The best gifts are made with love

Desiree Scott, one of our Program Coordinators, puts together an emergency food box for a family of five.

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.

We Salute the Word Champion SF Giants – with these SF Food Bank Giants!

SF Food Bank Giant Cabbage

What’s up with all these giant veggies in our warehouse? We get tons of fresh produce that is good to eat, but too big or too small for the standards at grocery stores.  Yet, all those misfit fruits and vegetables are real winners when it comes to providing great nutrition for SF Food Bank clients.  Scroll down to see more of our “giants.” And congratulations, SF Giants!!

SF Food Bank Giant Zucchini

SF Food Bank Giant Celery

New Hybrid Truck Rolls Out Savings – and a New Look

San Francisco Food Bank client Onesimo Flores joins California State Assemblywoman Fiona Ma and Food Bank Deputy Executive Director Leslie Bacho in front of the new hybrid truck. Food Bank client Ava is depicted on the truck, enjoying a "very, very, very, very, very special delivery."

The San Francisco Food Bank recently celebrated the arrival of our first hybrid truck. Not only will the new truck mean a 38% savings in fuel costs, but it will also cut back on noise and pollution in neighborhood areas when deliveries are made.

The new truck’s look is as bold as its fuel savings. Actual Food Bank clients are pictured on each side, holding groceries like those the truck will be delivering to our 200+ pantries.

Our new truck, with some of the produce it will be delivering to hungry children, seniors and families.

Over the next five years, the San Francisco Food Bank aims to replace all 11 diesel trucks in our fleet with hybrid vehicles, in order to meet state-mandated regulations.

With our entire fleet converted to hybrid, we’ll see a fuel savings of approximately $25,842 every year. That’s enough to distribute an additional 103,000 pounds of food—or enough groceries for more than 80,700 meals!

The media turned out in full force for the truck’s launch (including three different TV stations), and California State Assemblywoman Fiona Ma joined in the festivities, along with a very proud SF Food Bank client, Onesimo Flores, 74, who is pictured on the truck.

SF Food Bank client, Onesimo Flores, 74, poses next to his photo on the new truck.

Our Grants Department worked tirelessly to make the new hybrid truck a reality. The truck purchase was made possible by a generous $100,000 lead gift from the Trustees’ Philanthropy Fund of the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund and a $30,000 voucher from the California Air Resources Board’s Hybrid Voucher Incentive Project (HVIP).

The San Francisco Food Bank is grateful to all of the community partners supporting the effort to green our fleet: CALSTART, Eaton, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Coast Counties Peterbilt and Peterbilt Motors Company.

Thanks also goes out to Susan Fleming photography and advertising agency Engine Company 1, for helping us with the truck’s new look and text.

We need your help, too! Replacing all of our fleet with hybrid trucks in just five years is a huge challenge. If you’d like to help, please contact our Development Department at 415-292-1900.

“It’s good. It’s all good.”

Edgar leaves the pantry with his weekly groceriesEdgar lives in an SRO in the Tenderloin, where he both volunteers at and receives food from the building’s Food Bank pantry.

My name is Edgar. I’m 63. I was born and raised in San Francisco, and I used to work for a janitorial service off and on. I worked in kitchens. And a lot of other things, too, but I’d rather not say.

I love cooking. My friend Lonnie and I, we’ve cooked dinner for the whole building a couple of times. This year, we cooked a soul food dinner for Black History Month. One lady donated some chicken. And then we took the dried beans that we got from the Food Bank, and we made some corn bread, and cooked up some mustard greens.

I like to share meals with people because some people just don’t have it. You know what I’m saying? And long as I’ve got enough that I can eat myself, I don’t mind sharing. If you got a piece of bread and somebody else is hungry, you could take half of that bread and feed that person and it will take some of the hunger pains away.

So I help bring the food in every Monday for the food pantry. I bring it in downstairs for everyone in the building. Most of the time, when it comes off the truck, it looks pretty good. And we make sure that everybody gets their share. People need the Food Bank so they can get from one day to another. It helps you get from one week to the next week. People need the help, you know.

Myself, I’m on Social Security now. That’s $845 a month. It’s not much, but I make it work. I’ve learned to be frugal. Just because you have it, don’t mean you supposed to spend it. It has to last from one month to the next. I eat what I have and make my groceries last to the end each month.

I don’t spend my money on frivolous things. I pay my rent, my phone bill, my life insurance. I buy groceries and things like that. And the rest of it I hold onto throughout the month. I don’t have no other expenses.

Around about the fifth of the month, my daughter takes me grocery shopping at FoodsCo, and I buy basically the same thing every time: boneless chicken thighs, lunch meat and stuff like that. And I put it all in my freezer. That way, I can make it last to the next month, and I don’t have to eat the same thing every day. I can spread it around. Then, what I get from the pantry is the cereal, the eggs, the juices and things like that. Sometimes I’ll get the apples or the fruits and vegetables.

