Grocery Bag Giveaway: A New Model for Addressing Food Insecurity

In pre-pandemic times, the GLIDE building was the hub of the Grocery Bag Giveaway. It was an awe-inspiring event that drew thousands of community members to the doors of GLIDE as we gave out bags of holiday meals. Lines began forming in the early hours of the morning and wound through the Tenderloin streets for blocks on end. Similar long lines today would far exceed today’s pandemic safety protocols. The Grocery Bag Giveaway had to pivot its operations. But by reimagining GLIDE’s service model to focus on mobility, we ended up reaching more people than ever before.

Simply put – poverty in San Francisco has expanded and so has the need for GLIDE’s services in other parts of the city. Food insecurity affects one in four San Franciscans, a statistic that is overrepresented by communities of color and continues to grow during the pandemic. Two years ago, GLIDE gave away 4,000 grocery bags onsite and across the city for the Grocery Bag Giveaway. The increased amount this year – 5,500 – is because the need has grown substantially. Through collaborations with an extensive network of partner organizations, we were able to connect with new neighborhoods and people who need support but are not able to make it to GLIDE on Ellis Street.

5,500 bags of holiday grocery bags were distributed throughout San Francisco this December

The focus for the 2021 Grocery Bag Giveaway was to reach communities that have been hardest hit by the pandemic in neighborhoods such as Bayview Hunter’s Point, Chinatown, Western Addition and the Ocean View-Merced-Ingleside (OMI) areas. One new community partnership in Japantown for this event honored a historic bond with GLIDE Co-Founder, Janice Mirikitani, who passed away recently. 50 years ago, Janice helped her friends, Sandy Mori and Steve Navajo, in creating the Japantown nonprofit, Kimochi. The organization serves the Issei, or first generation Japanese Americans. “Jan, who was a Sansei, or third generation Japanese American, supported our efforts to create a nonprofit with bilingual and bicultural staff to serve the Issei, like her grandmother,” Sandy explains. “So, Kimochi has a 50-year relationship with Glide!” In total, GLIDE partnered with 19 organizations to distribute bags at 22 locations across the city.

Kimochi is a new partner organization for the Grocery Bag Giveaway, serving elders of the Japantown community.

At GLIDE, addressing food insecurity is more than making sure our communities have enough to eat – It’s about making sure people have access to food that has cultural value. GLIDE distributed two types of grocery bags this year – a ‘traditional’ bag with turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, gravy, stuffing, oranges, and a bag that serves our Asian communities, with chicken, rice, tofu, oranges, and dinner rolls. The chicken bag has become the overwhelming favorite – 3,900 whole chickens were distributed this year, compared with 1,600 turkeys!

This year’s Grocery Bag Giveaway included two types of bags – a ‘traditional’ bag and one that is catered to the culinary preferences of our Asian communities

As the Grocery Bag Giveaway concluded in early December, it was clear that GLIDE is entering a new era of mobile services so that we can address expanding need and widespread systemic shortfalls. Follow along with us in the new year as we continue to evolve and reimagine the ways that we provide lifechanging support to those who need it most in San Francisco.