Archive for December, 2009

Gratitude in 2009

Monday, December 21st, 2009

On December 18, The Food Pantry held its last pantry of the year (we can’t get deliveries on Christmas Day or New Years Day), featuring a surprise donation of 2,500 beautiful mandarin oranges from the San Francisco General Hopsital! We were visited by a young woman who’d begun volunteering with us as a child; by strangers, and by old friends: some fallen on hard times and some grateful to be giving back to other hungry people.
We counted up the numbers for 2009: at our flagship site at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco, The Food Pantry gave away free, fresh groceries to 27,986 people this year.
Your donations, your hard work, and your faith keep The Food Pantry going. Thank you, and please help us continue to feed the hungry in 2010. Make a tax-deductible gift before December 31.

Winter 2009: seasonal eating

Monday, December 14th, 2009

Most of the foodwe give away is fresh produce.

Most of the foodwe give away is fresh produce.

Unlike many programs that rely on canned goods and processed foods, The Food Pantry gives away mostly fresh fruits and vegetables to the families who come to us for groceries. Thanks to the San Francisco Food Bank and its network of local farmers, we distribute literally tons of delicious fresh produce every single week at the food pantry.

This fall and winter, we’re seeing a lot of apples and pears––including delicious, crunchy Asian pears, Bartletts, and Boscs. Cool-weather greens are coming in: rainbow and Swiss chard, kale, collards, turnip greens and beet greens….some of it grown right here in San Francisco backyards by our volunteer urban farmers! We have beautiful heads of lettuce, and bunches of fresh beets. And there’s an amazing variety of squash: butternut, Kabocha, spaghetti squash, acorn squash and more.

Hundreds of hungry families get this kind of fresh, healthy food every week. It’s wonderful to see a kid walking out eating a pear, or a mother’s cart filled to overflowing with greens. We’re grateful for the farmers who make this abundance possible, and to everyone at the Food Bank who sorts, packs and delivers those pallets every week.

Winter 2009: behind the scenes

Monday, December 14th, 2009

The Food Pantry runs on volunteers

The Food Pantry runs on volunteers

In November 2009, The Food Pantry celebrated our ninth anniversary at St. Gregory’s with cake, singing, and a blessing in English, Spanish, and Chinese. And we honored our volunteers who gave extraordinary amounts of time, creativity and thought in a period of great transition.

Since the beginning of the year, our numbers have been going up at The Food Pantry, with lines stretching around blocks. The people who come to us are often newly unemployed, or facing cutbacks at their jobs. Others are struggling to stay in their houses or rental apartments, and some families have lost their homes. We know there are more people out there who need food, and we want to be able to reach them.

This fall The Food Pantry grappled with how to continue serving the growing numbers of people, as many as 900 a week, coming for groceries. The influx was stretching our budget––in August we spent over $1000 each week on food–– and our capacity to handle the crowds in the space. During a month of discussions with our board and volunteers, we developed a plan so that we could continue to serve people fairly and with dignity.

We’ve registered 1200 people, assigning them alternate weeks to come to The Food Pantry. This means that each individual can only get groceries every other week, and, for the first time in nine years, we can’t accept any new visitors.

To make this work required new systems – a special spreadsheet to keep track of visitors, a rolling schedule so that nobody had to wait in line, and flyers in several languages. Mostly, it required personal communication with the people we serve, to explain and answer questions and reassure the families who’ve come to depend on us.

Volunteer Winston Wu was key to this effort. Winston worked at the pantry every week for nearly a year while he was unemployed, greeting and managing the line of pantry visitors out front, using his impressive language skills in five different Chinese dialects. Winston wrote us to announce his “leave of absence” with regrets.

“I have accepted an assignment at a little company called Google,” he wrote. “Serving at the Food Pantry has taught me teamwork, integrity and strong respect for people. Most of all, it taught me compassion, humbleness and to serve with a thankful heart. The sum of all the experience has helped transform me as a person. People say big fellows don’t shed tears, but I have to admit I shed a few tears the past several nights thinking just how much I will miss all of you, and thinking what life will be like minus all the hysteria I encounter every Friday. Thank you for your confidence in me, and for making my first volunteer experience something I will always remember.”

Winter 2009: talking with our volunteers

Monday, December 14th, 2009

Volunteer Angela Dow outside the pantry.

Volunteer Angela Dow outside the pantry.

