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How to Get Food Assistance for Elderly San Franciscans

How to Get Food Assistance for Elderly San Franciscans

Seniors in San Francisco may be eligible for food assistance, including community meals, help with groceries and more! With the soaring cost of living, it’s getting harder and harder to afford nutritious meals but we’ve found organizations that can help.

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Consider these sobering facts about hunger among seniors in San Francisco:

  • 39 percent of adult Californians experience food insecurity, according to UCLA.
  • 1 in 4 San Francisco residents are at risk of hunger, according to SFDPH.
  • Seniors are especially vulnerable because adult members of multigenerational households are more likely to experience hunger, according to Feeding America.

In 2021, food insecurity was more than twice as high for seniors living with a grandchild than for seniors living alone. We know that in households with limited economic resources, adults often ensure children are fed at the expense of their own dietary needs.

Because the City’s cost of living is so high, some residents who would be able to afford food in many parts of the country lack adequate food resources here.

If you or a family member is a food insecure senior, check the list we’ve compiled below for help finding free meals, groceries for pick-up or delivery, and help paying for food.

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Free Drop-in Meals for Everyone

Everyone can eat at the following locations. There is no application process, eligibility screening, or ID required. The only requirement is hunger.

Mother Brown’s Dining Room 

The United Council of Human Services, home of Mother Brown’s Dining Room, is a Black-run non-profit that, for over 35 years, has been providing food, case management, and housing to the unhoused Black community in Bayview – Hunters Point.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE: Everyone

HOW TO GET HELP: Visit the United Council of Human Services website for location and phone number.

St. Anthony’s Dining Room

A long-time Tenderloin haven, St. Anthony’s has been feeding San Francisco’s hungry for over 70 years. Designed to meet people where they are, St. Anthony’s services are available to anyone who needs them. In addition to free meals, you can access free clothing, medical care, addiction recovery programs, pantry items, technology, showers, bathrooms, and laundry facilities, among other resources.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE: Everyone

HOW TO GET HELP: Check the St. Anthony’s website for hours and location.

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San Francisco Food Not Bombs 

Founded in 1980 by anti-nuclear activists in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Food Not Bombs is an all-volunteer global movement with more than 1,000 chapters worldwide. To protest war, poverty, and food waste, the group shares free vegetarian meals with anyone who’s hungry. The San Francisco chapter usually serves lunch a couple of times a week in the Mission and South of Market neighborhoods.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE: Everyone

HOW TO GET HELP: Check the Food Not Bombs website for times and locations.

Martin de Porres House of Hospitality

Known as Martin’s by regulars, this Mission District mainstay is an all-volunteer-run free restaurant that serves a mostly vegetarian lunch six days a week. Inspired by the Catholic Worker Movement, the project receives no church or government funds.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE: Everyone

HOW TO GET HELP: Check the Martin de Porres website for hours and location.

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SFHSA Free Community Meals Database (ID Required)

Find information about free meals at over 30 sites throughout San Francisco with this resource compiled by the San Francisco Human Services Agency (SFHSA). On your first visit to any site on the list, present your ID, and you will get a “gold card” you can swipe to get meals at any other site. If you don’t have an ID, some sites will let you slide, but no guarantees.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE: Anyone with an ID. 

HOW TO GET HELP: Check the SFHSA Directory of Community Meals for Adults or DAS website.

Free Drop-in Meals for Select Seniors

The resources in this section provide free drop-in meals for seniors who meet certain eligibility criteria.

SF DAS Food Assistance

DAS offers congregate meals and home-delivered groceries and meals to seniors, veterans, people with disabilities, and their families. DAS partners with many of the community organizations listed below. Many require a nutrition assessment from DAS in order to access their services.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE: Eligibility criteria vary. Contact DAS to learn more.

HOW TO GET HELP: Visit the DAS website.

