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City Announces Food Access Initiative in Response to COVID-19

News Release

San Francisco, CA — Mayor London N. Breed today announced a citywide effort to help San Franciscans access food during the COVID-19 pandemic. This new effort includes providing food for people who are currently in quarantine or isolation and providing information about food resources to people who are otherwise food insecure.

As part of this food access effort, the City’s Emergency Operations Center is working to expand the capacity of existing grocery and meal providers to serve more people. Additionally, Mayor Breed identified food security as one of the three priority areas for the immediate use of the Give2SF COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund. Today, Mayor Breed announced $1 million in Give2SF funds will support the Human Services Agency’s existing food security programs.

“Many San Franciscans are in isolation in order to protect public health, and not everyone has family or friends in the area who can help them get the food they need,” said Mayor Breed. “We want people to be able to focus on their health and safety during this time—not worrying about if and how they are going to eat. We also know that COVID-19 is already having a serious financial impact on many of our residents, and people who were struggling to afford food and other basic needs before the crisis now face even bigger challenges. These food resources are an important part of our emergency response and will help people know where they’re getting their next meal.”

“Ensuring people are fed safely and consistently during this unprecedented crisis has been at the forefront of my office’s work and that of the Emergency Operations Center,” said Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer. “My staff and I have been working closely with our community serving non-profits and City departments over the past month to make certain the City is meeting the growing need for food security. Thank you to all the volunteers, non-profit staff, and City disaster service workers who are working to prepare, distribute, and deliver food to families and individuals during this critical time.”

People who have tested positive for COVID-19 and people who are awaiting their test results need assistance obtaining food while staying safely indoors. Many people who test positive for COVID-19 have the ability to feed themselves or have family, friends, or neighbors who can assist them. Unfortunately for some, no such safety net exists. To address this need, the City has created a call center to support people who are in quarantine or isolation and are food insecure. With a referral from a health provider, a social worker will assess a family’s needs and connect them with deliveries of groceries. Additionally, the City has contracted with Off the Grid to provide prepared meals for people who are isolating or quarantining at home but who do not have access to cooking facilities.

For the public and people who may be newly food insecure, the Emergency Operation Center’s Feeding Unit has launched a public webpage on SF.gov and 311 resources to help people navigate their food options, including community providers or public benefits. The San Francisco Food Resources Map Viewer allows people to search for food resources near their location, including food provided by the San Francisco Unified School District, the Department of Disability and Aging Services, local grocery stores, and food banks. The website will be updated regularly with available resources. The website is: www.sf.gov/get-food-resources

The City is also working to expand the capacity of existing providers to provide food to a larger food insecure population. The San Francisco Food Security Task Force report shows one in four residents were at risk of hunger due to low income prior to COVID-19. With the increased number of residents out of work, the number of people struggling to afford enough nutritious food will also increase. The City’s food partners have already reported a surge in demand for food. To address this growing need, the City is deploying Disaster Service Workers to support the expansion of community food providers. This includes approximately 70 librarians who have been trained and deployed in shifts to support the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank’s “pop up pantry” program that provides groceries to households in need.

The City is working to ensure feeding activities promote social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The City’s Feeding Unit is dispatching Disaster Service Workers to support community providers to establish safe and healthy feeding operations that meet the mandates of social distancing. The City is also supporting existing community feeding providers with supplies and DSWs to help them transition from congregate feeding to grab-and-go or delivery feeding.

“Where you and your family are going to get their next meal is the last thing someone who tests positive for COVID-19 or awaiting their test results should worry about,” said Mary Ellen Carroll, Executive Director, Department of Emergency Management. “This is why San Francisco established a Feeding Task Force in the emergency operations center to ensure people who don’t have regular access to food have a reliable source of nourishment as they recover or await the results of their test.”

“Older people and adults with disabilities experience high rates of food insecurity, and the coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated these needs. San Francisco has a variety of programs to help prevent hunger while people safely shelter in place. Our telephone helpline is now operating seven days a week to match older people and adults with disabilities with the best resources to meet their needs,” said Shireen McSpadden, Executive Director of the Department of Disability and Aging Services. “I’m grateful for the outpouring of support and creative ways our partner agencies and the community are stepping up during this difficult time. Together, we’re getting nutritious foods into the hands of those at heightened risk with prepared meals and linking hundreds of people with volunteers to help with groceries and household essentials.”

“The dramatic increase in lost wages as a result of staying home to protect the community’s public health means that there are significantly more people in need of our help,” said Paul Ash, Executive Director of San Francisco-Marin Food Bank. “As an essential service, it is critical that we are able to continue the job of making sure vulnerable neighbors get the food they need. Partnering with San Francisco to deploy disaster service workers has allowed us to continue and expand our mission.”

Department of Disability and Aging Services Food Resources
In addition to this new effort to improve food security for the entire City, the Department of Disability and Aging Services (DAS) has worked to support seniors and people with disabilities to access food. Specifically, DAS is sustaining meal support for communal dining clients by transitioning sit-down meals to takeaway meals. Almost all of the congregate meal sites have transitioned to providing takeaway meals, either as a daily hot/frozen meal or a multi-day pack of meals.

DAS has expanded its telephone helpline—(415) 355-6700—which is now available seven days a week to connect seniors and adults with disabilities with City services, including food assistance. The DAS Helpline is also connecting older adults and people with disabilities with volunteers who can help them with their essential needs, including grocery support.

CalFresh
San Franciscans that may be facing new financial hardships should apply for CalFresh. This program allows eligible individuals and families to purchase food at most grocery stores and select farmers' markets. Benefits are uploaded onto an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card that works like a bank debit card to purchase nutritious food.

The State has authorized two emergency CalFresh payments, one of which was issued on April 12 and another to be issued on May 10. These emergency funds allow participants to receive the maximum benefit amount for their household size. For example, the maximum benefit for a single-person household is $194 in monthly food benefits and $646 for a family of four. During this difficult time, the state is also waiving or postponing certain requirements to help people keep CalFresh and apply while they shelter safely at home. These programmatic changes include no face-to-face application interviews and waiving documentation to renew benefits through June 17.

CalFresh recipients in San Francisco can also take advantage of other cost-saving programs to save more money, including discounted utilities and free diapers for children under age three. For more information about how to apply, contact the San Francisco Human Services Agency at www.sfhsa.org/calfresh

 

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