Moms Love

by Jessica Silldorff

I recently had the opportunity to share with two different groups of moms: teen moms at Lindsay Blended Community School in San Diego and a CalWORKs Self-Care group in Escondido. Both groups brought women together to share their successes and challenges of establishing healthy habits for themselves and for their families. Though the two groups were distinct, all of the moms I met faced similar challenges with feeding their kids healthy foods. Some voiced concerns about their kids not wanting to eat vegetables while others had specific questions about how to prep and cook meals with busy schedules.

After seeing a brief demo of, the conversation changed from one of frustration to intrigue and excitement. In particular, the Teen Mom group loved our Pinterest board, especially the Food Fun board where they could find ideas for making veggies look more enticing for their young kids. The CalWORKs Self-Care group loved the simplicity of recipes and appreciated healthy versions of comfort foods, like Baked Flaked Chicken, and dishes that ventured beyond their standard weeknight recipes, like Filipino-Style Menudo.

Both groups were motivated to use because they could immediately find easy recipes that their kids would like and solutions to their challenges for a variety of health-related topics on our Lifestyle pages. The Teen Mom group pulled up on their mobile phones during the presentation, and the Self-Care group eagerly brought up on the computers in the computer lab immediately after my presentation.

Both presentations ended with a Banana Sushi food demo, which was popular with everyone! It's a simple recipe that takes just a few minutes to make and is perfect for a quick breakfast or snack for both mom and kids. As I was packing up to leave, I overheard some of the women brainstorming other ways of making the Banana Sushi, like substituting apples for the banana or dried cranberries for the raisins. Already, was providing solutions to their universal desire to raise healthy families and inspire them to experiment in the kitchen.

Greater Engaging CalFresh Populations with

by Erin Franey

Have you visited the San Francisco CalFresh office recently?  They redesigned their lobby last fall, and it looks great.  There is lots of space for clients to register for appointments, speak with Eligibility Workers, and fill out paperwork.  A recent addition to the lobby are two banners advertising  I collaborated with a team of Eligibility Workers to brainstorm sustainable ways to promote EatFresh to CalFresh clients, and this is our first completed project.  

We have also had two events for staff to encourage them to share as a resource to clients applying for CalFresh. During the first, the EatFresh Eligibility Worker team and I prepared four EatFresh recipes for staff to sample.  They picked their favorite, guessed the ingredients, and then received a dozen recipe cards of that recipe to share with clients.  The second event was a potluck where staff picked their own EatFresh recipe to prepare.

So far the results of our efforts have been delicious and impactful!


Food Smarts Training Program Graduates New Local Agency Representatives

by Monica Bhagwan

  Leah's Pantry Programs Manager Monica Bhagwan and Registered Dietician My Tu Duong teaching students during our Spring 2015 Food Smarts Training Program Workshop

Leah's Pantry Programs Manager Monica Bhagwan and Registered Dietician My Tu Duong teaching students during our Spring 2015 Food Smarts Training Program Workshop

On May 21st and 22nd, Leah’s Pantry hosted its twice-yearly Food Smarts Training Program (FSTP). Our partner, the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank graciously hosted us for two full and engaging days. FSTP is an opportunity for Leah’s Pantry to share the knowledge we have acquired and the curriculum we have developed over the past nine years with other agencies around the Bay Area. The goal of FSTP is to inspire others to lead their own food and nutrition education programming within the communities and agencies that they work. We share both the “WHY” and the “HOW” of Leah’s Pantry’s work, by providing a broader “big picture” context and offering best practices and tools.

The agencies that attended represented the diversity of agencies that work hard to improve the lives of the disadvantaged in the Bay Area. They included staff from Healthright 360, Project Access, Community Grows, Green Streets, Huntersview YMCA, and Urban Strategies. These agencies provide low-income youth, adults, and seniors services and programs such as:

 mental health care, primary health care, and substance abuse recovery services

• health and wellness promotion

• environmental empowerment and education

• employment services

• support to youth and families to find pathways away from violence

• community-building in public housing

Devoting two entire days to attending FSTP (just before Memorial Day, nonetheless!) demonstrated their deep commitment to enhancing the wellness of the communities they serve. Since May, several of the agencies have already begun planning or executing food and nutrition programming. Leah’s Pantry staff have offered support, technical assistance, facilitation assistance, toolkits and material resources to all these agencies.

We believe that Food Smarts programming can be more effective and meaningful when delivered by individuals who have a deeper and longer-term relationship with the workshop participants. Often, the staff themselves are members of the community they are serving and are better able to connect the needs of the community with the program offerings of Leah’s Pantry. When we can pair our facilitation and program management skills with these agencies, the participants can have the best of both worlds. Developing and maintaining these partnerships will allow us to broaden our reach and enhance our understanding of the many communities that can be served by Leah’s Pantry.

