SF food bank short 2,200 volunteers

Volunteers sort food at the San Francisco and Marin Food Banks' warehouse, by Potrero Hill.
Photo by Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

Well, that was fast.

As it does every year, the cheery holiday season brought thousands of volunteers to the San Francisco and Marin Food Banks. Hungry folks were fed (despite some controversy), bellies were filled, hearts were warmed.

So much for that.

The holidays are over, the Christmas songs no longer play in our stores, and the barrage of volunteers is now at a standstill. The food bank is now short 2,200 volunteers, the part time work equivalent of about 60 full time employees, a food bank spokesperson said.

foodstats“Our volunteers are crucial to our mission and on average help us in sorting, bagging, gleaning, and boxing food. They on average help to sort over 1 million pounds (of food) per month,” Volunteer Services Manager Sean Rosas told us. “Heading into January, the Food Bank isn’t as top of mind for people as it was during November and December. We have lots of empty shifts on our calendar.”

Yes, this happens every year, but a new report from the city shows San Franciscans are at greater risk of food insecurity than ever.

One of the most expensive and wealthy cities in the nation still grapples with a hunger problem, highlighted in a recent report from the city’s Food Security Task Force. One in four San Franciscans are “food insecure,” meaning they’re starving or eating dangerously unhealthily due to poverty. 

The food bank fights this every day. It doesn’t need volunteers in its pantries, but for processing food in a giant warehouse nestled on Pennsylvania Avenue, behind Potrero Hill. There, volunteers package dried goods and sort produce.

That food then is shipped to over 200 food pantries in San Francisco and Marin, serving most all of San Francisco’s neighborhoods. From Glide Memorial Church in the Tenderloin to the Women’s Building in the Mission, more than 200,000 hungry San Franciscans are fed by the organization annually. 

Frighteningly, without volunteers, some of their fresh food will go to waste. 

“Currently, we distribute over 60 percent of our produce to nonprofit partners,” Rosas said. “A drop in volunteers would significantly impact our gleaning and distribution of fresh produce like oranges.  Ultimately this would lead to more food waste and composting costs for our organization.” 

For more information on how you can help, visit http://www.sfmfoodbank.org/