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At least 65 volunteers wearing protective masks loaded up roughly 900 cars with fresh produce and shelf-stable items at the new pop-up pantry, located in the parking lot of the San Francisco Giants’ Oracle Park.
The San Francisco-Marin Food Bank — which opened the drive-thru location — expects the number of cars to reach 1,500 next Friday, as word gets out about the food distribution site. It will continue to provide supplies to members of the community through June 5, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
“We’ve helped in the last three wildfires, and many of us went to Houston after Hurricane Harvey to help” said Barbara Abbott, vice president of supply chain at the Food Bank. “We have never seen anything like this. Before this pandemic, we served 32,000 households, and now it’s double that.”
To promote social distancing at the newly opened pop-up pantry — a car drives up, opens their trunk, and a volunteer loads two boxes of food inside, each weighing up to 30 pounds.
The produce boxes on Friday included avocados, apples, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, and more — grown by California farmers. The shelf staple boxes were filled with lentils, pasta, eggs and boxed milk.
Abbott said the drive-thru service received a warm welcome from people who described it as a unique experience — as many Americans are currently faced with food insecurity for the first time in their lives amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
“The biggest thing we’re hearing from people is, ‘This is the first time I’ve ever had to do anything like this,'” Abbott said, according to the paper.
Food Bank worker Katy McKnight said she’s heard many stories of people who have been laid off during the pandemic, calling their experiences “heart-wrenching.”
The new drive-thru pantry was announced after the coronavirus impacted the supply of certain foods, including chicken, rice, and eggs — which tripled in price at one point, Abbott said.
“Generally, this whole thing was like a giant wrecking all on the supply chain,” she added, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The SF-Marin Food Bank has opened 24 interim pop-up pantries in the area after roughly 100 food pantries in San Francisco and Marin were forced to close amid the pandemic. Each serves about 900 to 1,500 households in the community every week.
“As the COVID-19 situation intensifies daily, the Food Bank is facing an unprecedented need. Compared to before the pandemic, we are now serving 20,000 more households per week. We know that is only the beginning and anticipate that the need will only grow as the unemployment numbers continue to rise,” according to the organization’s website.
People sit and gather with belongings on a sidewalk in San Francisco on April 21, 2020. The city’s homeless continue to sleep on the sidewalks and flap-to-flap in tents cluttered downtown and in other popular neighborhoods. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Abbott saw a steady flow of cars on Friday, just three days after the site was announced.
“Next week, there will be more, because people tell their friends,” she added, according to the paper.