The Giants parking lot at Oracle Park — Seawall Lot 337 — was transformed into a drive-through food pantry yesterday afternoon by the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, a first of its kind for the city.
As unemployment rates continue to climb, both in our metro and around the country, hunger is swelling into a more deleterious issue. Even pre-pandemic, it’s estimated some 870,000 people in the Bay Area, roughly the population of San Francisco, are food-insecure. The Francisco-Marin Food Bank has been on a three-plus-decades long mission to feed the masses, with the city's first-ever drive-through, contact-free food pantry — which officially opened yesterday in China Basin — being their most timely effort.
VOLUNTEERS NEEDED! Volunteer with us on Monday at our Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School pop-up pantry while practicing #socialdistancing. Morning and afternoon shifts are available. Sign up now: https://t.co/a6t84laXqy pic.twitter.com/VZO85CeP9Z— San Francisco-Marin Food Bank (@SFMFoodBank) May 16, 2020
As reported by the SF Examiner, the food bank's drive-through model was greenlit by the Port Commission just days before its initial run. Yesterday, 60 volunteers helped streamline the novel, socially distant endeavor as cars cued up in nine lanes to wait for boxes of food — 25 lbs heavy, filled with nonperishables, like canned lentils and peanut butter, and fresh produce — to be placed in their trunks.
“We have no idea what our new normal will be,” Katy McKnight, San Francisco-Marin Food Bank’s director of community engagement, told the SF Examiner's Josua Sabitini Friday.
One "new normal" for the food pantry seems to be an increase in the number of households they’re serving. Before the COVID-19, the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank assisted around 32,000 households through their network of food pantries. That number has grown substantially — almost doubling, in fact.
“Right now, we are serving nearly double the number of households that we were serving before the pandemic," McKnight adds. "It’s hard to say what that recovery is going to look like and how quickly people may not need our assistance as much.”
Currently, their goal is to serve between 300 and 1,200 families every Friday between 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the mobile food pantry. Starting next weekend, the site will also substitute as a walk-up site for food pick up, opening two hours earlier at 9 a.m. but closing at the same time.
Plans to expand the model across the Bay Area are also in motion as a means to sustain community members affected by certain pantry locations closing amid COVID-19.
“Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, more than 100 of the food pantries in our network of more than 275 pantries have had to close in recent weeks,” said Keely Hopkins, a spokesperson for the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, to the news outlet. “To fill the gap and ensure our neighbors can still have access to healthy food, the food bank has been working hard to open interim pop-up pantries. [We will continue] to open pop-up pantries throughout San Francisco and Marin."
According to SFGate, the local food bank is operating 24 pop-up pantries in San Francisco and Marin counties; each one is believed to serve between 900 to 1,500 households — every week.
The SF Examiner, too, notes that no reservations are required and vehicles, once at the pop-up pantry's 74 Mission Rock Street address, "can line up on the southern side of Terry A Francois Boulevard" to drive through and collect their boxes.
SF-Marin Food Bank's ongoing efforts and those from other local nonprofits like TogetherSF — operated by principally still employed volunteers who continue delivering fresh produce to senior citizens and other at-risk cohorts — are becoming more important by the day.
To find other food access sites provided by the SF-Marin Food Bank, as well as their schedules of operation, visit sfmfoodbank.org/find-food; to learn about how you can either donate acceptable food or volunteer your time, visit here and here, respectively.
The drive-through pantry at 74 Mission Rock Street is expected to remain operational as long as there's a need for it and under the Port Commission’s ability to waive the location’s rent for them.
Image: Unsplash via Helinton Fantin