San Francisco-Marin Food Bank opens big San Rafael food center

The "Follow This Story" feature will notify you when any articles related to this story are posted.

When you follow a story, the next time a related article is published — it could be days, weeks or months — you'll receive an email informing you of the update.

If you no longer want to follow a story, click the "Unfollow" link on that story. There's also an "Unfollow" link in every email notification we send you.

This tool is available only to subscribers; please make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

Please note: This feature is available only to subscribers; make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.


San Francisco-Marin Food Bank

2550 Kerner St., San Rafael, CA 94901; 415-883-1302

900 Pennsylvania Ave., San Francisco, CA 94107; 415-282-1900

Food assistance number: dial 211

With a long-term strategy focused on addressing the hunger issue in the region, the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank has opened a large distribution center in San Rafael designed to help serve more than 60 neighborhood food pantries in Marin County.

Some 250,000 people rely on the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank every year. This nonprofit provides food for 110,000 meals a day for 144,000 individuals a week with the help of 450 community organizations and 40,000 volunteers (donating total hours comparable to 62 full-time equivalent employees).

"Marin is not immune to the struggle for food security," said Executive Director Paul Ash. "What any don’t realize is that there are a lot of low-income people in Marin County, even though this is often thought of as a high-cost, high-income area."

He said there are a number of isolated individuals without ready access to food, as well as children, seniors, the unemployed and low-income wage earners in Marin City, San Rafael’s canal region, portions of Novato and west Marin.

“We believe healthy food transforms lives," Ash said. "In addition to serving local needs, we advocate at the state and national levels for policy reform and program improvements to one in four of our neighbors who are at risk of hunger.”

Ash said the organization was originally established in 1996 to serve San Francisco residents from a small warehouse in the city’s Dogpatch neighborhood. In 1997 operations were moved a few blocks a way, into the building they currently use at 900 Pennsylvania Ave. in the Potrero Hill neighborhood. After the merger of the San Francisco and Marin County Food Banks in 2011, leaders wanted to expand operations in Marin from a small leased space in Novato, to a building big enough to handle community needs, growing operations and future plans.

Located at 2550 Kerner St. in an industrial park near the canal and bay, the 38,000-square-foot San Rafael facility is dedicated to empowering neighbors in need. The modern, corporate headquarters-style structure was purchased in January for $8 million from the owner who also presented the food bank with a $1 million donation.

The center opened in late April and quickly stocked up to serve a mix of packaged and canned food items along with capacity to eventually handle a variety of perishables such as fresh vegetables, eggs, dairy products and meat. The San Francisco-Marin Food Bank distributes approximately 48 million pounds of food annually.

The food bank offers a variety of unique food distribution programs. It uses a farmer’s market-style approach at pantry locations with tables displaying a wide-range of food where community residents can choose what they want (instead of receiving pre-boxed or bagged food). More than 60 percent of food items distributed include fresh produce, such as more than four-dozen varieties of fruit and vegetables annually.

Other programs include a mobile pantry, with vans taking food to isolated low-income individuals and families in the west county who come together to pickup food at key locations. In San Francisco, there is a home-delivery program for seniors designed to encourage better health and increase self sufficiency for the elderly and neighbors with disabilities who can’t get out to shop (or carry 30-pound bags), but who still can cook for themselves. This program is expected to expand to Marin County soon.

Volunteers go to local pantries, shop for seniors and deliver food to their doors. This program is so popular there currently is a waiting list to join. This home delivery process also enables volunteers to visit, touch base and provide personal contact with isolated seniors and those physically challenged.

San Francisco-Marin Food Bank

2550 Kerner St., San Rafael, CA 94901; 415-883-1302

900 Pennsylvania Ave., San Francisco, CA 94107; 415-282-1900

Food assistance number: dial 211

Ash said a government program targeting seniors provides food designed for use in a planned complete menu that volunteers pack in boxes once a month for home delivery. More than 29,000 seniors benefit from these food bank programs each year.

"We also provide a morning snack for students in high-need public schools, so they can receive the fuel they need to learn and excel," Ash said. "Some 44,000 students receive food from San Francisco-Marin Food Bank programs. In addition, we help college students achieve their academic and life goals by providing weekly groceries on campus, in cooperation with college food services and student unions. Another program assists eligible neighbors in accessing CalFresh (food stamps), which is one of the best ways to end hunger."

The organization’s nutrition education team conducts cooking demonstrations and classes in schools and at community events teaching students and adults how to prepared healthy meals on a budget.

“We also produced something we call ‘Yum Videos’ showing people how to prepare wholesome dishes using some of the food we distribute, but what some might consider less common food items, like spaghetti squash, to add variety to their diets.”

Ash said another goal is to establish a permanent teaching kitchen at the San Rafael location. He said chef and food bank board member Tyler Florence has expressed interest in exploring such a site. Each year the food bank hosts its One Big Table event featuring guest chefs such as Paula LeDuc and Michael Mina preparing three-course meals for upwards of 400 donors attending this fundraiser.

He said there are a lot of caring people in Marin County who are eager to help. Last year over $1 million was raised at this gala where tables are set up on the warehouse floor and covered in white linens, decorations and place settings in keeping with the occasion.”

In its last financial update, the SF-Marin Food Bank reported that 95.4 percent of donated funds and resources go to directly support programs, with only 3.4 percent devoted to fundraising and 1.2 percent for management. The nonprofit counted 2,666 corporate and 233 foundation partners along with some 40,175 individual donors who helped to support the organization in 2017. The total annual operating budget for the SF-Marin Food Bank in 2018 is estimated to be $22.5 million.

“Everyone can play a role in responding to hunger," Ash said. "Each dollar contributed helps distribute $5 worth of food, and one dollar can provide two meals for a child in need. Those underserved in San Francisco missed 38 million meals last year, and those in Marin missed 9 million — with 14 percent of all meals unaccounted for. Statistics show that 49,000 Marin residents need food assistance today."

Those Marin County in need of food assistance can call 211.

Please read our commenting policy
  • No profanity, abuse, racism, hate speech or personal attacks on others.
  • No spam or off-topic posts. Keep the conversation to the theme of the article.
  • No disinformation about current events. Claims of "Fake News" will be delayed for moderation
  • No name calling. "Orange Menace", "Libtards", etc. are not respectful.
Send a letter to the editor

Our Network

Sonoma Index-Tribune
Petaluma Argus Courier
North Bay Business Journal
Sonoma Magazine
Bite Club Eats
La Prensa Sonoma
Emerald Report
Spirited Magazine