Treasure Island Has a Food Access Problem

Treasure Island's food pantry is one of the few local places residents can get food.  (Courtesy of One Treasure Island )

Treasure Island residents have long felt the burdens of isolation from nearby San Francisco when it comes to food access. In late May, the formal naval base’s residents had a brief stint with UberEats when the delivery service included their neighborhood in its radius for the first time. Just a few weeks later, the company sent out an email explaining that they would no longer serve Treasure Island customers citing Mayor London Breed’s order capping restaurant fees at 15% as a burden on their operational costs. 

Along with Island Cove Market, Treasure Island’s sole grocery store, a food pantry operated by non-profit organization One Treasure Island, remains the primary source of food for residents during shelter-in-place. Started in 2000 as part of a network of pantries supplied by San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, the food bank has seen a surge in demand since the pandemic. According to the One Treasure Island’s Executive Director Sherry Williams, the pantry is serving almost 200 households a week, up from the 85 they typically serve. 

man poses in front of a rainbow
One Treasure Island staff member Alex Francois poses in front of a rainbow. (Courtesy of One Treasure Island)

In addition to geographic isolation, there is an economic disparity for Treasure Island’s 2,300 or so residents as more than half live under the poverty line. “For me, it helped a lot,” said former Treasure Island resident Vu Pham who made use of the food pantry while also serving there as a volunteer. “I saw a lot of community faces. They’re very friendly. They’re happy and grateful.” Pham who’s continuing to volunteer at the pantry recently moved to a different neighborhood in San Francisco and cited Island Cove Market as being an expensive option for him.

But the biggest gap in food access for residents remains access to prepared foods. “For prepared food, especially right now, there’s only one place,” explained Amanda Scharpf who lives on the island and manages the food pantry. “It’s a little bit of a higher price point than maybe some of the quick-stop places you might find in the city,” she said adding that the limited hours also make it so that there is a small window of time where one can purchase warm, prepared meals. “The delivery services, [none] would come out here to Treasure Island,” Scharpf said, noting that recently DoorDash has begun deliveries. “Residents have been fighting for some changes in that.”

District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney who represents Treasure Island has expressed outrage over Uber’s refusal to deliver to the island calling the company’s actions “despicable” and retaliatory against Mayor Breed’s fee caps.

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For now, One Treasure Island is meeting the demands of resident’s access to fresh produce and other food items through the pantry and a free meal program for students that is expected to extend into summer. The organization is also looking to expand its offerings and is surveying residents on their food needs with an emphasis on prepared foods.