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.

“I try to have peace.”

Caridad is fighting to overcome depression. She is a survivor of domestic violence, and lives on a monthly survivor’s benefit and $16 in Food Stamps.

After my husband passed away, I don’t have anybody in my life. And I’m happy. I’m happy because I’m free. I’m happy and safe. Now, I try to have a better life. I try to have peace, but it’s very hard. Very hard.

I try to do everything for myself. That’s why I’m coming to the Food Bank. I pick up the spaghetti, potatoes, celery, carrots. If there’s a lot of beans – dried beans – I try to come back after all the people come and if there’s extra beans, then I take it. I come to the Food Bank and try to solve my problems. Because I need to pay the rent, the gas, the telephone, insurance and try to stretch my money.

What makes me happy? I like cooking. When I’m cooking, I listen to my music very loud. Different kinds of music. If I’m feeling sad, I listen to sad music. But you know the music for the young people? The reggaeton? I like it. When I’m cooking, I’m dancing. I’m dancing, and I chop-chop-chop the celery and the onions and I cry not because I’m upset, but I cry for the onions. I make chicken with tomatoes. I make rice with carrots. Veggies, pasta, meat, stew. I make stew, I make rice – I enjoy cooking.

Yes. I’m happy when I’m cooking.

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