Market to Table

“It’s great to know that my produce is not going to waste — even better that it is going to be enjoyed by somebody who wouldn’t have had access fresh fruit or vegetables otherwise.” – Bob Pizza, produce vendor at the San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market and donor to the Food Bank.

Thanks to the Food Bank’s sustainable partnership with the vendors of the San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market, thousands of pounds of perfectly delectable food are saved from waste each week. Jason Chorney, the market’s Operations Manager, emphasized the mutually beneficial arrangement saying, “Donating unsold food to the Food Bank is both ethically and economically favorable for our merchants. They feel great about feeding people, and it saves them the cost of composting.”

The Produce Market, tucked away in the Bayview district, supplies produce direct from farms to upscale restaurants, hotels, and neighborhood markets.  From late in the night to the early hours of the morning, while most of the city is asleep, the market bustles with 650 employees, 25 merchant vendors and endless trucks moving in and out with fresh fruits and vegetables.

Cousins Jack and Bob Pizza are both produce vendors at the Produce Market, and both men participate in the market’s food donation program. “It’s great to know that my produce is not going to waste — even better that it is going to be enjoyed by somebody who wouldn’t have had access fresh fruit or vegetables otherwise.” Bob Pizza told us.

Bob Pizza, owner of What a Tomato, and a self-proclaimed “lifer” at the produce market, has been working there since he was a teenager. “I graduated high school on a Friday and came to work at the market that Monday!” A few docks down, his cousin Jack Pizza runs Washington Vegetable, a company started by the cousins’ grandfather Donte in 1931. Jack told us, “We try to sell all of our produce, but it’s not always possible. I’m glad the Food Bank has the ability to come and pick up what we can’t sell, so it doesn’t go to waste.”


Winter Warehouse

Many people are surprised to learn that winter is prime harvest time for many types of citrus. One look into our warehouse right now illustrates that season nicely. Our pantry orders are stocked with gorgeous citrus fruit!

Among the prime deliveries are easy-to-peel mandarin orange “cuties”, which are perfect for kids’ snacks at schools and after-school programs since they don’t require an adult to slice them. In addition to the cuties, we have a good assortment of other hand-held fruit such as pears and apples.

More than half of all of the food we distribute is fresh produce. Even through seasonal fluctuations, we work hard to keep our orders balanced.  Barbara Abbott, our Food Resources Manager explains, “We have a variety of winter vegetables right now – winter squash, potatoes onions, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, celery and carrots.” Every Monday this month we will also receive a full truckload of lettuce products and fully prepped cut vegetables from Yuma County. This month, we also received three truckloads of purchased bulk oats, pinto beans and black beans which our volunteers will package into 1lb easy-to-transport bags for our program participants.

We are excited to provide people in need nutritious foods year-round, and work hard to make sure there are staples and produce available each month, no matter the season.



  •  2 pounds small red potatoes, quartered
  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, halved
  • 1/2 pound parsnips, peeled and julienned
  • 1/2 pound carrots, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 pound turnips, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1/2 cup butter, cubed
  • 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh dill or 2 teaspoons dill weed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, optional
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Cook vegetables separately in water until tender; drain. Melt butter; stir in remaining ingredients. Combine the vegetables and butter mixture; toss to coat. Yield: 10-12 servings.

Spotlight: Supermarket Street Sweep

Eric and Cooper Downing crossing the finish line! Photo courtesy of Supermarket Street Sweep

December 3rd was a beautiful Saturday afternoon at the Food Bank. We had a clear sky, the sun was shining, and a father and son arrived on a tandem bicycle…pulling four full shopping carts full of food to donate!

Cargo race winners and tandem cyclists Eric Downing and his seven-year old son Cooper Sprocket Downing were not alone. They were part of the 201 bicyclists participating in the 6th Annual Supermarket Street Sweep!  Each year, participants crisscross the city visiting local supermarkets and bringing back thousands of pounds of donated groceries. This year, everyone was excited about the results: almost 7,990 pounds of food was collected and $9,652 was raised.

The Downings were an impressive sight, hauling their train of shopping carts engineered to move and turn in unison on their bicycle-built-for-two. Eric, an architect and former professional cyclist, has passed on his passion for cycling and charitable work to his son Cooper Sprocket (who is named after the toothed wheel a bike’s chain rides along). This was their second year in the race – they came back to avenge their narrow defeat last year by hauling in even more food to donate to the Food Bank.

