Fifth Recession Relief Grocery Pantry Opens

smiling 3Last week, San Francisco Food Bank opened our fifth special Recession Relief Grocery Pantry – this one, at Geneva Avenue Methodist United Church, in partnership with Nueva Vida Ministerios.

These new pantries were created to serve people hit by the recession who have not accessed food assistance before. (If you need food, and live in San Francisco, dial 2-1-1 on your phone for the pantry nearest you.)

Who are the people visiting this grocery pantry, getting help for the first time?


Ines (shown in the photo above with her two daughters) is from Guanajuato, Mexico. Both she and her husband work at a company that puts on events, but business has been slow lately. She said that sometimes there’s only work 2 days out of the week, so money is very tight. She marveled at all the variety on offer and said she was glad that her daughters had something to eat.

Ramon is from the Philippines and he’d heard about the pantry through his brother-in-law. He has a part-time job at a shipping company, which he managed to get 6 months ago when he was let go from his previous job (also at a shipping company). He said he felt lucky to have that job, even though it’s not enough hours, because so many people don’t have work at all. He said he was having depression issues. He also kept saying that he felt like other people need the help more than he does, and seemed to be struggling with the idea of having to get help:

“When my brother-in-law told me about this, I was a little hesitant, to be honest. I see people who need help more than I do. People who don’t have a home, or people who have bigger problems. And when you walk around on the street, people don’t see you like you are someone who goes to the food bank. I don’t want to tell people that. I don’t think of myself like that. I don’t see myself that way – so many people need help more than I do. But it’s hard to make enough money these days. It’s so hard to find a job.”

cute old lady volunteers

Despite being in the fog-blanketed Outer Mission, this grocery pantry has some of the sunniest, most excited volunteers ever. Many are parents or grandparents who bring children along to share the spirit of giving; quite a few are multilingual, easing the way for those new to the process. They’re thrilled to be helping out friends and neighbors, many of whom hadn’t known where to turn or had been afraid to ask for help.

smiling woman cukes

young volunteers

distribution - tomatoes

In its first two weeks, the pantry has offered a bounty of groceries from the SF Food Bank warehouse, including fresh watermelons, mushrooms, zucchini, strawberries, plums, potatoes, onions, cantaloupe, two kinds of summer squash, corn, carrots, yams, bananas, cucumbers and tomatoes – plus rice, pizza dough, chicken sausage with spinach and feta and peach Izzy sodas.

CU plums

CU strawberries

CU mushrooms

CU bananas

This week, the Geneva grocery pantry served more than 65 thankful families, and we’re expecting that number to increase every week, as word spreads.

Food Stamp Users Hit Record High of 33.8 Million

“It was the fifth straight month of record participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program [the official government name for what most people know as the food stamp program], according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, up 1.8 percent from the prior month,” Bloomberg reported this week. “Total spending was $4.5 billion, up 19 percent from the previous all-time high reached in March, the USDA said.”

2.7 million Californians receive food stamps, second only to the number who receive them in Texas. The average monthly benefit for an individual rose 17 percent from March, to $133.28 – or $1.43 per meal (based on a 31-day month).

Read the entire story here.

SF Food Bank’s Gary Maxworthy at the White House

SFFB's Gary Maxworthy at the White House

SFFB's Gary Maxworthy at the White House

Gary Maxworthy, a San Francisco Food Bank board member and architect of the Farm to Family program, recently was invited to the White House. Here is his report:

I received an invitation to The White House and four days later, June 30, I was there in the East Room, listening to President Barack Obama announce and describe the new White House Office of Social Innovation.

Here is how it happened. The program I developed, Farm to Family, and I had been cited as an example when Michele Obama was introduced as the keynote speaker at a Volunteer and Social Innovation convention in San Francisco earlier that week.

I was honored for Farm to Family, and also as an example of a person working in an “encore” career using their experience and – in my case – knowledge of the food industry.

It all began when I was a Vista volunteer, working at the San Francisco Food Bank. We started Farm to Family in 2000, distributing fresh fruits and vegetables to people in need throughout California. The program directly connects California food growers and packers to food banks, distributing fresh fruits and vegetables which aren’t considered marketable – due to shape, size, slight blemishes or overproduction – but are still delicious and healthy to eat. In the past, this surplus produce was ploughed under, fed to animals or dumped in landfills.

The produce is distributed through more than 40 food banks, through the California Association of Food Banks, at no cost to those families receiving it. In 2009 we will distribute over 78 million pounds of produce, with more than 50 different crops represented. We estimate over 500,000 people in need receive Farm to Family fresh fruits and vegetables every week.