Self-Help for the Elderly

Started in the ’60s as part of the War on Poverty, Self-Help for the Elderly began in the City’s Chinatown neighborhood but now serves thousands of seniors at centers throughout the Bay Area. The organization serves meals on-site at its centers and delivers them to people with mobility issues. In addition to its nutrition program, Self-Help for the Elderly offers wrap-around services for low-income seniors, including healthcare, help cleaning, employment services, senior housing, and classes and activities.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE: Low-income seniors. Contact the organization to learn more about eligibility criteria.

HOW TO GET HELP: Visit the Self-Help for the Elderly website.

Free Restaurant Meals (CHAMPSS)

A program of Self-Help for the Elderly, Choosing Healthy Appetizing Meal Plan Solutions for Seniors (CHAMPSS) offers adults over age 60 healthy meals at designated restaurants. There is a suggested contribution of $4.00 per meal. 

WHO IS ELIGIBLE: Low-income seniors. Contact CHAMPSS or DAS to learn more about eligibility criteria and find out which restaurants participate in the program.

HOW TO GET HELP: Visit the Self-Help for the Elderly website for help registering for a CHAMPS card. 

Kimochi Home Community Dining Program 

Established in 1971, Kimochi has a long history of serving Japantown seniors. This nonprofit provides social services, housing support, classes, and activities for San Francisco seniors at four locations across the City. 

The Community Dining Program features a Japanese-style hot lunch each weekday to eligible people aged 60 or older, the spouses or domestic partners of enrolled seniors, or disabled adults under age 60 who reside in Kimochi Home housing facilities. Kimochi Home also offers a Home Delivered Meals Program for those unable to travel to its on-site dining facility.

To qualify, you must complete a nutrition assessment at DAS.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE: Low-income people over age 60 who complete a nutrition assessment at DAS.

HOW TO GET HELP: Visit the DAS  or Kimochi Home website to enroll.

On Lok Mission Nutrition Program

Founded fifty years ago and now a model for senior service providers nationwide, On Lok provides a number of services at sites throughout the city including multi-lingual resource centers, transportation, case management, fitness classes as well as free on-site community meals, and home delivery for homebound seniors.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE: Low-income seniors.

HOW TO GET HELP: To enroll, visit the On Lok website.

Openhouse LGBTQ Meal & Snack Program

Called “Club 75” by its community, the On Lok Community Day Services program, Openhouse offers meals and snacks at its Upper Market location to LGBTQ people aged 55 or over. Contact the program to find out if you qualify.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE: Low-income LGBTQ-identified people over age 55.

HOW TO GET HELP: Visit the Openhouse website.

Project Open Hand Community Nutrition Program

Free nutritious meals at 11 locations in San Francisco. Depending on location, find dine-in options and/or pick-up hot meals or multi-packs of frozen meals for takeout.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE: Seniors 60 years and older and adults with disabilities.

HOW TO GET HELP: Visit the Project Open Hand Community Nutrition Program website.

Booker T. Washington Community Service Center

This Lower Pacific Heights/Western Addition community center offers free meals to parents and guardians of children enrolled in its after-school program and/or people who live in zip codes surrounding the center.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE: Parents and guardians of children enrolled in the Booker T. Washington after-school program and/or residents of 94117, 94115, or 94102 zip codes.

HOW TO GET HELP: Visit the Booker T. Washington website or inquire at the center.

Southwest Community Corporation Nutrition Services

Located in the Ingleside, the SWSCC partners with Project Open Hand to offer lunch daily. For daily dinners, the SWSCC’s in-house chef prepares soul food and Latin- and Asian-inspired cuisine. Dine-in and brown bag options available.

Free meals are among a diverse array of services this organization tailors to the needs of Ingleside seniors. While you’re there, learn about nutrition programs, educational and recreational activities, drop-in social services, and wellness services available here.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE: You must be age 60 or older, live in the 94132 or 94112 zip code, and have ID with an address in one of those zip codes. 

HOW TO GET HELP: Visit the SWSCC website.