Leah's Pantry and's Work with Community Partners in City Heights

guest post by Kelcey Ellis, Programs Manager at Feeding America San Diego 

 A year ago, Feeding America San Diego (FASD) and Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank (JCSDFB) set out together to improve the equity and dignity of food distribution in the City Heights region of San Diego County. With the guiding principle that our clients are at the center of all our work, FASD and JCSDFB seek to provide holistic and coordinated intervention and services to improve the health and opportunities of City Heights residents. As part of the project, the two organizations are investing a variety of resources including technical support, technology and pantry infrastructure assistance, nutrition training and other capacity building tools.

Based on feedback from partners and clients, a primary objective was to reduce client wait times to 20 minutes or less during 80% of distributions, providing a significantly more dignified experience for those we serve and requiring less of their valuable time resources. Three of our top partners agreed to pilot adoption of the Oasis Insights system database. The database collects real-time data to track where and when clients are accessing food assistance and give us greater insight into the needs of the community. In addition, two large distributions set up an appointment system as a method of reducing the wait time for the families they serve.

In order to provide the most comprehensive support to partners involved in the project, a designated project coordinator was hired and has been able to walk alongside agencies on the front lines of outreach efforts. Physical capacity was also increased through additions of refrigerators, freezers, shelving racks, hand trucks, tents, translation services and other resources.

Another way we can impact the health of City Heights residents is by empowering individuals to incorporate healthy eating habits through nutrition education. In partnership with Leah’s Pantry and, our partners in City Heights receive nutrition information such as food label guidance, MyPlate introduction, recipe cards in three languages and nutrition workshops. Ten of the sixteen agencies participated in a “train-the-trainer” workshop, a class led by Leah’s Pantry teaching representatives to effectively deliver nutrition knowledge to the local community. Each participating agency received cooking kits with more than $150 worth of equipment to conduct the trainings at their agencies.

While there are exciting plans and goals for the the second year of this project, change has already begun to take place. To keep agencies abreast of the project, meetings were held to share year one progress, lay out year two goals and allow the three pilot agencies to share their experience during year one with their peers. After attending, other agencies were so inspired and eager to implement Oasis Insights that one meeting attendee shared, “I’m so overwhelmed with the humanity I feel.” We are committed to continuing to facilitate the restoration of humanity and dignity for the families that are turning to their community to help meet their basic food needs.


My 12-Week Internship with Leah's Pantry

by Leone Alston

Hello Leah’s Pantry advocates and EatFresh fans! My name is Leone Alston and I have had the pleasure of interning with Leah’s Pantry during my final semester at San Francisco State University. Through the Health Education Program at SFSU I was fortunate enough to be placed at a site where I could practice my passion of helping others, community involvement and education. The overall goal of our final seminar and internship course is to prepare Health Education students for working in the field, and I can honestly say that this internship and experience as a whole has left me feeling more prepared than ever!

Through Leah’s Pantry and EatFresh, I was able to experience so many great opportunities that have encouraged me to continue giving back to the community that I love. During my time with Leah’s Pantry, I traveled to different parts of San Francisco and worked alongside such diverse groups of people that have taught me one thing: it doesn’t matter where you come from or where you’re going, food is one universal way to bring people together, good food at that. This message resonated with me this entire semester as I shadowed the staff at Leah’s Pantry and listened to them discuss the importance of choosing healthy food options. Or when I listened to participants give each other tips on where to shop for healthier foods.

            The amount of care and preparation that went into every workshop and lesson has been a motivating force that continues to push me in the direction of staying involved with community work. While my time at SFSU has quickly come to a close, my future goals are guiding me to a place of happiness, and that place is to continue serving communities that are in need and to continue fighting for social justice for all. 

Empowering Individuals to Make Healthy Choices and Changes

Empowering Individuals to Make Healthy Choices and Changes

By Monica Bhagwan

While talking about and teaching others about good food is a passion for Leah’s Pantry staff, we also want to know that the knowledge we share improves the lives of those we serve. I am proud to be part of a team that takes our mission of empowering people to make healthy changes in their lives to heart. Rather than merely creating opportunities for learning about food and nutrition, our programs aim to create a setting that inspires participants to make their own decisions and devise their own strategies to live more healthfully. Successful personal change hinges on a person being able to feel a sense of self-determination, capability, and pride. This is the approach we use in order to truly empower our Food Smarts participants.

My 12-Week Internship with

By Jane Esaid

My twelve week internship experience at Leah’s Pantry, working with Erin to promote, has been memorable. It's been an exciting opportunity for me to gain knowledge in my profession of promoting community health and working to improve the quality of life for disadvantaged communities. I have also shared great connection with the staff at Leah’s Pantry, who are profoundly humble and passionate about the work they do for the organization and the people. My experience at Leah’s Pantry proves that the contributions this organization makes on a daily basis inspires and motivates people to keep moving forward. 
From the children I work with to the people I have spoken to, I have learned that communities across the Bay Area share one thing in common: the passion to improve and find progression in the hardest of living and working environments. 

Intern Jane Esaid greeting the public with Leah's Pantry's Sweet Corn Salad and recipe cards at an tabling event.

I have learned so much throughout my time and greatly appreciate all the opportunities I was given. I will take with me all that I have learned as an intern with this organization; from the various workshops to community outreach events I got to be a part of. As a student at San Francisco State University, I hope that once I have completed my degree this Spring semester 2015 in Health Education—with an emphasis on community based public health—that I will be able to continue my work to promote individual and community health, health equity, and social justice. I want to continue to promote healthy lifestyles through focusing on the implementation of educational programs, because what initially drew me to this major continues to inspire me: the people, and they matter most.

Integrating SMART Goals into Nutrition Education

Integrating SMART Goals into Nutrition Education

Last week, Leah’s Pantry hosted its second professional development webinar for nutrition educators, “Dream Big, Start Small: Integrating SMART Goals into Nutrition Education.” Leah’s Pantry Food Smarts training has emphasized SMART Goals for years as a tool for helping workshop participants move towards long-lasting behavior change. We know that without tools such as these to make long-lasting changes, it’s unlikely our participants will replace unhealthy habits with healthy new ones — especially once a workshop has ended. Helping participants set “SMART Goals” addresses this need, but it’s deceptively simple. It can be explained easily: instead of focusing on long-term outcomes like “I want to get in shape,” set short-term goals that are Specific, Measureable, Action-Based, Realistic, and Time-Based. Sounds easy enough, right?

Working with the San Bruno School District

By Alex Neidenberg

This year Leah’s Pantry has the unique opportunity to work with Spanish speaking parents in the San Bruno School District. Working closely with the Wellness Department, we have identified three schools that would benefit from our Foods Smarts Workshops. Belle Air Elementary, our first partner school, ended earlier this month, and graduated fourteen Latino parents from the interactive six-week series.

The multicultural class covered a variety of topics, but focused on how to use the resources in the area to provide healthier meals for young children and toddlers.  Every week, the parents shared stories and common concerns about raising children and how to incorporate physical activity and decrease their amount of “screen time”. As parents of a generation of children raised in front of a screen this was a common topic and parents discussed how they could include their children in cooking and grocery shopping to make eating and dining more interactive. During the six weeks, the parents’ discussion became an informal support group that created a strong sense of community while discussing pressing nutrition issues.

On the last day of class the parents played a jeopardy style nutrition game where they tested their collective health knowledge. Test yourself with the questions below!



What Does It Take to Be a Cooking Teacher?

What Does It Take to Be a Cooking Teacher?

As part of my work with Leah’s Pantry, I teach classes on everyday nutrition and healthy cooking. I pick a healthy recipe that even the most inexperienced cook can make, demonstrate, and talk with participants about to set health goals. One of my favorite things about this work is that every class is different— I may show up to find a room packed with rambunctious elementary school kids, or veterans transitioning from homelessness, or Spanish-speaking moms. The groups may be big or small, chatty or quiet, knowledgeable or not. My job is to read the room and try to offer inspiration to whoever shows up. Webinar Series Kickoff

By Jessica Silldorff

It seems that with each passing month, I am increasingly impressed with the growth of and the eagerness of our partners to use it with their clients. This past year and a half has provided us with many learning opportunities, especially around understanding the needs of our partners. As we work more closely with partners, it has become clear that a nutrition educator might look at using with clients through a different lens than a CalFresh eligibility worker. This sparked an idea to start a webinar series tailored toward specific groups to highlight features of that can help accomplish different goals, introduce successful partner integrations, gather valuable feedback, and provide an opportunity for questions and answers. Our goal for these webinars is to not only reach our partners more efficiently, but to provide concise, clear steps for integrating into programming that reinforce the activities of each organization.

