RIGHT ORANGE CARROTS, fuzzy ripe peaches and heads of cabbage the size of bowl-
ing balls. Not the kind of fare you might expect to see at a typical food bank, but then
again, the SF-Marin Food Bank is far from typical. At the forefront of a movement to
bring more fresh produce to people in need, the SF-Marin Food Bank was one of the
first nonprofits in the nation to venture out into one of the nation’s most fertile land-
scapes — California’s farming community — and forge real partnerships. Because of that outreach in
the 1990s, the California Association of Food Banks’ Farm to Family program was born, and now an
astounding 60 percent of the food from the SF-Marin bank is made up of fresh fruits and vegetables.
January 1 marked the five-year anniversary of the merger of the Marin and San Francisco food
banks, creating a partnership that allowed the new organization to significantly expand and enhance
food assistance across Marin County as well as San Francisco, with a warehouse in each city. Prior
to 2011, there were 18 Marin pantries, where food was distributed once a month. Now there are 47,
and they operate every week. The annual distribution of food in Marin has jumped by 50 percent,
from four million pounds five years ago to six million pounds now. And contrary to popular belief, it’s
not just homeless people who need assistance. Only about 15 percent of food bank recipients are
considered “homeless”; the rest are individuals and families who are either underemployed, unem-
ployed, disabled and/or elderly. All have the simple yet disturbing problem of lacking enough money
to adequately feed themselves or their families three square meals a day.
WHEN IT’S ALL SAID AND DONE, 50 million pounds of food will make its way through the bank’s
Marin and San Francisco network this year. To put that into perspective, picture 50 Boeing 747s lined
up wing to wing — that’s a lot of full bellies.