USDA Abruptly Halts Food Supply to Food Banks, Leaving Families Hungry and SF's Mission Food Hub in Crisis
CANA - Mission Food Hub
1333 Florida Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
Contact – Roberto Hernandez
December 25, 2020
San Francisco, CA
Since the COVID-19 lockdown began, Roberto Hernandez has led an army of volunteers and local grassroots nonprofits in San Francisco in a program called Mission Food Hub (MFH). Working from a busy warehouse in San Francisco’s Mission District, MFH distributes accessible, nutritious, and culturally relevant food to families across the city’s hardest hit communities. As San Francisco’s tech offices, restaurants, entertainment venues, hotels and other businesses have laid off workers, the number of people requesting food from Mission Food Hub has exploded to more than 7,000 families a week. Many of these hard-working people have found themselves without food on the table for the first time ever, with multigenerational families at risk of going hungry. Some are ineligible to receive government services and have nowhere else to turn.
Essential to the Mission Food Hub’s work is the USDA’s ‘Farmers to Families Food Box’ program, which abruptly expired on December 23rd. The program had been providing MFH with 7,000 boxes containing basic food staples to distribute each week. MFH added fresh fruit, vegetables, and foods like masa, rice and beans to the USDA boxes, to provide enough nutritious food for a whole family. Hernandez was given just a few days’ notice that the USDA boxes would stop coming, and there has been no word from the government regarding future shipments of food.
While the stimulus bill currently making its way through Washington DC’s chaos may eventually reinstate the USDA boxes, that is unknown. What is known is that millions of Americans who have no safety nets, and relied on the boxes, will go without food – just in time for the holidays. This number includes an estimated 5 million who slipped below the poverty line this week due to the cessation of COVID-19 unemployment payments, many of whom now need food aid as well. Even if the USDA program is reinstated, it will take weeks to get the program up and running again, leaving millions of Americans to face starvation in the coming weeks.
The local effect is devastating, especially to San Francisco’s Latinx and other underserved communities – those hit hardest by the pandemic and lockdown. Hernandez is afraid that the Mission Food Hub, which is funded by private donations from local supporters, foundations and corporations, will not be able to maintain its level of services in the coming weeks. “The USDA boxes were equal to $273,000 a week,” says Hernandez. “That means we’ll need an additional $1,000,000 a month just to keep operating at the same level as before.”
Many of the people whom MFH serves were the lifeblood of San Francisco’s thriving economic and cultural engines before the pandemic, and were foundational to the flourishing of the tech, food, tourist, health, and education industries, among others. Hernandez hopes that the leaders and employees of these industries, many of which continue to employ higher wage employees and to show large profits, will step up to the plate to feed the people in their own communities who are now in
desperate need. “The folks who receive food from us made San Francisco a place that everyone wanted to come to, to do business and live,” says Hernandez. “I hope that the people who enjoyed the city and profited from its great economy will step up to the plate to keep their neighbors fed through the winter. That way, when this is over, we can all build San Francisco back together, better than ever.”
Donations to the Mission Food Hub, a project of Carnaval San Francisco (CANA) can be mailed to: Mission Food Hub – CANA, 1333 Florida St, San Francisco, CA 94110, or made online at: givebutter.com/6HtzZM.
The Latino Task Force COVID - 19, was created to bring together a coalition of organization & government to address impact of COVID - 19 for Latinos in San Francisco.
The Mission District is Ground ZERO for people with the coronavirus in San Francisco. Food
inequity is impacting over 12,000 Latinos in San Francisco who are unemployed. The Mission
Food Hub was given birth to provide groceries for families and is managed and operated by 156 volunteers. We started providing 500 families with one grocery bag once a week but the lines of people rapidly grew to 1,800 within a couple of weeks. We are now providing cultural
appropriate groceries to 7,000 families, three days a week:
Monday at 1 PM, Wednesday & Friday at 10:00 AM
701 Alabama Street
San Francisco, CA 94110