Love and Groceries

USFers deliver good tidings all year long


If you’re looking for good tidings this season, look no further than San Francisco’s Groceries for Seniors (GFS). For 16 years, a handful of USFers have led the nonprofit’s efforts to feed the city’s low-income senior citizens.

Each week, GFS distributes free bags of groceries to more than 1,000 seniors. The bags are filled with wholesome food: chicken, rice, bananas, eggs, and more, and delivered to apartments and homes. 

“Most, if not all, seniors we deliver to live on a fixed income,” says David Philpott ’93, Master of Public Administration ’97, GFS president and USF director of employee and labor relations. “We help them stretch their dollars a little farther, which can be a big help — especially during this time of ballooning costs in San Francisco.”

Philpott is one of seven USFers on GFS’s executive board, which includes Shawn Calhoun ’97, EdD ’12, associate dean at Gleeson Library; Kevin Leong ’70, MHROD ’93, associate director of alumni relations; Todd Sayre, business professor; Diane Nelson, human resources director; Andre Russell '10, MBA '12, community service officer; and alumnus Carl Gayden ’98, MBA ’10.

The line is 100 deep

Charles Young has been a GFS recipient for more than five years. A retired senior who lives at Western Park Apartments in the Western Addition neighborhood, Young says he and others look forward to the nonprofit’s Tuesday deliveries.

“It’s a very popular service. There’s always a long line, about 100 of us,” Young says.

A similar number of seniors receive groceries at the International Hotel, a low-income residential hotel at the corner of Kearny and Jackson streets, where the average age of residents is 80, says Diana Pang, a resident services coordinator for Chinatown Community Development Center at I-Hotel.

“Groceries for Seniors really helps offset the residents’ costs so that they can pay for medication, transportation, and housing,” Pang says. “It also brings everyone together and helps to build community, because they all come downstairs to the lobby at the same time on Thursdays to pick up their groceries.”

GFS fosters leadership as well, since rotating teams of seniors manage the intake of groceries, monitor and record who picks up a bag, and follows up with those who were expected but missed — checking on them, Pang says.

Waste not, want not

With just two part-time employees, a program director, and a delivery driver, GFS runs on a shoestring budget and relies on donations from places like the San Francisco and Marin Food Bank as well as volunteers — including USF students.

About 5 percent of GFS’ food is donated by Whole Foods Market on Haight Street, Haight Street Market, and Falletti Foods on Broderick Street. “These are overstock, perishable items that our grocery donors place in bins, and that we pick up four times a week,” says Tom Beaver, program director. “It’s a win-win: Our clients get quality items from these upscale shops and, at the same time, the items don’t end up going bad and getting dumped in the trash.” 

The groceries are sorted and bagged daily at Old Saint Mary’s Cathedral, before being loaded and heading off to where there’s bound to be a line of folks waiting for them.

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