Archive for July, 2011

Behind The Scenes ~ Summer 2011

Friday, July 29th, 2011

“When you are feeding the people, you’re feeding God.” —Desmond Tutu

The Food Pantry hosts a steady stream of visitors: people from other pantries, from other cities and from all parts of the world who want to see how our community-run program works. We generally show them around, offer them something to eat, and give them a job so they can experience The Food Pantry first-hand.

This March, the Food Pantry was honored by a very special visitor–Archbishop Desmond Tutu! One Friday morning we got an unexpected text message from Dean Jane Shaw of Grace Cathedral, where Bishop Tutu had been speaking: Can I bring Archbp to see pantry?

We were just finishing unloading and setting up our morning deliveries when they walked in.

Bishop Tutu is a small, barrel-chested man with a great, contagious laugh: he darted around the pantry, chatting enthusiastically and asking a million questions of everyone, dodging huge unsteady piles of oranges, beaming at strangers. Longtime volunteer Nirmala Cádiz shyly walked over and bowed to him. “Excuse me, your Holiness,” she said, “But could I kiss you?” Bishop Tutu grinned and threw his arms open, and the hugging began.

Desmond Tutu visits the Food Pantry

All the volunteers rushed over to embrace him, to ask for blessings, to offer him food and tell him stories. It was amazing to introduce him to so many people from all over the world
who wanted to let him know they’d been inspired by the people of South Africa. “This is Valentina, from Russia…Juanita from Nicaragua… Michael from Liverpool…Eduardo from Argentina…Aida from the Philippines…Angela from China… Chris from Boston…” Finally Bishop Tutu asked if we could all gather close and pray together. “Thank you, God,” he said, gesturing at the bread, the vegetables. He looked at all of us, beaming. “You see,” he said happily, “When you are feeding the people, you’re feeding God.”

We are so grateful for Desmond Tutu’s visit, and so moved and inspired by his presence. A blessing indeed!

Seasonal Eating ~ Summer 2011

Friday, July 29th, 2011

Volunteers Carmella & Rudy (below) offer fresh produce to everyone

Unlike many pantries that rely on canned goods and processed foods, The Food Pantry gives away mostly fruits and vegetables. Thanks to the San Francisco Food Bank and its network of local farmers, we’re able to distribute literally tons of delicious, healthy produce every single week.

We’re so grateful for the farmers whose labor makes this abundance possible, and to everyone who picks, sorts, packs and delivers all the different kinds of fresh fruits and vegetables. It means a lot to our volunteers to see a kid walking out eating a juicy peach, or to fill a grandmother’s cart to overflowing with healthy greens that we know will make dinner for a family.

It’s summer at The Food Pantry now, so we’ve been celebrating the return of strawberries: flat after flat of ripe red fruit, filling the whole church with their fragrance. There are still some sweet navel oranges around, and buckets of Meyer lemons from our neighbors’ backyards, but we’re heading into stone-fruit season: peaches, plums, nectarines and apricots.

As well as produce, the Food Pantry gives away bread, rice, beans, cereal and an ever-changing variety of groceries. We’re especially grateful for the fresh bread and baked goods donated from places like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods: the whole-wheat Irish soda bread, hot cross buns and gingersnaps this month were a special treat!

Talking With Our Volunteers ~ Summer 2011

Friday, July 29th, 2011

Volunteer Stuart Christie

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 with hardworking volunteer Stuart Christie is by Karen Eckersley.

Ten years ago, I had a brain aneurysm: I spent almost two months in emergency care, and my legs atrophied. I couldn’t walk until I got some of the first Botox treatments (not on my face!) And my disability meant I couldn’t work again.

A friend brought me to services at St. Gregory’s, and there was a notice asking people to come and help with their food pantry. I met Sara, the founder of The Food Pantry, and here I am.

What keeps me coming back is the camaraderie we have with the customers. Everyone greets me, and smiles, and is happy to be here. I speak enough Chinese to say hello, how are you, and the name of almost all the foods we have, and I’ve also learned some Russian. The woman who taught me how to say ‘Hello!’ in Chinese just came up to me today with a high-five and a big smile, and that makes me feel really great. I know some Spanish also, and also Italian and French. But I don’t get to use the French very much.

I take the food that I get from the pantry every week and cook a meal for my community at the board-and- care home where I live. I enjoy cooking, but really I am my own worst critic. Fortunately, everyone eats what I prepare. What I really enjoy is when we sit down and eat lunch together here at The Food Pantry every Friday. It’s always a pleasant surprise and tasty, and a way to catch up with everyone’s life.

You know, at the time it was hard to see that something nice might come from an aneurysm, but I guess this is it.

Heat Wave

Friday, July 1st, 2011

Our neighborhood newspaper, the Potrero View, just wrote a great story about the work of The Food Pantry, describing us as looking like a farmer’s market. Today, at the beginning of the July 4 weekend, it was a super-hot day (for San Francisco). St. Gregory’s was hosting a children’s art camp, and so our usual space inside the rotunda was filled with young campers working on creative projects. That meant we held The Food Pantry outdoors…making it look even more like a free farmer’s market, complete with colorful umbrellas and lots of hats!


Michael planned our big move out back very carefully, making sure that the unfamiliar surroundings would be safe and easy to understand for our patrons. Fortunately all the vegetables were sturdy enough for the heat: butternut squash, potatoes, oranges, cabbages and cucumbers. Angela, Mable, Winston, Elizabeth, and Onyx handled the line, giving elderly guests lots of water and encouragement. Jimmy and Jenny braved the heat to break down boxes.

The volunteers had a fitting lunch for a holiday weekend: hot dogs, baked beans and potato salad. And we had lots of bread to give away, thanks to the hard work of Food Runners, who glean from restaurants and bakeries in the area and deliver to food pantries like ours. We’re so grateful for their work, and also for the amazing volunteers — out in force again today, braving the heat and the sun, just bringing food to the people.

Valentina at the bread table