Groceries for Seniors was founded in 1999 by John Meehan and a group of staff from the University of San Francisco. Groceries for Seniors prides itself on having very low overhead. Our Board members are not compensated for their service, and approximately 12% of our budget goes towards the salaries of our four part-time employees and overhead. In addition, Old Saint Mary’s Cathedral has generously supported us since 2004 with free rent.
Our Staff and Volunteer Coordinators
Executive Director and Delivery Driver
Grocery Distribution Director Emeritus
Grocery Receiving and Inventory Supervisor
Lai Seem "Mimi" Chiang
David Philpott, Founding Groceries for Seniors Board member and President since 2004. Associate Vice President for Labor and Employee Relations at the University of San Francisco. David is also on the Board of Directors for Helotes House of Neighborly Service. Helotes House provides food and emergency utility assistance to thousands of needy families in North West San Antonio.
Wassim Aboukhalil, Graduate of University of San Francisco, volunteering enthusiast
Sean Brooks, Chief Program Officer, San Francisco Marin Food Bank
Shawn Calhoun, MLIS, Ed. D. Dean, Gleeson Library, University of San Francisco
Carl D. Gayden, Chief Financial Officer of LA Family Housing
Kevin Leong, Retired Planned Giving Officer, University of San Francisco
Diane Nelson, Assistant Vice President, Human Resources, University of San Francisco
Nick Ramos, Sophomore at University of San Francisco, volunteering enthusiast
Todd Sayre, Associate Professor of Accounting at University of San Francisco
Cindy Short, Operating Room Registered Nurse
John Meehan, the son of an Irish immigrant, grew up in one of the poorest districts of New Jersey. As a child, John could remember eating ketchup sandwiches because the cupboards were bare at home. Unfortunately, John took the wrong turn in life, became addicted to heroin, and ended up in jail.
In 1976, John had a spiritual experience in a California prison and vowed to quit heroin and help people in need. When released, John enrolled as a student at San Francisco State University. However, after three years of studying poetry, John caught bronchitis, missed his classes, lost financial aid, and became homeless.
While homeless, John enlisted the help of Carl Munger, the principal of Urban High School, to start a soup kitchen called "the Haight Ashbury Food Program." Two years later, the pair founded a shelter for homeless families called "Hamilton Family Center."
After 15 years of serving as the Executive Director of the Haight Ashbury Food Program, John resigned and began planning to open a free pantry program for hungry seniors. In January 1999, Brother Jack Graham, from the University of San Francisco, and John partnered to start the Seniors' Emergency Grocery Bag Program. Today, that program, now known as Groceries for Seniors" provides over 1,000 hungry seniors with a bag of groceries each week.
Sadly, John passed away in November of 2012, but he lives on through the program he founded, which helps many senior San Franciscans.
Our Partnership with Old St. Mary's Cathedral
Groceries for Seniors is blessed to be based out of the basement auditorium of Old Saint Mary’s Cathedral, located at 660 California Street in San Francisco. Old Saint Mary’s welcomed our non-profit to operate out of their building in 2004, and their continued generosity is one of the reasons our organization thrives.
Old St. Mary’s Cathedral + Holy Family Chinese Mission is a unique Paulist Foundation that celebrates cultural diversity, continues the tradition of excellence in Catholic education, and seeks to evangelize in light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the teachings of the Catholic Church. They welcome all who seek to live the gospel while celebrating the generosity of God in Sacred liturgy.
Many Groceries for Seniors frequent volunteers are church members, and Father John Ardis and Father Michael Evernden often mention our work in their Sunday services which continues to encourage more congregation members to help us periodically. Father Michael has also documented our morning grocery building and packing escapades on the church’s Facebook page.
Groceries for Seniors recognize Old Saint Mary’s Cathedral’s historic legacy with San Francisco. We are eternally thankful for their help and guidance, allowing our organization to complete our mission of serving San Francisco’s low-income Senior community.
Our Generous Donors of Food
The San Francisco Marin Food Bank: 90% of the food Groceries for Seniors uses to create the over 1,000 grocery bags we deliver comes from the SF Marin Food Bank. Each week, on Monday and Wednesday mornings, the Food Bank sends us up to 7 pallets containing fresh fruit, seasonal vegetables, pasta, rice, dry goods, and a protein (beef, chicken, fish, or eggs).
This delivery is accompanied with a menu of suggested distribution amounts (2 onions, 4 potatoes, 8 brussels sprouts, 3 apples, 2 oranges, 1 package rice, etc.) for our staff to follow as we assemble the grocery bags.
The grocery bags Groceries for Seniors creates each week are augmented by donations from three wonderful local San Francisco grocery stores, which contribute items from their produce, deli, bakery, dairy, and household goods departments. Our donating grocery stores include:
Whole Foods / Haight & Stanyan store – 690 Stanyan Street/San Francisco. In the heart of the Haight, just across from the entrance to Golden Gate Park, the Haight & Stanyan store’s personnel contribute a variety of goods that complement our bags, including produce, choice canned goods, various bread items, and cookies and pies.
Gus’s Haight Street Market – 1530 Haight Street/ San Francisco. Located at Haight & Ashbury, the Haight Street Market contributes ample fruit and vegetables which enhance our grocery bags. Bananas, apples, pears, plus succulent gourds, artichokes, and avocados are just a few items we receive from these generous folks. Also, their fruit salads featuring pre-cut melon, berry, and other delights are always welcome items.
Falletti Food’s – 308 Broderick Street/ San Francisco. Located on Broderick Street, between Fell and Oak, in San Francisco, this family-owned and operated grocery store is regarded as a jewel to the lower Haight since 1956. A donation from Falletti’s treats our bag recipients to various kinds of cheese, baked goods from some of San Francisco’s choice bakeries, pasta, and a variety of produce including salad selections, various mushrooms, onions, kale, apples, oranges, and mangos.
The combination of these 4 contributors keeps the low-income seniors—who receive our grocery bags each week—smiling when they find something extra they didn’t expect in their bags.