KQED Food Blog: Bay Area Bites: Take 5 with Rachel Thieme
Bay Area Bites: culinary rants & raves from bay area foodies and professionals
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Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Take 5 with Rachel Thieme


Title: Program Manager, San Francisco Food Bank
Hometown: Seattle

1. How did the food pantry program come about?
When the food bank moved into a large warehouse we realized we didn't have enough agency partners to distribute all the food. After reviewing census information, we saw there was a real lack of services available to people who weren't homeless. We decided to take a neighborhood approach that would better serve the people of areas like the Sunset and Richmond, Chinatown, not just Civic Center, the Tenderloin, etc. We partnered with sites that weren't necessarily used to doing social service programs like churches and community centers. Initially people had no idea what we were talking about!

But once some sites were up and running then the programs really took off. We call it "farmers market style". It's a choice model where people can take what they want and can use, just like shopping at a farmers market.

2. What do you do as program manager?
I'm responsible for making sure the food gets out, and into the hands of the people who need it. For example I go out and meet with tenants associations and take people on tours of other pantries. I look for ways to do what we do better like setting up a pilot shopping grant program to help organizations get set up. We try to figure out which schools and housing developments we can partner with,.

3. What's been the most satisfying thing about the job?
Seeing how effective and quickly we can distribute food. I can meet with a school group and three weeks later go to the opening of their food pantry and see families getting excited about fresh produce that wasn't there before. It's inspiring.

4. What are the goals of the food pantry network?
The mission of the food bank is to end hunger in San Francisco. We distribute food in a dignified and respectful way to people who need it. Each food pantry operates individually and sets their own guidelines.

5. Who does the food pantry program serve?
About 13,000 households a week. We serve seniors, immigrants, veterans, a huge variety of people. We also have programs that target low income families with kids. The pantry program represents about 60% of what the food bank distribute and half of what we distribute in the program is fresh produce.
 
 

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