, coupled with a greater and greater, need make it crucial for all of us to help:

An opportune time to help feed the hungry

Pushed by recession, nearly 50 million people are skipping meals unwillingly, forgoing a balanced diet, or signing up for food stamps or giveaway programs, the measures used to come up a broad-brush picture of hunger in America. The figure is the highest on record since the Agriculture Department began tracking “food insecurity…”

What can you do to help? Volunteer at our warehouse or one of our grocery distribution pantries. Donate food or money – for every $1 donated, we can provide $9 worth of food to hungry San Franciscans. Urge your elected officials to make ending hunger a key part of their agenda. Visit our website to learn more.

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