Popup food bank in San Francisco’s North Beach sees soaring demand

SAN FRANCISCO – Just before Christmas weekend and the New Year, your local food bank is asking for one last helping hand. The San Francisco Marine Bank said it still needs financial support to offset the costs of inflation as the demand for aid continues to grow.

“So typically staff arrive around 7:30,” explains Rico Jones, site supervisor for San Francisco Marin Food Bank’s North Beach pop-up Rico Jones.

On a bitterly cold morning, Jones led a team of volunteers packing food bags. Launched in 2020, the site currently serves about 1,000 people every Thursday.

“Demand has increased,” he said. “Certainly since the pandemic.”

“Mostly elderly people,” volunteer Beverly said of the regulars. “And he’s 90% monolingual, so I volunteer. I know that if there’s a problem, they’ll come to me.”

Beverly has been volunteering since the site was launched. She says the crowds that form each week reflect an often overlooked, troubled population.

“They’re kind of hidden,” she said. “They all live in SROs or apartments and people don’t see them. think.”

In addition to funding and ensuring enough food, one of the challenges faced by food banks in the region is traffic control, in this case trying to manage crowds that last four hours or more.

“Previously, when we first started, it was first-come, first-served,” Jones said of the organizational change. We decided to create a time frame so that they wouldn’t all come at the same time.”

“I mean, the waiting list is full,” added Beverly. “And if you sign up today, you’ll have to wait about eight to 10 months before you get a slot.”

Many regular customers have asked if this pop-up will still work during the holidays. Two years later, this work is an important part of this community and is deeply appreciated.

“It’s so fulfilling to put a smile on people’s faces,” Jones said. “I know we helped in small ways.”

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