COVID-19 food support programs

Learn how San Francisco created new programs to help residents access food during the pandemic.

Before the pandemic, one in four San Franciscans could not access healthy food. That number only increased during the pandemic. Learn how to access food programs. 

The City wanted to reach residents with the greatest risk of hunger and with the highest health risks. So, the City: 

  • Launched new programs and partnerships  
  • Expanded existing services and resources 

The City partnered with many private and community-run organizations. The City supported their huge efforts through: 

  • Funding 
  • Supplies 
  • Transportation 
  • Staffing 

New food programs

The City supported new food programs to help during the pandemic. 

Three of these efforts included: 

  • Isolation and Quarantine Food Helpline 
  • Great Plates Delivered  
  • Meals in Place SF 

The dashboard below reports on their operations from April 2020 through June 2021. Read more information on each program below the dashboard.  

Isolation and Quarantine Food Helpline 

Some people diagnosed with COVID-19 or awaiting test results could not safely access food without leaving their homes. The Isolation and Quarantine Food Helpline helped bridge this gap. It delivered groceries or meals during their isolation or quarantine period. 

Great Plates (Meals for Seniors) 

Great Plates Delivered was a temporary food program that served older adults who needed help to get or prepare food. This program delivered up to three meals per day. 

Local restaurants and food vendors prepared the meals. So, this program also supported small businesses.  

Great plates was created by Governor Gavin Newsom. San Francisco launched this program locally as Great Plates Delivered SF on May 18, 2020.  

Meals in Place SF 

MealsinPlaceSF was a partnership between the City and The Salvation Army. The program prepared and delivered meals to people experiencing homelessness in encampments.  

This program improved food security and minimized COVID 19 exposure. It helped people living outside shelter in place. This program ended in September 2020.   

In addition to this program, the City delivered meals to people experiencing homelessness through the COVID-19 Alternative Housing Program. 

Expanded food programs

San Francisco had a robust food support system already in place when the pandemic hit.  

Government-run public benefit programs help thousands of low-income people access food. The City also has many community partners that help residents access food.  

Together, we adapted all of these programs to the unique challenges of the pandemic.  

For example, we wanted to reduce the number of physical "touchpoints" while people access food. So, some programs: 

  • Transitioned to grab-and-go meals  
  • Provided multi-day food bags in one pick-up  

Four essential food programs expanded their operations in response to the pandemic: 

  • San Francisco-Marin Food Bank Groceries 
  • San Francisco Department of Disability and Aging Food Programs 
  • San Francisco Unified School District Meals 
  • CalFresh (EBT) 

As the presence of COVID-19 decreases in our community, most programs have returned to their original capacity and operations.  

The dashboard below reports on their operations from April 2020 through June 2021. Read more information on each program below the dashboard.  

Food Bank 

The San Francisco-Marin Food Bank is a strong partner in the City’s food support network. The Food Bank supplies thousands of households with healthy groceries each week.  

During the pandemic, the Food Bank: 

  • Expanded its home delivery program  
  • Opened more than 20 “pop-up pantry” sites 

At pop-up sites, anyone in need could pick up a bag of groceries.  

City employees supported this work as Disaster Service Workers by packing grocery bags, staffing pantry sites, and delivering food to vulnerable residents.  

View Food Bank resources near you. 

 
Disability and Aging Services 

San Francisco’s aging and disability food providers serve almost 3,000,000 meals each year. They run communal dining and home-delivered meal programs.  

During the pandemic, more seniors and adults with disabilities needed help accessing food because they could not leave home.  

These community-based organizations needed to quickly expand their capacity and operate safely. Their changes included the:  

  • Transition from on-site dining at senior centers to home-delivered meals 
  • Shift from single servings to multi-day packages of meals 
  • Use of contactless delivery and other safety protocols 

The City provided logistical and financial support for these changes. 
 

San Francisco Unified School District 

SFUSD wants to make sure no child goes hungry. During the pandemic, SFUSD: 

  • Opened 24 sites to provide free grab-and-go meals to all children under 18 
  • Delivered meals to students with disabilities or special dietary needs  

CalFresh 

Each month, CalFresh helps thousands of low-income San Franciscans purchase groceries. It provides monthly funds on a debit card that can be used in grocery stores and other food outlets.  

Applications for CalFresh more than doubled in the first month after the City issued a stay-at-home health order. The increase in applications continued during the pandemic.  

To apply for CalFresh, visit the website