Logistics key as SF-Marin Food Bank feeds 56,000 homes per week
SAN FRANCISCO - When running a food bank, making sure things get to where they're supposed to is half the battle, if not more.
Every day, Isaac Neely has his work cut out for him, putting together puzzles on pallets at the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank.
He's a senior lead order builder there, and works with a team to prepare food orders for neighborhood pantries that provide food for those who need it. The SF-Marin Food Bank serves around 56,000 households per week.
"It feels good to know that I am making a difference," he said. "I put my heart into this place."
Neely has spent 13 years with the food bank. He puts his heart and soul into the work because he loves what he does, loves giving back, and also, because he's been on the other side.
"I know what it feels like to be without," he said. "I got myself into a situation and made a bad decision. It produced a situation where I wasn't able to get work because of my background. Because of that, that prevented me from getting work. Me not being able to get work produced all the other elements - not having food, not having money."
He dealt with food insecurity for three years.
"I depended a lot upon the kitchens and pantries," Neely said. "It came down to me basically having to pick up recycling in order to feed me and my son. That's pretty much how hard it got."
While every individual's circumstance is unique, hundreds of thousands of people in the area are experiencing food insecurity in one way or another.
"It's not just one face," Neel said. "It's not."
"One in five people that you see, anywhere you are in your day, that person is food insecure," said Barbara Abbott, the VP of Supply Chain at the SF-Marin Food Bank.
She says they're serving nearly double the amount of households they did pre-pandemic. She chalks it up to a combination of the pandemic, high inflation, and gas prices.
"We are a 24-hour operation. We have scaled up to meet that need," she said. "We are going full-tilt here at the food bank in order to satisfy this unprecedented need in the community right now."
That means Neely and the team of order builders are as busy as ever. Abbot says in a night, the order builders put together around a quarter of a million pounds of food that will go out for delivery the next morning.
"On an annual basis, it works out to be 70 million pounds of food," she said.
Neely says the mission to feed the community takes a community and team effort.
"We depend on each other a lot in order to get this done," he said. "It's not just one person, it's a whole team."
Neely has found purpose and passion in providing for the community.
"I love what I'm doing, I know how important this is, and also, I love the people I work with," he said. "All the energy that I have, naturally have, I'm able to put it back into the job and also give to the people at the same time. I like it."
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