Eric told us, “This is an extra special race. Jennifer [Oh Hatfield] is phenomenal. She puts this whole thing together. We are indebted to her for creating a race that supports the Food Bank.” While there are lots of bicycle races out there, Eric told us “This is the most selfless race I’ve ever participated in, it’s wonderful!”

photo of Eric and Cooper by Jonathan Koshi

Jennifer Oh Hatfield who organizes the race every year (with co-organizers Kacey O’Kelly, Jonathan Koshi, and Mike Spencer) wanted to create an event that was “…both a fun and useful way for Bay Area cyclists to help a great cause.” She was impressed by Eric and Cooper, telling us, “It’s great that we have families come out. Eric and Cooper were determined to do well this year and they showed up with an ingenious shopping cart train to win the cargo race!” Proud of her racers as well as her volunteers, Jennifer added “We are successful because of our great participants, our volunteers who come out to count food and help organize things, and of course our sponsors — a ton from the Bay Area and even nationwide.”

It’s always fun to see how different groups of people pair their interests with charitable acts. The Supermarket Street Sweep is an exciting, competitive way to get cyclists involved with food justice and the Food Bank. “I would like to see this type of race for charity in every community. There are cyclists across the U.S. just as there are people in need across the U.S.,” Eric Downing said.

Finally, when asked what he would say to people to encourage them to join the race next year Cooper Sprocket said “F-U-N-Z-O! Because it’s funzo!”

Race results by year:
2006: 80 racers – 1,172 lbs of food
2007: 110 racers – 1,595 lbs.
2008: 150 racers – 5,266 lbs.
2009: 198 racers – 7,507 lbs.
2010: 171 racers – 6,920 lbs. + $4,877
2011: 201 racers – 7,990 lbs. +$9,652

Great Turkey returns in Marin

The Great Turkey has been a Marin holiday institution since 1992, sitting pretty on its hay bales at the Town Center Corte Madera, while accepting donations of food, cash, and hugs from children and the young at heart.

“I am really surprised the ‘World’s Largest Turkey’ is still going strong!” says Lead Turkey Architect John “Lucky” Lister. “Sometimes I meet young mothers who filled the turkey as kids, coming back with their children to donate.”

Twenty years ago, John had been working at Industrial Light and Magic on major films such as Peggy Sue Got Married, Howard the Duck, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? when the Food Bank approached him about an idea for an interactive Thanksgiving display for the Town Center Corte Madera. “It turned out to be quite a challenge to design a turkey that was not as repulsive as the real bird.” Eventually, John was able to make an adorable turkey that Marin residents have loved for years.

Originally having been built to withstand the November weather, the Turkey was so popular that the mall displayed it until New Year’s every year.  A few years ago, on what was almost the Turkey’s 18th birthday, it was decided that a new bird needed to be built.

It took three years to redesign and recreate the Great Turkey.  Thanks to Ken Sly of Dimensional Graphics, the new Turkey is more waterproof than the previous sculpture, which will hopefully help her last through fowl weather.

Special thanks to:  Josh Koral at Acme Scenery in Brisbane, who kindly let John use their shop to construct the bird.  David Fiend of Parts and Templates in San Carlos, who cut out more than 300 feathers and curved structure pieces. Ed Raymond of the stagehands union IATSE #16, who helped get the word out for volunteers. And of course, to John Lister, who put in the bulk of the work, logging over 200 hours to make our feathered friend.

Hunger Awareness Month at St. John’s

October was Hunger Awareness Month at St. John’s Presbyterian Church in Presidio Heights. This project was a first for St. John’s, which has hosted its Harvest Food Pantry for the last 11 years.  The month featured events including a 31-day Hunger Challenge, a double-feature movie night, and a community pot luck.

“Hunger Awareness Month was a great opportunity for those in our congregation who don’t participate in our weekly Harvest Pantry to learn about the reality of hunger in our community, a serious issue our church is working on,” said Reverend Theresa Cho.

In October, the church’s regular activities had a hunger awareness theme. To spice things up they converted the monthly pot-luck into an opportunity to cook meals using recipes that met the Hunger Challenge budget. “The pot luck was interesting, because in some aspects it wasn’t as plush as our other pot lucks have been,” said Reverend Cho. “But it gave the opportunity to have some conversation about how challenging and difficult a food stamp budget is and how intentional you have to be with your shopping and eating on that budget.”

While this was the congregation’s first Hunger Awareness Month, Reverend Cho hopes the experience sparks a recurring tradition for years to come. “A large portion of our congregation includes families with young children, so a lot of the reaction has been ‘it’s so difficult!’ Trying to find the intention and energy to participate in the awareness month sparked great family conversations.”

The St. John’s community has been working with the Food Bank to feed families in their neighborhood for years through their Harvest Pantry. Now that Cho and her colleagues have decided to expand the hunger awareness work beyond the pantry, others are being exposed to the everyday issues of hunger. “Hopefully the experience shows you can’t judge a book by its cover and you can’t guess who is living on food stamps. There are people in our congregation, even though we are in Presidio Heights, that may be living on a food stamp budget and we don’t even know.“

arrival for the pantry at St. John's

With the recent decline of the economy, many members of Cho’s congregation are feeling the pinch, including the church itself. But rather than cutting mission work, which Cho says is often “the first to go” from a church budget during tough times, St. John’s is putting more effort into helping feed their community. By focusing on a basic human issue such as hunger, “it’s helped our congregation discover what’s really important.”

As far as what others in the community can do to be hunger aware, Cho says, “For an individual it’s so simple to help out. It’s amazing that in two hours we can feed fresh produce to 300 families. Two hours out of your day and you’ve helped feed families. It’s that simple.”

Commenting on the success of St. John’s Harvest Pantry, Cho shared “I think people would be surprised at how easy it is to start a Food Bank pantry in your church, and I encourage other churches to get involved with the Food Bank. Everyone can help out in some way, whether it’s through donating, volunteering or hosting a pantry. Hunger is such a tangible and obvious need in the community, which is why it is an issue that anyone can get involved with.”

The Great Pumpkin Fundraiser

Six years ago, a then eight year-old from San Francisco named Wyeth Coulter had an idea that would grow to impact the lives of thousand at risk of hunger in our community.

He asked his parents if he could sell the pumpkins they had been growing on their land in Sonoma and donate the proceeds to local San Francisco nonprofits, including the Food Bank.  That first year, much to his surprise, he managed to raise $100 dollars.  At the time, he was blown away by how much he had raised on his own.

Fast-forward to present day, and the now 14 year-old Coulter and his schoolmate since kindergarten, Phillip Goss, are running a large-scale pumpkin selling operation with as many as 20 classmates at a time pitching in to help. Last year, they managed to raise more than $13,000 for local nonprofits.

While most middle students prefer to hang out at the mall, play video games and sleep in, Wyeth Coulter and Phillip Goss manage to break the mold.  Together, the two are learning what it takes to run a small business while helping others in need.  In preparing for each season, the two discuss what types of pumpkins they will plant, when they will harvest, how they will market to sell, how they will price, and the hours of operation to sell the pumpkins out of the Coulters San Francisco backyard.  In short, they are learning how to run a successful business.

The two attribute much of their success to the support they’ve received from the community.  “It’s amazing how many people have gotten involved to help out,” said Goss.  “Without the support, we’d probably still be bringing in around $100 per year,” adds Coulter.

In all, the boys have raised tens of thousands of dollars to support those in need in the community, with much of the money being given to the Food Bank.

How I Give: Busking for Good

Bill Hansell is a member of the Food Bank Board of Directors, and served on the Marin Food Bank board before the merger of the two organizations. You can catch him playing songs from many genres once monthly at the Marinwood and Glen Ellen farmers’ markets.

“Music is an integral part of my social life. Playing instruments and singing makes me feel good—especially when it encourages people to spend time together. Over the past couple of years, I’ve experienced a new way to bridge the separation between performer and audience.

A couple of years ago, I started playing live music at the Marinwood farmers’ market.  It was fun for me to play where people were already gathering locally and I invited other musicians to join me, too.  Collaborating with musicians of different ages and backgrounds was really fun and soon enough, people wanted to give us tips during the performance.

I wasn’t at all in it for the money, but I realized then that I had an opportunity to marry together music and fundraising. I was already inclined to perform, so it just made good sense to donate any money I could raise to a cause that I’m deeply involved with. I put a sign out by my guitar case with a note about 100% of the proceeds going to the Food Bank and people responded.

Adding the fundraising element really builds upon the satisfaction of performing. One market gig I played included hail and strong winds, but the market was still bustling and I knew that the Food Bank would benefit from my time there. Sure enough, people gave — and the momentum is growing!  My goal was to raise $1000 for the Food Bank through these small musical gatherings this year. As of July, we’ve already donated $800.

When the audience sees a cause related to the performance, it’s a good feeling multiplier.  It’s also a great funds multiplier – each dollar donation allows the Food Bank to distribute $6 worth of food. That quick trip to the farmers’ market brought food into each shopper’s home, and their donation during my performance means that food is also available to their neighbors in need. Music feeds the soul; fundraising for the Food Bank feeds the body.”

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