Out of school – and minus a meal

“Imagine you don’t have a well-paying job. Imagine you don’t have a nice apartment, or your home. You have three kids. You’re working part-time at McDonald’s. Then you have another job on top of that. You have one child in childcare, two in school, and you’re paying more than half of your income for rent. But you know your child has food at school.

That’s the situation many of our clients face, as described by Venus, who runs a grocery pantry supported by SF Food Bank. It sounds bad enough – but this time of year, it gets even tougher:

“Now, imagine that the summer comes. You now have to find someone to take care of your children, and you need to make sure they have three meals every day. Can you imagine yourself working two more jobs, or another job just to barely make ends meet? Can you imagine yourself letting your children go hungry?”

While most of us are looking forward to camp, vacations and fun in the sun, thousands of children are at even greater risk of going hungry this summer – a staggering 38,000+ in San Francisco and Marin alone.

Summertime means that children who normally receive free or subsidized school lunches are suddenly minus a meal – in many cases, the one meal they could count on. The San Francisco Food Bank will make every effort to fill in that gap.

We’ve added an additional program to our plate, partnering with the Department of Children, Youth & Their Families to provide healthy snacks daily for 4,000 kids.

Our Programs Department also works hard to help keep our school grocery pantries open, or redirects school pantry visitors to other locations, as needed. And we make sure those pantries that serve an increased number of families have enough food to go around.

Through the coming months, we’ll distribute enough food for 93,000 meals every day, including fresh-picked summer produce: corn, tomatoes, peaches, plums, watermelon and much more.

So as we head into summer, please help us ensure that every child has enough to eat. Because for so many, in summertime the living is not easy.

Stories that inspired us in 2010

5-year olds Ethan, Emily and Sophia taught us that you don't have to be big to make a big difference.

This past year, the need for food was staggering. We constantly broke our all-time monthly record for the most food delivered to hungry families in San Francisco and Marin, distributing millions of pounds of food every month.

How did we do it? With the help of amazing volunteers, donors and clients who constantly inspire us. Here are the people – and the stories – that will continue to inspire us to work even harder in 2011, not stopping until hunger in our community is truly a thing of the past:

Inspiration #1

There were a few tears shed in our office when this letter arrived…

Tamar and Ginger, thank you – and we’re so glad things are looking up for you!

Inspiration #2

Toan Lam, of GoInspireGo made this video about Herman Travis, who noticed that homebound seniors in his public housing community needed food and took it upon himself to see that they received it…

Read more about Herman and his good deeds here.

Inspiration #3

The pre-schoolers at With Care Child Care reminded us that, no matter how small you are, you can make a huge difference. See how they did it in this GoInspireGo video…

Read more about these amazing With Care kids and their teacher, Kathleen, here.

Inspiration #4

The story of pantry client “Ginny” and her teenage son reminded us of how important every single vegetable is…

“Ma, you got anything to eat?” And sad to say, a lot of times it’s like, “Mom, there’s nothing to eat.” That’s the worst thing, when your child is hungry and he can’t just get something to eat when he wants it. A lot of times, I eat less and sometimes don’t even eat so he can have something.

If we didn’t have the food bank, it would be a lot worse for my son. He’s a growing kid, he’s always hungry! And I’m always like, look, you gotta save something for another day. At our food bank here, we get vegetables and rice and a couple of things of juice. I appreciate it all, but you have to make it last. What I’ll do with certain kinds of vegetables we get – like onions, celery and bell pepper – is wash it off, soak it, cut it all up and freeze it. That way, it can stretch…

Read more of Ginny’s story here.

Inspiration #5

When we put out a call for people to write letters of hope and support that would go to our clients along with Thanksgiving groceries, thousands of letters flooded in, including one from San Francisco 49er Kevin Jurovich and a stack of letters and drawings from school children, some even in Spanish and Chinese… 

Read more about the Thanksgiving notes here.


Inspiration #6

Behind every one of our 200+ neighborhood grocery pantries are the volunteer pantry coordinators who take on the tremendous job of getting the food distributed every week. Here’s how a coordinator at one of our newest Healthy Children pantries sees the impact it’s making on a school in Marin…

A lot of people would probably be surprised to see the hunger and homelessness we encounter. It’s a wake-up call, especially here in Marin County. We discovered that we had between 100 and 110 homeless students at our school at any given time, and the only meals they ate were from our cafeteria. So not only were the students not getting a meal before or after school, the rest of their family wasn’t, either. That kind of instability, of constantly moving, of never living under your own roof or having enough to eat – that creates a tough environment for a child. These are some serious obstacles to learning. But I think our market is helping. It’s a small act with a big impact.

Read more about this wonderful new pantry here.  These are just a few of the people who inspired us this year. (There are a lot more stories here.) To all our many volunteers, donors, staff and clients, we give our sincere thanks – and our promise that we’ll work even harder in 2011, to make sure every family in our community has the food they need to thrive. If you’d like to help inspire us, please visit our website to learn more, donate and volunteer.

A Very Special “Thank You”

thank you from lynwood elementary school

Thanks to all of our volunteers, donors and supporters! Your help is making a huge impact out in the community.  We just received a wonderful note and some photos from one of our newest Marin County pantries in Novato. Jose, the volunteer pantry coordinator at Lynwood Elementary School, wrote:

Thank you San Francisco food Bank

Parents At Lynwood are So thankful with you and your help. It is so nice when We see all parents come and getting their food. specially in this though times when a lack of work is present, Please keep with  this program,I personally think that it is so great we have people like you God bless you. Please see the pictures I’ve taken for you.

thank you very much.

Thank you to everyone who is helping us make a difference in people’s lives!

Rallying around food in Marin and the Outer Mission

Recession relief comes to Marin

This past weekend saw the opening of the Food Bank’s newest recession relief pantry in San Rafael’s Canal District. 175 families came out on that first day and were welcomed with an ample supply of groceries including: eggs, milk, bananas, onions, potatoes, carrots, chicken broth, yams, bagged rice, nectarines, corn, Brussels sprouts, and lettuce.

Marin recession pantry volunteer

The pantry is run and operated by a collaboration of local community leaders, volunteers, and the Canal Welcome Center. Located in the Canal district of San Rafael, the organization acts as a hub of services from job training, ESL classes and immigration referrals to business workshops, civic and voting education, financial literacy, free tax aid and more.

Canal Welcome Center

The opening attracted a higher turnout than expected, and we anticipate the distribution growing to over 200 families in its second week. For more on the Food Bank’s recession relief efforts, please click here.

Youth-Run Healthy Children Pantry in the Outer Mission

Excelsior Teen Center volunteer

The Excelsior Teen Center (ETC) is the site of a second new Food Bank pantry in the Outer Mission. The ETC offers teens a chance to participate in leadership development, violence prevention, employment training and placement, and afterschool and summer programs. They also serve as a safe space drop-in center for youth from 3-7pm for youth from all over the city.

Teen volunteer at Outer Mission pantry

Visitors to the pantry were ecstatic and went home to tell their neighbors about the pepperoni, squash, potatoes, yams, Brussels sprouts, green beans, mangoes, oranges, bell peppers, lettuce, pasta, popcorn, cottage cheese, onions, beets, cucumbers, and bananas.

Two More Grocery Pantries Open this Week!


This past Saturday, San Francisco Food Bank opened its second Recession Relief Grocery Pantry. This one is located at Old First Presbyterian Church, on Sacramento and Van Ness streets.


These new pantries are specially designed to serve people hit by the recession who have not accessed food assistance before.


Fifteen enthusiastic volunteers from both Old First and San Francisco Food Bank’s Volunteer Services department turned out to help.  All the great summer produce is coming in, and we were thrilled to have such a wonderful selection of fresh vegetables to hand out.


Partcipants received reusable bags, carrots, onions, green onions, corn, potatoes, yams, celery, chicken stock, pesto, chicken sausage, brussel sprouts, asparagus, rice, grape flavored drink mix, and bread.


Today, we also opened a new Healthy Children Grocery Pantry at 201 Turk Street in the Tenderloin, in collaboration with Chinatown Community Development Center, which serves more than 110 families.

Healthy Children grocery pantries are often located at schools or community centers, so we can reach families with children, who are in particular need of food assistance over the summer, when they can’t access a school meals program.


Pantry participants received asparagus, yellow squash, butter lettuce, corn, oranges, onions, carrots, peas, Brussels sprouts, cereal, cottage cheese, pasta, Chex Mix and Capri Sun.

More than 60 families attended the pantry today. Everyone was very excited and grateful to get the good food.

6th Marin County Grocery Pantry Opens

Fresh produce ready for families at the new Marin pantry

San Francisco Food Bank opened our sixth Healthy Children’s pantry in Marin County this morning! Our brand new grocery pantry is at Hamilton Meadow Park Elementary School, in Novato.

More than 60 families participated in today’s distribution, and in the coming weeks we anticipate the number to increase at a steady pace. Families received onions, potatoes, mushrooms, pasta, turkey chubs (pre-packaged ground turkey), yams, cucumbers, oranges, turnips, chocolate milk and pre-bagged lettuce.

Families pick out food at the new Marin Pantry

The distribution took place in their auditorium, and all tables were provided and set up the night before by the parents and administrators. The groceries and produce were laid out on tables “farmers market-style” with signs indicating the amount of each item the families could take.

Hamilton Meadow Park Elementary School is located in the southern section of Novato, on the old Hamilton Air force base site, and is the stepping stone into the whole Hamilton community. There are 508 students enrolled, and nearly half – 241 students – come from families with incomes so low, they are eligible for free or reduced-cost lunch. This statistic alone allowed us to determine that Hamilton would be a perfect fit to the expansion of our Healthy Children’s Pantry program in Marin County.

Fresh produce ready for distribution at the new Marin pantry

Thanks to all the wonderful organizations on campus, such as the PTA (Parent Teacher Association), ELAC (English Learner Advisory Council) and SLC (Site Leadership Council) for assisting in the outreach efforts to inform, assist, and prepare the families at Hamilton for the initial distribution.

A special thanks to all the folks in the warehouse for all their hard work in making this possible. We tend to forget that without the folks in the warehouse collecting and organizing all the food that comes into the food bank, much of our efforts and work would never come to fruition.

Thanks to San Francisco Food Bank Program Coordinator Roberto C. Gonzalez for this report!

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