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.

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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.

“If somebody needs my help, I will give it to them. That’s how it goes.”

Gamal* and his family are from Morocco. They fled domestic violence there and settled in San Francisco two years ago. Gamal is 19 years old. He’s a pantry volunteer and client. Here is his story in his own words:

I’m from Casablanca. I live like, 15 years in Morocco and when I was four years old, my dad, he died. And my mom, she raised us. She used to work in hotels so she could get money and support us and raise us all herself. She raised us well. She never let us down.

Gamal is a client and volunteer at a pantry in Bayview Hunters Point.

My big brother used to work to help my mom. And my big sister, she used to work, too. Me, too. When I turned 12, I started to work at a fish shop. Because the way my mom told us how to be, and how she told us my dad was, it made me feel like I had to become a man and I had to support myself. You know what I mean?

And one day, I was sitting on our block and my brother, he came and he told me, “pack up. You’re going to America.” I was so happy. And when I take the airplane, me and my sister, we put our feet down here in San Francisco. It was my first city in America. I’m very glad I came to this country. I love my country, but I love this country more.

When I moved here, I go to school for one year and I didn’t know anything. It was like a new language and it was hard for me to learn all the words and the letters. And I didn’t know how to speak for all that year. At that time, my brother-in-law, he brought us food from the Food Bank. And I was like, let me go see. So I got a number and I was waiting. And the truck came and they put the food outside. And there was a lady there.  She was working, lifting heavy stuff.

A pantry volunteer readies canned tomatoes for distribution

And how my mom raised me, she told me, all the time respect older people and all the time help older people, you know what I mean? If you see somebody doing something and they cannot do it and you can, then do it. So I saw the lady lifting the heavy stuff and I asked her, “can I help you?”  And she said, “sure, thank you so much.”  And she ask, “do you want to be a volunteer?” And I said, “sure.”

When I help at the food pantry and when I am working, I don’t show what I feel inside. It’s like, I’m all the time smiling to the people. I’m walking down the street and I’m smiling to everybody. It’s like everybody, they think I’m happy and stuff like that, but I’m not. I’m all the time scared and all the time thinking about my mom and thinking about getting an education, and learning how to read and write English better so I can support my mom more. Because she deserves that, you know?

So I work with my brother-in-law, fixing cars with him. But Wednesday is the food pantry and I told him, I’m going there. And then I started bringing food to my mom and she was happy. My mom cooks Moroccan food. The stuff we get, it’s like, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, sometimes juice, sometimes eggs, sometimes rice – all that food, we can cook it like Moroccan food.

So basically, I’m like three years in America. One year, I need help and two years, I help others. I volunteer at the food pantry. It’s like, if I need help, I will take it. But if somebody needs my help, I will give it to them. That’s how it goes.

*Name changed to protect identity.

Fifth Recession Relief Grocery Pantry Opens

smiling 3Last week, San Francisco Food Bank opened our fifth special Recession Relief Grocery Pantry – this one, at Geneva Avenue Methodist United Church, in partnership with Nueva Vida Ministerios.

These new pantries were created to serve people hit by the recession who have not accessed food assistance before. (If you need food, and live in San Francisco, dial 2-1-1 on your phone for the pantry nearest you.)

Who are the people visiting this grocery pantry, getting help for the first time?

Ines

Ines (shown in the photo above with her two daughters) is from Guanajuato, Mexico. Both she and her husband work at a company that puts on events, but business has been slow lately. She said that sometimes there’s only work 2 days out of the week, so money is very tight. She marveled at all the variety on offer and said she was glad that her daughters had something to eat.

Ramon is from the Philippines and he’d heard about the pantry through his brother-in-law. He has a part-time job at a shipping company, which he managed to get 6 months ago when he was let go from his previous job (also at a shipping company). He said he felt lucky to have that job, even though it’s not enough hours, because so many people don’t have work at all. He said he was having depression issues. He also kept saying that he felt like other people need the help more than he does, and seemed to be struggling with the idea of having to get help:

“When my brother-in-law told me about this, I was a little hesitant, to be honest. I see people who need help more than I do. People who don’t have a home, or people who have bigger problems. And when you walk around on the street, people don’t see you like you are someone who goes to the food bank. I don’t want to tell people that. I don’t think of myself like that. I don’t see myself that way – so many people need help more than I do. But it’s hard to make enough money these days. It’s so hard to find a job.”

cute old lady volunteers

Despite being in the fog-blanketed Outer Mission, this grocery pantry has some of the sunniest, most excited volunteers ever. Many are parents or grandparents who bring children along to share the spirit of giving; quite a few are multilingual, easing the way for those new to the process. They’re thrilled to be helping out friends and neighbors, many of whom hadn’t known where to turn or had been afraid to ask for help.

smiling woman cukes

young volunteers

distribution - tomatoes

In its first two weeks, the pantry has offered a bounty of groceries from the SF Food Bank warehouse, including fresh watermelons, mushrooms, zucchini, strawberries, plums, potatoes, onions, cantaloupe, two kinds of summer squash, corn, carrots, yams, bananas, cucumbers and tomatoes – plus rice, pizza dough, chicken sausage with spinach and feta and peach Izzy sodas.

CU plums

CU strawberries

CU mushrooms

CU bananas

This week, the Geneva grocery pantry served more than 65 thankful families, and we’re expecting that number to increase every week, as word spreads.

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