I cook my own meals. Because if you live on a fixed income, you can’t go to restaurants. You can’t afford it. You have to learn to eat at home. I’ll fix me a pot of spaghetti and that’ll last me two or three days. Or I might cook up some spinach and throw in some eggs and eat it with a pork chop. And I don’t mind having a sandwich for dinner.

Just as long as it tastes good together and I can make one thing taste as good as the next, I’m satisfied. It’s good. It’s all good.

A Recipe for Good Nutrition

Sampling a healthy recipe for pantry clients

At grocery pantries, we don’t just hand out food – we also hand out advice and information.

We give clients recipes and fact sheets to get them acquainted with our many fresh produce items, so they know how to use them in their meals. That’s especially important when clients aren’t culturally familiar with a particular vegetable or fruit.

Recently, we’ve gone even further, partnering with fellow non-profit, Leah’s Pantry, to test a broader nutrition education program at some of our 200+ grocery pantries.

The seminars are 1.5-hour sessions over the course of six weeks.  They  educate our clients about the food distributed throughout the pantry network, and help them create smart goals based on nutritious and healthy lifestyles.

At one pantry, we introduced many people to the nutritious and easy-to-prepare grain, quinoa. At others, we recently demonstrated and sampled a healthy, delicious recipe using mushrooms and bell peppers – fresh items which were available free to clients.

Here’s the recipe, in case you’d like to cook up something healthy yourself!

San Francisco Food Bank’s Mushrooms & Red Pepper Crostini

Serves 4


½ pound mushrooms

1 whole red pepper

3 cloves garlic

2-3 Tbsp. oil (olive oil, if available)


Wipe dirt off mushrooms with a wet towel. Trim stems of mushrooms and slice thinly.

Rinse red pepper and remove stem. Cut peppers in half lengthwise, remove seeds and de-vein. Slice into thin strips.

Peel garlic and chop finely.

Pour 2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil into a large, heavy-bottomed frying pan. Heat on medium. When oil is hot, add mushrooms, peppers and garlic slices. Saute until vegetables are soft, being careful not to burn the garlic or over-cook the vegetables. Serve warm on toast or as a side dish.


Fresh mushrooms should be stored with cool air circulating around them. They should be placed on a tray in a single layer, covered with a damp paper towel and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Before use, they should be wiped with a damp paper towel or, if necessary, rinsed with cold water and dried thoroughly. Mushroom often taste like meat when cooked and seasoned well, so they are a great meat-substitute for vegetarians.

Did you know?

Half of the food the San Francisco Food bank distributes is fresh produce!
Tell us what you think!

Please use the comment field below to share your thoughts – and your own recipes.

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.

David Arquette, Laila Ali, Nomar Garciaparra, Jay Bilas and Spencer Day Volunteer!

Today our Youth with a Mission grocery pantry was all abuzz. The tables were set up with a big selection of beautiful produce, and slightly nervous volunteers were at the ready…


The big difference from a normal Thursday? Today some celebrities who care deeply about hunger were turning out to call attention to the important work SF Food Bank does – and to help distribute food…

TV and film star David Arquette; boxer and “Dancing with the Stars” alum Laila Ali; Oakland A’s player Nomar Garciapara; ESPN anchor Jay Bilas; and singer Spencer Day all pitched in at the Tenderloin-based pantry…


But they weren’t alone. A flock of TV news cameras and reporters were there to cover the story, shedding light on the great work our Programs staff and volunteers (all superstars themselves!) do every day.

Many thanks to international nonprofit ONEXONE and the national organization of food banks, Feeding America, which organized the event. The heads of those two organizations, Joey Adler and Vicki Escarra, volunteered today as well.

Another New Grocery Pantry Opens in the Sunset!

Youth volunteers

San Francisco Food Bank welcomed a new grocery pantry this past weekend at First United Presbyterian Church in the Sunset District.

Ready volunteers

This community-centered church already offers ESL (English as a Second Language) classes and its parishioners are excited to be able to better serve their community by providing free groceries to those in need. Word is spreading and client numbers are already climbing as the pantry gets rolling.

Pantry movement

This past Saturday, pantry volunteers met clients with big, welcoming smiles as they distributed lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, taco seasoning, cucumbers, luncheon meat, flavored water, yams and cabbage.

Handing out food

A variety of volunteers who spoke Taiwanese, Mandarin, Cantonese, Tagalog and Korean were available to share recipes and give clients information on the many uses of taco seasoning!


At the San Francisco Food Bank, we’re proud that we’ve been able to reach out to diverse neighborhoods and communities. At many grocery pantries, we serve clients who speak a wide range of languages and have diverging food needs. We try to provide culturally appropriate food items (for example, beans for Latino clients and rice for Asian clients), but we also work to educate people about tasty, nutritious food items they might not be familiar with.

Strong volunteer2

Congratulations to the hard-working volunteers at First United Presbyterian Church and our tireless Programs staff for launching another successful grocery pantry!

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