There is a controversy swirling in the social services sector in San Francisco, and any charity feeding or giving food to the poor should ask themselves: should food pantries “qualify” the clients they serve by asking for ID, proof of need, proof of citizenship? There are funds available from FEMA for food programs, but they come with strings attached. Meanwhile, in a tough economy, social service agencies are struggling with funding, and competing with volunteer-staffed faith-based pantries for limited resources and donations.
The issue stems from a case involving United Way and how they were running a program financed by tax dollars in San Francisco, and how the new required policies conflict with that city’s “sanctuary” law, which requires a no-questions-asked policy for social services.
Thursday’s New York Times story on the conflict over funding food pantries in the San Francisco Bay Area is mercifully light on the clichés that usually accompany reporting about good works by churches. Instead, reporter Scott James tries to examine the issues of power, money, and turf that come into play when different faith-based models for feeding the hungry collide.
The food pantry at St Gregory of Nyssa is part of the inspiration behind the pantry at St Nicholas, which in turn was an outgrowth of the old Supplemental Food Pantry program that was started by parishioners at the former Holy Innocents in Hoffman Estates, which merged with St Nicholas several years ago. The emphasis at both parishes, now joined as one, has always been concern for the hungry, and the St Gregory program is something we try to replicate, although on a much smaller scale. Our emphasis is also on families, especially those who don’t have much access to cooking facilities, although singles are also most welcome. Unlike other area pantries, we don’t have any residency requirement (for example, we’re not just for people who live in Elk Grove Village, but everyone). We don’t ask for ID, we don’t ask any questions about immigration status, we don’t ask for proof of need or limit visits to the pantry. If you need some basic grocery items, and some basic paper products and personal hygiene items not covered by food stamps, come home to St Nicholas on the first or third Wednesdays of the month at 430pm to 630pm.
All are welcome. Todos bienvenidos.