As many as sixty volunteers run The Food Pantry at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco. Most are people who came to get food and stayed to help out; some are neighbors, and some are first-time visitors. Every one of them has a story, and together they create a living, growing community. This issue’s interview is with volunteer Angela Dow.

Two years ago, I saw a picture of The Food Pantry on Craigslist, and it said volunteers could just show up. I got to the church early and saw this woman, Nirmala, standing inside a giant bread bin, unloading loaves. I couldn’t even see all of her, but she called out, “Come on in, and give me a hand!”

I came here from Hong Kong when I was twelve. I didn’t know my mother; I was raised by my grandmother and nannies. My grandmother was a Christian, and she always said you have to help people who have less than you, especially the elderly. Old people aren’t useless and ugly, she taught us, you need to learn to do right and respect them.

I worked at the phone company here for 27 years. And when I retired I wanted to find some way to give back the blessings I’ve received. My husband is good to me, we have property, we have a surplus. So I did tutoring with newcomer kids, I tried to help in a hospital, I helped renters with legal problems. But The Food Pantry is a place where I learn so much.

One holiday, The Food Pantry had a dinner for the volunteers, and Sara just said, “If people need food, that’s what we’re here for.” That really made me think. I realized I can’t pick and choose who I want to help. People didn’t ask to be poor. They didn’t ask to be sick. Sure, there are some cheaters and liars, and I get angry about it, but overall people are good. A few of the volunteers have [criminal] records, but when we work together they’re gentlemen. They work as hard as me. Who am I to judge? I learn to respect everyone: these two men got married and we blessed them at the pantry. Now I think, if somebody finds a person who makes them happy, that’s God’s wish for them: who am I to judge? Working together you see that all people have something to offer.

So I arrange my schedule around The Food Pantry. On Fridays I’m there to do whatever needs doing. During the week I work on getting donations for the pantry. I went to a young friend of my nephew’s who runs a big Italian bakery, and asked him to help us. He laughed and said, “OK, auntie,” and let me pick the bread up twice a week in my car. A lot of people only worry about making money, but he knew that everybody has to give something. Because at the end of the day, really, it’s a big accomplishment what we do. And it takes all of us.

Holiday Giving

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

In hard times and in times of celebration, everyone yearns for meaningful ways to give and share. Instead of frantic shopping for one more last-minute present, you can make a donation to The Food Pantry, knowing that it’ll make a real difference in the lives of hungry people.
It costs us just $50 a year to give fresh groceries––apples and pears, potatoes and carrots, rice and beans, bread and so much more–– to each family we serve. We welcome donations of any amount with gratitude.
You can donate online or send a check to The Food Pantry, 500 DeHaro Street, San Francisco CA 94107.
If you’d like us to send a beautiful gift card announcing that you’ve made a gift in someone’s name, please include the name and address of the recipient with your check, and we’ll mail the card out.
Thank you for making the holidays a time of food for all.

The Generosity of Neighbors

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

The Food Pantry is tickled pink by the generosity of two of our food-loving, hard-working, peace-love-and-justice-sharing neighbors in the Mission District, Mission Pie and Mission Street Food.

Mission Pie is a fabulous café that makes, yes, PIE of all kinds, from ingredients grown entirely on its nonprofit Pie Ranch in the Santa Cruz mountains. Kids from the Mission help grow the food, harvest the wheat, bake the pies and sell them back in the city. Mission Pie is about as local and real as food can get….and they’re currently matching all donations you make in their cafe to The Food Pantry and another neighbor, Martin de Porres House of Hospitality. “Abundance is all around us in San Francisco,” write the folks at Mission Pie. “Let’s share it with those who need it most.” Please drop by Mission Pie for a delicious slice of walnut, apple, quince or even chicken pie, and put a few bucks in the jar for us.

Mission Street Food has been sharing with The Food Pantry and a whole slew of neighborhood nonprofits since it opened. The twice-a-week restaurant, staffed by wildly inventive guest chefs and housed in a funky Chinese restaurant, gives all its profits away. They’ve given the proceeds of several evenings to us, have invited Paul Fromberg and Sara Miles of The Food Pantry to cook there, and now are giving us all the profits from wine sold at Mission Street Food (via a generous donation from Elyse Winery.) So drink up! Make a reservation at Mission Street Food, check out their amazing PB&J (pork belly, jicama and jalapeño) dish, and know that your dinner will help support local nonprofits.

Our heartfelt thanks to Anthony and Karen, Karen and Krystin.

Watch this Video…

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

about hunger in San Francisco and the San Francisco Food Bank: