Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi
At the San Francisco Food Bank
May 30, 2008
Notes and Photos by Edward Paik
Nancy Pelosi stepped into the volunteer room with smile, stopped at the sight of students and gave a helping hand, sealing a bag of 1lb. pinto beans with a clamp.
Students from the Chinese American International School responded by shuffling beans from bins to bags.
“You enjoying doing this?” Pelosi asked a student.
The student kept shuffling.
The Speaker of the House of Representative visited the San Francisco Food Bank for the first time this morning to talk about hunger in San Francisco and the current economic situation, where food staples have risen in cost over the past half-decade. Pelosi also took time to meet with the 8th grade students and food bank volunteers.
“We try to honor their work with public policy that works,” Pelosi said. “What Congress does in Washington has a direct impact on the food bank’s ability to feed San Franciscans.”
One in four children in S.F. goes hungry, compared to one in five children in the nation.
“San Francisco presents a unique problem to any low income person because our prices are high. Cost of living is high,” said Paul Ash, executive director of the food bank. “If you’re a family in San Francisco and prices go up you just have to buy less, that’s your only choice."
Pelosi addressed the concern, speaking extensively on the controversial Farm Bill, a comprehensive measure passed every few years encompassing domestic farming, renewable resources and alternative energies. The Speaker added that nearly three-fourths of the newly proposed Farm Bill would go to aid 38 million people and the S.F. Food Bank.
“Bringing the Speaker of the House to the Food Bank to talk about the issues of hunger is an incredibly strong statement about how big the problem is,” Ash said.
The increase in the price of food has also affected the S.F. Food Bank, added Ash. The bank signed a contract in January to buy rice at rates from the beginning of this year to avoid price increases, something the food bank has seen in the past three years.
“The food bill has too much assistance in farming,” said Pelosi. “We’ve reduced [farm assistance] by 75-percent. Farming is a small part of the bill, still too big for my liking but it’s on its way out and we’ve been very clear that this is a transition bill.”
Another change in the bill comes in the form of fruits, vegetables and health conscious snacks now available for children, whereas the focus used to be on grains, said Pelosi. The speaker then shifted the context of her speech when asked about the democratic primaries. She expressed cynicism toward the possibility of not have a single democratic nominee by the party’s convention, and pointed out faults of the Bush administration - including rising food prices and hunger.
Lillian Van Cleve of the Chinese American International School helped organize salami and pinto beans in her fourth visit with her class to the S.F. Food Bank. As part of the 8th and 7th grade curriculum, students can choose to volunteer.
“It almost makes us feel spoiled all our lives, we’ve got all this good stuff,” Van Cleve said. “Not only are we helping other people but while we’re here we’re working together trying to do as much as possible to provide food to as many people.”
The S.F. Food Bank runs 184 pantries throughout the city with contributions for an increasing number of volunteers, in aiming to provide food for seniors, adults and children.
“It’s an unthinkable notion that anybody in our society should go hungry. Our country is greater than that, ” said Pelosi.