Hunger is a devastating concern the city of San Francisco fights year round, but during the holiday season and with the current state of the economy, it has become even more daunting for many throughout the Bay Area.
The San Francisco 49ers officially kicked off their holiday giving season by volunteering in the warehouse of the San Francisco Food Bank on Tuesday, November 18, preparing Supplemental Food Boxes that will be distributed to 9,600 low-income seniors in San Francisco.
San Francisco natives, wide receiver Jason Hill and cornerback Donald Strickland, along with teammates Parys Haralson and Cody Wallace gave a lending hand to pack food boxes for those less fortunate.
PG&E, a partner of the San Francisco 49ers, also donated time and effort with 12 employees working hand in hand with the 49ers players to pack over 960 boxes throughout the day, which is 10% of the monthly distribution, and also included the 499,999th box that had been packed since the San Francisco Food Bank took over distribution in 2004.
For Hill and Strickland, having the opportunity to give back to the community they grew up in is an opportunity neither of them would pass up.
"It's really important to be giving back to my hometown," said Hill. "It gives us a chance to give back to our area. You can never forget where you come from and anything we can do to help I think is great."
Strickland, born and raised in the Bayview district, expressed similar sentiments.
"This is really gratifying. I know what this city has done for me in terms of educating me and it is always important to help those in need. I feel whatever you put out in the world is what you receive back and if you put out a lot of good, a lot of good is going to come back to you. It's Thanksgiving and we are very thankful so we are going to help some people who need assistance. This is one way we can do it."
The players and PG&E volunteers worked together and put in a complete team effort to box 10% of the Food Bank's monthly distribution in less than three hours. Joining together in assembly line fashion, the two groups of volunteers organized themselves throughout the line and divided the tasks from piecing together the boxes, stuffing them, and taping them closed with the final stamp of approval being a San Francisco 49ers oval sticker.
The 960 boxes will be distributed this Thursday by the San Francisco Food Bank to the housing authority on 18th street and the Clement Towers south of market. 90% of the recipients of the Supplemental Food Boxes are senior citizens with the average age being 72 years old and most of the recipients have been in the program for over 10 years with their sole source of income being Social Security.
This event is a part of the season –long Respect Campaign the 49ers conduct and the initial kick-off event for their holiday giving season. Through the end of the year, the 49ers will be donating time and efforts to organizations similar to the San Francisco Food Bank whose mission is to give back to the community and help a hand in need during the holidays.
Joanne Pasternack, director of community relations for the San Francisco 49ers, discussed the importance of the 49ers season-long community efforts, and specifically why it's so important to give those in need an extra boost during the holiday season.
"It's very important to give back to the community and even more so during Thanksgiving," said Pasternack. "All year we try to make a difference for the homeless and make an effort to end hunger, but in Thanksgiving it becomes really critical because it's a time of greater need when everyone's incomes are stretched to the max. It's important for the 49ers to be here today and we're extremely excited to be packing the 499,999th box of Supplemental Food because we know that we are making a significant impact today and the Food Bank overall has made a tremendous impact on the community."
The San Francisco Food Bank's mission is to end hunger in San Francisco. It works toward that goal by distributing food and advocating for improvement in government food programs and policies. The Food Bank supplies food to nearly 600 nonprofit anti-hunger programs - from senior centers and after-school programs to soup kitchens - providing food for approximately 133,000 people this year. This year, the Food Bank will distribute 33 million pounds of food - enough to provide more than 70,000 meals to hungry San Franciscans every day.