Seniors reselling free food from SF pantries


Local food banks around The City report that some senior citizens are accepting free food donations — only to sell the goods later. Need some black market canned peas? You can probably find one or two unofficial “vendors” hawking prepackaged food in UN Plaza.

So is this select group trolling the system, or just what is the big idea here?

According to those running the food programs, this is almost certainly a sign of how bad the economy has become.

“[These people are] selling peanut butter for 75 cents, not filling up their Mercedes,” said Stacy Newman, media manager at the San Francisco Food Bank.

Newman estimated that less than one-percent of the free food recipients are involved in the practice; however, others say the trend has steadily increased during the last few years.

Many of these sellers — commonly elderly women — employ strategic and aggressive tactics in order to get the food: they work in groups, wait in line hours before pantries open and register themselves at multiple sites. Office of Self Help’s Edgar Mercado said he’s received complaints from other clients who say there’s nothing left for them.

One woman, who wished to remain anonymous, explained that she sells her donated food to help pay the bills.

“We don’t get enough money for rent or for daily use,” she said.

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