SAN FRANCISCO—On Friday May 15, the first drive-thru food pantry opened up in the city of San Francisco. Operated by the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, at least 65 volunteers wearing protective masks served members of the Bay Area community who have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, about 100 food pantries across San Francisco and Marin counties have been forced to close, while the need for such services increased.

The new-drive thru pantry was opened after the pandemic impacted the supply chain of certain foods, such as chicken, rice, and eggs, which tripled the cost of these basic products and made it harder for some to afford.

Food Banker Tina Gonzales explains that right now food banks are adjusting to a new demand while also learning how to adjust to the “new normal.”

“Some of the challenges that we’re experiencing is, it’s a new normal. So we are used to just diving in and doing the work and maybe elbow to elbow with someone. We have to give each other space, we have to wear face masks, we have to wear gloves,” said Gonzales in a video on the SF Marin Food Bank website.

The San Francisco Marin Food Bank has seen a significant increase in the amount of people they’re serving. “Right now, we’re seeing everybody. Not just our normal participants, we’re seeing parents that have their kids home, or a parent who has been laid off, or a bartender who no longer has a job, who’s never come to our food pantry before. So we’re seeing a lot of the community that’s in need, and right now it feels like almost everyone is in need,” Gonzales further explains in the video.

The opening of a drive-thru pantry is the first of its kind in San Francisco, and is a new way to promote social distancing while meeting the new demand that the pandemic has created, with many people finding themselves in need of a food-bank for their first time.

At the drive-thru, a car will drive up, open their trunk, and a volunteer will place two boxes of food inside each car. Each box contains produce and staple foods, and weighs up to 30 pounds each.

According to the SF Marine Food Bank website, 56,000 local households are currently receiving weekly groceries, which is 24,000 more than before the pandemic. Twenty-three new emergency pop-up pantries have been implemented, and 11,000 at-risk seniors are sheltering in place as they have their groceries delivered.

The Food Bank expects the total number of cars visiting the drive-thru to reach 1500 by the end of next week, and will continue serving members of the community until June 5.