Roberto Hernandez standing in front of the Mission Food Hub. Photo by Annika Hom.

Thanksgiving is less than a week away, and on Friday at the thrice-weekly Mission Food Hub on Alabama Street, the line was long and the mood dire. 

Some “95 percent of them have not paid their rent for the last three months; some, up to seven months,” said Rodrigo Duran, who runs the Mission Food Hub for the Latino Task Force.  

The lines at the Mission Food Hub regularly extend multiple blocks, but the line on Friday was exceptionally long, stretching eight blocks to Hampshire Street.

A crowdfunding effort raised more than $123,000 in the first four days, and around 500 Thanksgiving meal kits were already delivered yesterday at a Women’s Building pop-up site.

But Hernadez said finding the 7,000 turkeys he wants to give out has been more difficult than anticipated. They’re still 1,800 turkeys short. 

The 7,000 Thanksgiving meal kits include a turkey, an assortment of fruits, vegetables and other Thanksgiving staples. 

““From the very beginning … I wanted people to eat what they wanted to eat” said Roberto Hernandez, one of the founders of the Mission Food Hub, “A lot of food pantries, they just give you whatever.” 

Hernandez said that he involves volunteers in the decision making process. More  than half of them used to wait in the same lines that they now serve. 

Photo by Annika Hom

Alexander Alvarado waited at the very end of the line just past 10 a.m., when distribution began.

“It’s the first time I’ve been this far back,” said Alvarado, who pushed a stroller with his sleeping two-month-old daughter inside.

Alvarado, who comes to the Mission Food Hub weekly for food for his family, said his usual Thanksgiving celebration, involving 25 to 40 people, will be limited this year to the six in his household.

“With how things are, it’s obvious we couldn’t do anything big,” Alvarado said in Spanish, referring to the recent spike in Covid–19 cases. 

While most within his household were on board with the plan, Alvarado said his mother needed some convincing. She wanted everyone there: the cousins, nieces and nephews, and friends. Alvarado did not and, in the end, his mother agreed to have that celebration at her own home. 

“They’re still going forward with it,” Alvarado said with a sigh.

Mirza Cruz, who was standing in line with her sister, was visiting the Mission Food Hub for the first time on Friday. She had gone to other food distribution centers, but word around town was that the Mission Food Hub gave out some of the best stuff, especially on Fridays. 

The other places, she explained in Spanish, “give out mostly canned food, and I’ve gotten things that are expired.” 

Last year, Cruz had dinner with her housemates including a  woman nearing her 80s who made a turkey so delectable that, even a year later, Cruz still vividly remembered the taste. 

Unfortunately, the woman moved out, and Cruz wasn’t sure who would now take up the monumental responsibility. 

The one thing Cruz is sure of is that she does not intend to have any guests for Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s. After contracting Covid-19 in August, she had  “pain in my bones and my back,” she said. She recalled  “a constant headache” and being unable to eat anything.  

Cruz considers herself lucky that only she and her roommate contracted the virus, as it could have easily swept through her home and made everyone ill, as is often the case. 

The Mission Food Hub will continue to distribute its Thanksgiving kits on Monday to residents who have already registered. Those who have not can drop by on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving. 

Hernandez remains optimistic about getting the 1,800 turkeys they still need. “I believe in miracles,” he said, “because this whole thing is a miracle that we’re doing here.”

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Juan Carlos Lara covers business and development in the Mission. Juan Carlos, a San Francisco State alum, is as much a photographer as he is a writer and previously worked as the campus news editor at Golden Gate Xpress, SF State’s student paper.

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Tweets can be found at @jcl_scoop

REPORTER. Annika Hom is our inequality reporter through our partnership with Report for America. Annika was born and raised in the Bay Area. She previously interned at SF Weekly and the Boston Globe where she focused on local news and immigration. She is a proud Chinese and Filipina American. She has a twin brother that (contrary to soap opera tropes) is not evil.

Follow her on Twitter at @AnnikaHom.

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