SFUSD Free Meals

If you have grandchildren or other kids in your life who attend San Francisco Unified School District after-school programs, you can eat the free afternoon meal if you arrive to pick up your grandchild during meal times. If you arrive while kitchen staff are cleaning up, they will often give away extras.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE: Any adult who picks up a child from an SFUSD after-school program.

HOW TO GET HELP: When you pick up your student(s), go to the cafeteria.

Help Paying for Groceries

Formerly known as food stamps and SNAP, this state food assistance program provides low-income families and individuals with debit (EBT) cards to use at grocery stores, farmers markets, restaurants, and online grocery delivery with Walmart and Amazon.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE: Low-income legal permanent residents of California.

HOW TO GET HELP: Visit the DAS or SF-Marin Food Bank website.

Food Pantries & Free Groceries

Of course, there are many food banks and food pantries around San Francisco that can provide you with free groceries as well.

SFHSA Free Food Locations Directory

Visit the Free Food Locations page of the SFHSA website and click GROCERIES for a list of sites, phone numbers, and eligibility requirements.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE: Eligibility requirements vary. Contact each site for details.

HOW TO GET HELP: Visit the Free Food Locations page of the SFHSA website for phone numbers then call the site you want to visit.

Free Farm Stand

An all-volunteer-run project of the No Penny Opera, the Free Farm Stand at the Parque Niños Unidos garden provides free produce to low-income community members.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE: Everyone – no ID or eligibility screening required

HOW TO GET HELP: Visit the Free Farm Stand website for location and hours.

Weekly Neighborhood Pantries

The SF-Marin Food Bank runs several neighborhood food pantries throughout the city. For most, there is a waiting list. To apply for weekly food boxes, the first step is to visit the Food Bank’s Food Locator. 

WHO IS ELIGIBLE: Anyone who lives in the zip code the pantry serves, and has ID with an address to prove it. 

HOW TO GET HELP: Visit the Food Locator, complete the survey then follow instructions. Sometimes pantries listed as “open” to new applicants actually have waiting lists. Call the number of the pantry that appears in your search to confirm eligibility requirements.

YMCA Food Pantries

In partnership with the Second Harvest and SF-Marin Food banks, six YMCA sites host grocery giveaways throughout the city.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE: Eligibility requirements vary.  

HOW TO GET HELP: Visit the Food Pantry page of the YMCA website for a list of pantries then contact the one you want to visit for information about eligibility criteria.

SF-Marin Food Bank Home Delivered Groceries

This program delivers free groceries each week to low-income seniors and adults with disabilities who have difficulty transporting groceries home due to limited mobility. 

WHO IS ELIGIBLE: You must reside in San Francisco and be a low-income senior who is unable to physically go to a neighborhood food pantry on your own due to a physical or intellectual disability.

HOW TO GET HELP: To apply, visit the Food Bank website.

Monthly Food Box for Seniors

The SF-Marin Food Bank operates the federal Supplemental Food Program (SFP), which provides monthly boxes of 30-35 pounds of food to low income seniors.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE: Anyone over 60 with an income at or below 130% of the Federal Poverty Income Guidelines, ID with a birthdate, and documents like a driver’s license or utility bill for address verification.

HOW TO GET HELP: Visit the Monthly Food Box for Seniors page of the Food Bank website and follow instructions there to apply.

Salvation Army KROC Family Services Basic Needs

This program distributes food on a limited basis. Call to find out if you qualify.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE: Low-income people.

HOW TO GET HELP: Visit the KROC website.

Relief Recap

If you’re a low income senior and you’re finding it hard to afford meals or groceries in San Francisco, there’s help available. Many local organizations offer free food, meals, and support, no matter your situation. Please look at the resources listed above to find free meals and groceries near you, and remember, you’re not alone in this. Help is out there, and reaching out can bring you the support you need to make sure you have access to nutritious food every day. Together, we can make sure everyone has what they need.