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Julian Pantry feeding the hungry in San Francisco’s Mission District

February 24, 2012

Over the past three and a half years, thousands of low-income shoppers in San Francisco’s Mission District have been nourished by the work of the Julian Pantry.

The food bank is primarily a ministry of St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church – located at 15th Street and Julian Avenue – and Holy Innocents Episcopal Church, six blocks away. But it is also supported by volunteers from the Community of St. Francis. St Gregory’s, St. Aiden’s and El Buen Samaritano.

The Julian Pantry provides fresh produce to between 200 and 300 needy people in San Francisco's Mission District every Saturday.

Since it opened at St. John’s on June 14, 2008, the Julian Pantry has distributed a full bag of groceries – largely fresh produce, supplemented by dry beans, rice, bread, pasta and canned goods – to between 200 and 300 customers every Saturday morning.

The pantry is run by a dedicated team of volunteers, many of whom were originally customers themselves.

“The Mission District of San Francisco has a core inner city component, probably a 40-block radius of low-income families,” said Ellen French, co-coordinator of the pantry. “Some of them are first-generation immigrants, and some have been living in the Mission for many years. St. John’s has, for many years, offered a variety of ministries in the neighborhood. It was a no-brainer that this would be a wonderful opportunity to offer a simple and free component of that every week.”

Every Saturday, Julian Pantry volunteers begin to arrive by 6 a.m. to set up food tables in the distribution area. The San Franciso food bank delivers a supply of food to the pantry between 8 and 9 a.m. While some volunteers set up the food distribution tables, others cook a healthy breakfast for their fellow volunteers. That’s followed by prayer and fellowship time for the 20-30 pantry volunteers.

A volunteer cook makes breakfast for the 20-30 volunteers who spend their Saturday mornings distributing food at the Julian Pantry.

At 10 a.m., the doors open to begin serving an average of 200 to 250 food recipients. “It’s a bit of an assembly line,” French said. “Folks understand they’ll get a full bag of food.”

The pantry’s yearly budget is about $10,000, which organizers use to cover the costs of staples to supplement the foods received from the food bank.

In addition, organizers are increasingly hoping to engage volunteers to take on a greater leadership role in the ministry. “We’re doing more volunteer appreciation efforts,” French said, “like cooking breakfast for them.” The Jubilee Ministry grant will be used to help offset those costs.

Julian Pantry is one of a number of food pantries to receive $750 Jubilee Ministry Health and Nutrition grants this year. Others include:

St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, City Heights, located in San Diego. The City Heights neighborhood suffers a major lack of food options, with only one grocery store. St. Mark’s hosts a “neighborhood food cupboard” for those who find themselves desperate at any given time during the month. The ministry serves between 30-50 families every month.

Episcopal Refugee Network in San Diego. The network assistant refugees from Southern Sudan, Burma and Bhutan. About 97 percent of its clients live at or below the poverty level, and emergency food assistance is an ongoing need. With its grant money, the network will purchase emergency food cards.

The Matthew 25 Mission, an outreach program of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Ada, Okla. The parish has a monthly food distribution, giving away roughly four to five tons of food each month, serving about 300 families.

• The Community Health Ministry, a Jubilee Ministry sponsored by St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Wamego, Kan. The grant will be used to provide seasonal fruit and vegetables for 75 families.

Caring Association for Native Americans, Denver. This Jubilee Ministry provides emergency relief in the form of clothing, food and spiritual support to critically ill Native Americans and their families, who come to Denver seeking medical care. Last year, CANA provided food and clothing to 52 patients and 130 families members. CANA recently lost a primary food provider, and the grant will be used to replenish the ministry’s food bank.

• The Circle of Page, Page, Ariz. The Circle of Page is the umbrella organization for social ministry and outreach formed by St. David’s Episcopal Church in Page, as well as Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church and Page Community United Methodist Church. St. David’s is home to the Come to the Banquet Food Pantry, open every Tuesday and Thursday. The grant will be used to buy such staples as peanut butter, rice, beans and pasta.

St. Vincent’s House, Galveston, Tex. Since Hurricane Ike devastated Galveston in 2008, the need for food for residents has become especially critical. Since the hurricane, there are no more family grocery stores – let alone any major grocery stores – within a 23 block radius to the bayside of St. Vincent’s on the east, and a 37 block radius south and west. Since August, 2011, St. Vincent’s has served nearly 4,000 clients from its food pantry, with an extra 150 people every month being added to its roles of needy.

El Buen Samaritano Episcopal Mission, Austin. This ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas helps Austin Latino families in need. The food pantry stocks perishable and non-perishable foods and clients receive staples such as milk, bread and rice, as well as canned, frozen and fresh produce, fruits and a variety of ethnic foods. Along with food, clients get nutritional guidance and education, healthy recipes and educational materials.

• St. James Episcopal Food Bank, Brewster, Wash. Brewster is considered a food desert because of its rural location and the extreme level of poverty of its residents. The food bank operates from the basement of St. James church. Food is distributed to the needy once a week on Thursday mornings.

St. Giles’ Emergency food pantry, Pinellas Park, Fla. A social safety net in the community for 34 years, St. Giles’ pantry is an oasis open four days a week, providing food for the homeless and those in need. Special attention is given to providing “easy access” packaging, as the homeless often have limited resoures for food preparation. The grant will be used to expand basic provisions, and the church has a goal of opening the pantry on Sundays as well.

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