In 2007, I received a Purpose Prize for my work with Farm to Family. This prize recognizes people over 60 who are enjoying socially innovative encore careers. Thanks to the Purpose Prize, my work came to the White House’s attention.

Now about my trip.

First I did not get fly on Air Force One, sleep in the Lincoln bedroom or have breakfast with Michele and the kids. I did have the opportunity to see up close the strength of the President’s character, his leadership and charisma.

My day at the White House began with brunch at an elegant home, meeting others being honored. Reaching the White House and after going through security, we were free to look around a series of sitting and dining rooms close to the “East Room” where the president was to speak. It was a thrill to gaze out onto the lawn and the Washington Monument beyond from the interior of the White House.


The Washington Monument, seen from inside the White House

The president spoke for about 20 minutes, announcing the new White House Office of Social Innovation and congratulating the Social Innovators invited for the event.

President Obama speaks about the new Office of Social Innovation (that's advisor David Gergen's head in the foreground)

President Obama speaks about the new Office of Social Innovation (that's advisor David Gergen's head in the foreground)

The White House office on Social Innovation’s mission is to encourage innovative programs, like Farm to Family, and to replicate them in other states.

Here are some fellow Purpose Prize winners who were also honored that day at the White House for their innovative programs.

After the main event, I had the opportunity to spend time with Jeff Bleich, a San Francisco resident now working in the White House as Special Council to the President. Jeff was instrumental in spearheading the Food Bank’s very successful “Food from the Bar” program (where law firms volunteer, run food drives and raise donations) for several years.

For me it was an honor to participate in the White House event, and gives me continued energy to help grow Farm to Family to serve more families in need!

If you wish to learn more about Farm to Family, here is a video:

For those interested in learning more about Purpose Prize, you’ll find more information here.

5-year old Phoebe raises over $3,736 for San Francisco Food Bank!

Phoebe, with her fundraising box (Photo by Madeline Pfeiffer)

Phoebe, with her fundraising box (Photo by M. Pfeiffer)

For her pre-school public service project, a 5-year old named Phoebe was determined to help feed some of the 150,000 San Franciscans who are unsure where their next meal is coming from. So she started collecting empty cans to turn in for the recycling money. Her plan was to donate the proceeds to the San Francisco Food Bank.


Phoebe with some of the cans she recycled (Photo by M. Pfeiffer)

She also created a hand-written plea for cash donations and distributed it to family, friends and pre-school alumni.


Phoebe’s teacher, Kathleen, always asks each student to perform a public service project before graduation. Past graduates operated lemonade stands and donated their proceeds to the food bank, but Phoebe was the first to come up with the idea of recycling cans. Her goal was to raise $1,000.

Every Thursday, she would count her money and report to the San Francisco Food Bank’s Events and Food Drives team.


Every Thursday, Phoebe counted the money she had raised (Photo by M. Pfeiffer)

A mention by San Francisco Chronicle columnist C.W. Nevius helped spread the word about Phoebe’s efforts. Caring people dropped off bags of cans on the school’s steps and left envelopes of cash in the school’s mailbox.

Some of the money Phoebe raised (Photo by Madeline Pfeiffer)

Some of the money Phoebe raised (Photo by M. Pfeiffer)

In just a few weeks, Phoebe collected 4,497 cans and raised a total of $3,736.30!

On June 25, Phoebe and her teacher presented a special box that Phoebe created, stuffed with checks and cash, to Paul Ash, Executive Director of the San Francisco Food Bank at Phoebe’s pre-school. Two TV news crews and two websites turned out to document the event.

Phoebe presents the money she raised to Paul Ash

Phoebe presents the money she raised to Paul Ash

Paul presented Phoebe with a certificate of thanks from the food bank. As he said, “There are not many people your age – not many people of any age – that have made this sort of contribution to help other people. So on behalf of all those people who are going to have food on their table because of you, thank you very much.”

Phoebe with her certificate from the San Francisco Food Bank

Phoebe with her certificate from the San Francisco Food Bank

Because the San Francisco Food Bank can turn a $1 donation into $9 worth of food, the amount 5-year old Phoebe raised allows us to distribute $33,626.70 worth of groceries – enough for about 17,971 meals.

Sign Phoebe made about her final total

Sign Phoebe made about her final total

Here’s a video showing Phoebe, her teacher, Kathleen, and the presentation:

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