In January, Erin and I hosted our first webinar in this series titled for Nutrition Educators. We highlighted useful features, like searching for recipes by using filters, recipe yield change, Ask a Dietitian, comments on recipes, and how to add a shortcut to on a smartphone home screen to access the website like an app. Guest speaker, Molly Burke from the San Francisco Marin Food Bank, shared her best practices and tips for using with her nutrition educators. In particular, she likes to use the Discover Foods pages with clients to learn more about unfamiliar foods, and regularly uses on a smartphone or tablet with clients for easy access on the go. Like many of our partners, distributing recipe cards is her preferred method for quickly promoting to clients. We followed through on requests for an order form for our print materials and now you can place orders for postcards and posters through the Leah's Pantry website!

The webinar was so popular that we repeated it in February for those who were unable to join the first time. (If you missed either webinar, you can download the slides and watch the recording on our online toolkit.) Between the two webinars, we had participants from 29 organizations serving the CalFresh population in 13 different counties in California!

Curious about future webinars? Sign up for the partner newsletter and you'll be the first to know! Our newsletter also highlights new features on the website, partner successes and best practices, website analytics, and upcoming EatFresh projects.

If you have any requests for webinars, I would love to hear from you! You can email me at

Expanding EatFresh Reach to CalFresh Eligibility Workers

By Erin Franey

This month I spent a day at the CalFresh offices at 8th and Mission presenting to eligibility workers and getting their feedback about the website.

First, the CalFresh offices have recently undergone renovation and look great! The lobby is spacious and much more comfortable for folks waiting for services. Second, the staff who help low-income San Franciscans apply for CalFresh and access their benefits are a committed, thoughtful, and candid group. They had lots of ideas about how to promote EatFresh to clients, from hanging posters in the lobby, tabling with healthy EatFresh recipe samples like spring spread or moroccan carrot salad, and encouraging people to check out EatFresh and its available resources while waiting for their paperwork to process.

All responded positively to EatFresh and saw how it could be a helpful resource to the people they interact with everyday. I'm looking forward to tabling at the CalFresh lobby in the months ahead and implementing other ideas the eligibility workers had for promoting EatFresh.

Connecting with Volunteers: Orientation and Open House

By Kristine Johnson

Volunteers serve as an integral role in our programs, workshops/trainings, special events and fundraising. The gift of volunteer time and special talents helps us continue the work we do within the community.  January 26th we held an orientation and open house at the Leah's Pantry offices to connect with people interested in learning more about the work we do and how they can offer their time and talent.  

Feeding Portero: Promoting Well-Being Through Food and Nutrition

By Monica Bhagwan

Last fall, Leah’s Pantry launched a partnership with Bridge Housing at Rebuild Potrero, a Hope-SF project to renovate Potrero Hill public housing into a vibrant and healthy community. Dubbed “Feeding Potrero,” this unique initiative seeks to promote community well-being through food and nutrition.

In collaboration with the Bridge community re-development team, Leah’s Pantry trained, carefully selected, and hired a catering squad consisting of residents who prepare a communal dinner for the Healthy Generations Project Laid-Back Night family program. Every Wednesday, our staff leads the squad in cooking a nutritious, hearty and family-friendly meal featuring organic produce donated from FarmBox SF. Some of the favorite items on the menu are: Beef and Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie, Pasta with Pesto, Tomatoes and Roasted Chicken, and Egg and Veggie Burritos.

The excitement and momentum around this program has been building since its launch in September. Experiencing a well-prepared and wholesome meal leaves diners feeling nourished and well cared for.

Leah’s Pantry is extremely excited to help support the goals of the Healthy Generations Project: to provide tools for parents to reduce the health impact of toxic stress.

Continuing Our Work with De Marillac Academy

Leah's Pantry has been given the opportunity to continue our relationship with the innovative and dynamic school, De Marillac Academy. Our long-standing partnership with the tuition free school has given us the opportunity to work with vulnerable youth and families in the Tenderloin neighborhood.

Welcoming Veterans Home

Welcoming Veterans Home

Thousands of veterans around the country are homeless, and San Francisco has heeded President Obama's call to house our veterans by 2015.  A groundbreaking project in our city opened its doors on December 1, 2014.  250 Kearny is not just a space for 130 formerly homeless veterans to live, it is a site for community building, healing, and home.  

Volunteer Open House Wednesday, January 28th

New and returning volunteers are invited to join us on Wednesday, January 28 from 6-7pm for an informal Volunteer Orientation and Open House. There are a bunch of ways to get involved with Leah's Pantry, and three pathways we will discuss are assisting at our cooking and nutrition workshops, supporting special events, and partnering on projects (such as, recipe testing and food photography and media). 

Light refreshments will be provided! This event will be held at the Leah's Pantry office, 3019 Mission Street @ Cesar Chavez (San Francisco, CA 94110).

Please RSVP Alex at or 619-920-9268