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Bay Area Food Pantries Are Struggling. Here's How You Can Help

The coronavirus continues to impact the ways in which people live, work, learn, and, for some, eat.

Local food pantries and other food-related organizations are having to adapt to the environment of social distancing and sheltering-in-place.

"Volunteers came from various corporations in the city, but then all these people disappeared once they started telecommuting," said Amor Santiago, Vice President of Development at Project Open Hand, a Bay Area non-profit organization that prepares, serves, and delivers food for the elderly and disabled.

"We were the largest provider of community nutrition sites. We had 16 sites and these were congregate sites, where seniors and the disabled would come to a senior center or to an organization, and we would serve them a hot meal. A thousand meals would be provided across our 16 sites, but now those seniors are now at risk because of COVID-19. They cannot come to the sites and sit with each other, because that was also valuable, they could socialize, not be isolated, and schedule other activities for the future. Now, all those places are closed. There is no sitting with each other."

The number of volunteers Project Open Hand usually has on a daily basis has also been affected by COVID-19.

"Part of why we are cost effective is because we used to have a hundred volunteers every day helping with everything from delivery to chopping vegetables," said Santiago. While the numbers have dwindled, volunteers are continuing to show up. Project Open Hand now has a daily average of around 30 volunteers, who adhere to all Health Department protocols, such as wearing face masks, gloves, and remaining six feet apart, and it recently achieved the goal for its recent half-million dollar fundraising campaign to address COVID-19.

"It's not because they do not want to come. Before when we had about a hundred volunteers a day, about half of them were over sixty, so we had a lot of retired folks who were helping out. What that meant is that these are the people who should not be out. Some of our volunteers had been volunteers for decades. But they need to be at home, and not come to our center."

The number of deliveries Project Open Hand makes has increased significantly due to the shelter-in-place orders and people getting COVID-19, which both mean they cannot leave their homes. "We are like a meal-delivery service now, but as a non-profit who offers medically tailored meals [meals prepared with consulted nutritionists for the ill] and groceries," said Santiago. "And of course, our priority is the safety of our staff, so they are wearing masks and gloves during the drop offs, and stand back while they wait for the client to pick up the meals. ... Meals are what we do. Our motto is food is love, meals that heal, and meals with love."

Below is a list of local Bay Area food banks, pantries, and organizations that are currently open and who are still offering their services.

Project Open Hand https://www.openhand.org/


730 Polk St, San Francisco, CA 94109

Open Hours: 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday


This food non-profit organization specializes in preparing, serving, and delivering meals to seniors and the disabled. It also offers medically tailored meals for those with illnesses and medical referrals.


Milpitas Food Pantry http://milpitasfoodpantry.org/


1440 S Main St, Milpitas

Open Hours: 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday


This South Bay food pantry offers produce and dried goods. It currently only serves Milpitas residents and proof of residency is required.


North Peninsula Food Pantry http://fooddc.org/


Address: 31 Bepler St, Daly City

Open Hours: 5:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday.


This food pantry distributes its food by appointment only, which can be made by calling in. It offers shelf-stable food, which are dried and canned goods. The pantry is open to everyone, not only those in Daly City or to those in San Mateo county.


San Francisco-Marin Food Bank https://www.sfmfoodbank.org/


This food bank, with locations in both San Rafael and San Francisco, has started to do daily pop food pantries all over the Bay Area that serve fresh produce and shelf-stable items. These pop ups are open to the public and do not require ID or sign in.


Marin address: 2550 Kerner Blvd., San Rafael

San Francisco address: 900 Pennsylvania Ave., San Francisco

Open Hours: 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM, Monday-Friday


Alameda Food Bank http://www.alamedafoodbank.org/


Address: 650 West Ranger Ave Alameda Point

Open Hours: 12 p.m. - 5 p.m., Monday, Wednesday, Friday


This food bank is offering a drive through service where you can pull up in your car with the windows rolled up and with an empty trunk, which volunteers will fill with groceries for you. There is also a walk up service for those who are walking or traveling on a bike. The food bank encourages you to share any discarded food with neighbors. It is not currently seeking food donations, but monetary donations are welcomed and can be made via their website.


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