Grocery Bag Giveaway Days

By: James Lin, GLIDE's Co-Director of Human Resources and Organizational Integration and GLIDE team member since 2004.

If you’re a long-time friend of GLIDE, you know that we pack our holiday calendar with celebrations across the many communities we touch. Last week was our Senior Holiday Luncheon, the holiday gathering of GLIDE’s Women’s Center, the Old Navy Shopping Spree for children, and our Adopt-A-Family event, where the families in our supportive housing and our family programs can make special holiday gift requests.

This week kicks off with GLIDE’s Grocery Bag Giveaway Days, perhaps our largest and most logistically complex event of the year. On Wednesday, several thousand people start lining up as early as 3 am to get a complete holiday meal-in-a-bag (hey Blue Apron, don’t be jealous, come join us!). We actually have to close the whole block of Ellis to car traffic in order to make space for everyone, and at the end of the day, we will have given out over 4000 bags.

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Each grocery bag is filled with food to be taken home, prepared and shared with family and friends. It’s a chance to give people the satisfaction of providing a meal for themselves and their loved ones. It’s a celebration of abundance and an acknowledgment that here in San Francisco, we want all folks to be able to celebrate the holidays around a full table if they want to. It’s one of the principles that I learned from Janice Mirikitani and Cecil Williams, our founders: there is enough — enough food and shelter and clothing and love in this city that we don’t need to fight over it. There is enough to share.

This year we are giving each person a choice of whether they want a whole chicken or a canned ham to go with their rice, vegetables, and fruit. The canned ham is a new item: it’s meant for the many people in San Francisco who live in rooms or apartments without full kitchens and who might not be able to roast a whole chicken.

The GBG day is also one where we get a special chance to connect with the many Chinese and other Asian community members who come for a grocery bag. In my first years here, it was such a challenge to give good directions to our many Cantonese-speaking guests that I (a second-generation Chinese American guy) started to regret all those years learning Latin and German instead of Cantonese. Fortunately, our sponsors at Gap and Central Payment Systems put out the call this year to their teams and found dozens of Cantonese-speaking volunteers to help throughout the day. I can already see the relief on our guests’ faces when they encounter a welcome in their native language. Thank you, thank you volunteers! While GLIDE serves many Chinese families and seniors every day in our ongoing work, on this special December day we get to begin a relationship with others who might someday help themselves or their friends in a time of need by returning to this place, where people from all walks of life can come for much more than a meal.

GBag14-157Here’s a secret: while San Franciscans have known for decades about our Grocery Bag Giveaway day, what even insiders don’t usually know is that, on the day before the big event, we actually send another 2000 grocery bags to residents in other neighborhoods of SF. We want to make sure that other

families in need are taken care of; the Tenderloin is not the only community where people are hungry. When the Community Living Campaign (CLC), whose food networking program reaches multiple city neighborhoods, reached out to us a few years ago, we decided to partner with them and other agencies to meet the growing need faced by working families and individuals living in San Francisco.

On Tuesday morning, we will be transporting 500 grocery bags to partner sites serving the Bayview, Oceanview, Lake Merced, Ingleside, Chinatown, and the Western Addition. In addition to CLC, our partners this year include the Chinatown Community Development Center and Jones Memorial UMC. Each of our partners has already identified the individuals and families most in need in their respective communities. At this time in the city’s history where the wealth gap has become so extreme, it’s fantastic to work together with others to make sure that we can lend a hand to the many San Franciscans for whom this holiday season might be a time of struggle rather than excess, and to practice the sharing that says: there is enough for all of us.

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Exactly one week ago, a group of GLIDE seniors completed a six-week Healthy Living workshop with our own Ms. Tina Huang. Here is what Tina had to say about the experience: . "I am so happy that we're celebrating with this gratitude ceremony. Congratulation to the seniors who have completed their healthier living workshop. Within six weeks, our seniors learned how to live healthier by coping with their stress and creating positive changes for their lifestyle. I am very proud of them as they showed an interest in learning and dedication throughout the workshop. I hope they can bring this knowledge and apply it in their every-day lifestyle, as well as share it with those who may benefit from this information." . Congratulations, #GLIDEseniors! #healthyliving #wednesdaywisdom
Thanks to this group of #volunteers from @salesforce for stepping up to the plate and braving the onions yesterday! They prepared lunch for hundreds of diners from the community! . "I think it's a really smart thing for Salesforce to do. Not just talk about it – of course everybody wants to be a part of their community, of course everybody wants to volunteer and support causes, but to actually insist on people coming down here on their first day of training – hey, that's putting your money where your mouth is." - Shan Nichols, Systems Engineering Director (not pictured) . GLIDE relies on 75-85 volunteers EVERY DAY to serve three meals to everyone who walks through our doors. #startyourdaywithservice #volunteersf #foodjustice #givingback #stepuptotheplate @benioff @salesforcejobs @salesforceorg @ggundry @joselynmarie1
Yesterday we were pleased to welcome the #SaferInside Planning Committee to Celebration and a press conference with Mayor @londonbreed! Thanks for all of your hard work & commitment to helping people understand the importance of bringing #safeinjectionsites to San Francisco.

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