San Fran debuts new grocery store where customers don’t have to pay

A government solution to a government-fueled problem sought to transform a California “food desert” into an oasis of free groceries.

Tuesday in the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood of San Francisco, the City by the Bay unveiled a new kind of “market” that brought the grocery store experience to a food pantry. Now, in an area where high crime rates, encouraged by soft-on-crime policies, have driven away businesses, taxpayers are footing the bill for a $5.5 million Food Empowerment Market.

Funded through a grant from San Francisco’s Human Services Agency, The Center Square reported that the 4,000 square foot District 10 Market was the first of its kind in the area and required locals to obtain a benefits card that allowed once-a-month access.

To qualify, residents were expected to be social services clients living in three specific zip codes referred by one of eleven approved community organizations and have dependents under the age of 25 years old or a food-related illness.

“Today, we proudly opened the Food Empowerment Community Market in Bayview-Hunters Point. This new market is a crucial step in addressing food insecurity in District 10, offering free and healthy groceries to those in need,” announced San Francisco Mayor London Breed (D).

“This market will help ensure equitable access to fresh food while providing dignity and choice to our residents, along with a community hub for essential services,” the mayor continued with images from the new facility. “This is another important step in making San Francisco a healthier, more equitable city.”

Speaking with the Square, District 10 Market Senior Consultant Geoffrea Morris expressed, “This is a supplemental source for food. Food stamps should be the primary source. This is a supplemental source especially close to the end of the month when families are facing the pain, especially with inflation.”

“If we didn’t tell you it was free you’d think you’d have to pay,” she suggested.

“If you’re having food insecurity you’re having other issues as well and you need to be engaged with the services the city has put in place to improve your life and the life of your children,” remarked Morris. “We’ve had plenty of chains come in and out of the community. Over my lifetime plenty of chains have come in and left.”

Noting that the neighborhood, listed as a “food desert” by the United States Department of Agriculture due to limited availability of fresh food, was home to a high crime rate, the Square detailed:

“In the first six months of 2019, the area had reports of 143 robberies, 129 assaults, 195 burglaries, 308 motor vehicle thefts, 889 larceny thefts. Those numbers largely declined in the first six months of 2024, in which 78 robberies, 120 assaults, 174 burglaries, 353 motor vehicle thefts, 431 larceny thefts were reported, but business organizations say apparent crime reductions as reported in San Francisco and much of California are from less reporting of crime, not less actual crime.”

“We know that there is underreporting. Since Prop 47 was passed, murder, rape, and robbery increased by more than 20% in the number of crimes. Same holds true for motor vehicle theft which is up 19.8% since the passage of Proposition 47,” said Matt Ross, communications director for Californians Against Retail & Residential Theft

Passed in 2014, Prop 47 has since fostered a culture of theft in the Golden State by, in part, reducing the penalty for theft of goods under $950 from a felony to a misdemeanor.

“The only significant drop is burglary at 30%. So either California is doing an amazing job at stopping burglary when every other crime stat is on the increase, or there is underreporting,” added Ross.

Meanwhile, California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s budget proposal for the next fiscal year sought to take an axe to public safety to meet a $27.6 billion fiscal deficit with an $80 million cut to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, a $15 million cut to Department of Justice and $97 million from court trial operations, all while adding $1.7 billion to the General Fund to the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund.

Social media users couldn’t help but contend the market was doomed to fail from the start and, in typical government fashion, was going about solving a problem from the wrong angle.

Kevin Haggerty

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