Grocery Questions and Food Insecurity

Grocery Shopping Questions

Q: Can I buy groceries? 

A: Yes. The shelter-in-place orders make an exception for grocery shopping, which is considered an essential activity.

Q: Are grocery stores totally out of food?

A: No. Some larger grocery stores are running out of certain items like toilet paper, instant noodles and rice, but many smaller neighborhood stores and ethnic grocers in particular are often fully stocked. In some cases, popular brands of certain products like cereal are sold out, but there are usually alternates available.

Q: What kinds of foods should I buy?

A: It’s good to buy a mixture of nonperishable items like canned beans or rice and fresh produce since it’s healthy and not in short supply. Look for fruits and vegetables that will last more than a few days in your kitchen, like potatoes, cabbages, onions, apples, carrots, squash and beets. Frozen produce, like spinach or peas, are a great way to get a little bit of color into that pasta sauce or curry from your pantry. Don’t forget cooking basics like vegetable oil. No matter what, it’s still a good idea to wash your hands before preparing or eating food, and to wash produce as you normally would.

Q: Are grocery stores limiting the number of customers who can enter at once?

A: In some cases, yes. Some Bay Area Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods locations, for example, have been limiting the number of customers allowed in the store at a single time, while other stores imposed no such limitations. The orders required stores to enforce “social distancing,” maintaining a 6-foot separation between shoppers including in lines. In countries like Italy that locked down, that led to long, spaced-out lines in front of stores, which we may see in the Bay Area, too.

Q: Can I get grocery delivery? 

A: Yes, many grocery stores offer delivery, but there are delays on popular delivery services like Amazon Fresh and Instacart.

Food Insecurity Support

USFCA basic needs

USFCA food pantry

SF food pantries

SF food bank response to COVID-19

Richmond neighborhood center

As a follow up to our Food Pantry Advisory Committee conversation, I am sharing information that I received from Yves Xavier, Neighborhood Services Program Manager at Richmond Neighborhood CenterHe was very open and enthusiastic about supporting USF students.  Below is a summary of services that the organization provides. Students can contact Yves directly if they want to access any services at 415-751-6600 x201 or

Food Pantries

Mondays: George Peabody Elementary School Yard (7th Ave between Clement and California). Operates from 4:00-5:00pm, new sign ups happen at 4:30pm
Tuesdays: Lafayette Elementary School Yard (36th Ave between Anza and Balboa). Operates from 3:30-4:30pm, new sign ups happen at 4:30pm
Thursdays: The Richmond Neighborhood Center (741 30th Ave). Operates from 2:30-4:00pm, new sign ups happen at 4:00pm
Details: We serve anyone who lives in zip codes 94121 or 94118. If you do not live in those zip codes we can assist with sign up and submission of an application and then the applicant will get sorted to the pantry closest to their zip code.

Emergency Food Box (EFB)

Can be accessed at the Richmond Neighborhood Center anytime Monday-Friday from 10am-5pm. An EFB can be utilized one time between January 1 and December 31 of each year. It is designed to support a household of any size for up to 3 days. There are options for folks who do and do not have access to cooking materials (i.e. a stove, microwave, etc)

Cal-Fresh Application Assistance

Our staff can assist folks through the application process for Cal-Fresh benefits (formerly known as food stamps). The process is a bit lengthy so if students do want to sign up for application assistance I recommend they email or call me directly so I can take them through all they would need to bring to their appointment. We can assist English, Cantonese and Mandarin speakers.

One Richmond Food Program Office Hours

We will have English and Cantonese/Mandarin translation available to help with the sign up or utilization of any of the above mentioned programs on Friday's March 27 and April 3 from 1:15-4:00pm. This will take place at the One Richmond office (802 Clement St.).