SAN FRANCISCO -- Hunger is an urgent need for families across the Bay Area. Throughout the pandemic, access to available food became a top issue. Now that scarcity has been heightened with inflation driving more people to find food in other ways.
Every Monday and Thursday morning, San Francisco native Larry Yee joins the assembly line of a San Francisco-Marin Food Bank pop-up pantry.
"There is some farmer who went through a lot of trouble to make sure that we could get fresh produce out to people," said Yee while packing a bag. "So this is good stuff."
Yee volunteers with the food bank to fill up grocery bags full of food, something so many people in the Bay Area simply cannot afford to do.
"We got food. The fact that we can give other people food and make them feel better and help other people, that is a win," explained Yee.
When the pandemic started in March of 2020, the retired George Washington High School teacher chose to fill his time with filling hunger needs in his hometown.
"There were a lot of familial needs," said Yee. "This is an opportunity I saw that the food bank put out that they needed help. So I was like, hey I am in."
Before the pandemic, the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank served about 32,000 households a week. According to San Francisco-Marin Food Bank Communications Manager Keely Hopkins, they are now serving more than 55,000 households a week.
Yee responded to a call to serve an immediate need as hunger is something Yee understands well.
"When I was three, I actually remember my grandma taking me to the food banks at St. Peter and Paul and holding her hand and standing there," remembered Yee.
That experience as a child is why Lee comes back twice a week for families like his. With more than 30 years behind him as a high school math teacher, Yee's service is for an even greater good.
"You know what it is like to be in a meeting and you are hungry and you can't concentrate," explained Yee. "Imagine a kid in school that hasn't eaten, can't concentrate. You have got to be able to give them a chance to succeed and compete."
Every one of the bags that a volunteer packs is about thirty pounds of food and inside can feed a family for up to a week.
"A lot of families find it embarrassing, but the reality is the need is there and they come out," states Yee. "They are putting aside their egos to come out here and get the free food."
Food that is necessary to sustain the Bay Area community.
"The reward is immediate," says Yee. "You are seeing the fruits of your labor put together in a tangible product. Every hour, there will be a stream of people walking through here that have needs, that have a real need. You have got to be good about helping people. They say you can't buy happiness, but I think you can."
The San Francisco-Marin Food Bank is in a continuous need for volunteers in their warehouse, as delivery drivers or to work at these pop-pantries in 22 neighborhoods. More information on volunteering or making a donation to help the cause is available at the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank website.
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