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.

49ers Volunteer Day at San Francisco Food Bank – Slide Show!

Forty-niners players Takeo Spikes, Jason Hill, Josh Morgan, Brandon Jones, Dominique Ziegler, Chilo Rachal, Scott McKillop and Tony Pashos all helped tackle hunger this week when they volunteered at our warehouse. With help from other 49ers staff and students from St. Finnbarr Middle School, they boxed about 12,000 lbs. of food – part of the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), a federal program that provides a monthly box of nutritious USDA food to low-income seniors, mothers and children. Bright red 49ers stickers will let recipients know who packed their box. (And we’re not talking Green Bay Packers, here!)

In local NBC coverage of the event, Takeo Spikes said:

“It’s quality already in here, but the job we’re working on is all about quantity,” said Spikes, adding, “when you think about the holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas, this is the time to give and there’s no better way to give than to come out here and take time on our day off to do something that’s very pleasing.”

And San Francisco native Jason Hill added:

“I take it to heart, I love coming out here and I just love doing community service because I feel a part of it — because I was born and raised here — it’s big for me,” he said.

Read more about the 49ers’ volunteer shift and see more photos here. Thanks to everyone who participated to help brighten the holidays for those in need!

Bike Riders Bring in 7,507 Pounds of Food!

We’re used to having big tractor-trailer trucks roll up to the San Francisco Food Bank’s loading dock – that’s how most of the 36.5 million pounds of food moving through our warehouse this year will arrive.

But last Saturday, 7,507 pounds of food showed up on some very different wheels – bicycles! It was thanks to the 4th Annual Supermarket Street Sweep, a competition that challenges bike riders to collect and deliver food to our warehouse. One hundred ninety-eight riders participated this year, and they topped the total food collected at last year’s event by more than a ton!

There were prizes for the fastest racers to collect a list of required items from various grocery stores (with the receipts to prove it) and prizes for bikers who showed up with the weightiest loads of food.

This year’s biggest haul – a whopping 962 pounds – was pedaled in by a single rider pulling a trailer. You can see him in action, along with the other racers, in the video up above.

When the bikers arrived at our warehouse, we weighed-in each load, while organizers checked to make sure competitors had purchased all the items on their “required list.” Here’s a time-lapse video of the food as it arrived – from the first speedy competitors, to the mountains of food hauled in later by those in the cargo category:

Many thanks to the event organizers and all the participants, who provided enough food for nearly 6,000 meals! If you’re interested in joining the Supermarket Street Sweep next year, you’ll find more information here.  And you can see a gallery of photos from Saturday’s event here.

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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