A photo of a hand painted sign, with a garden mural and a man holding a basket of vegetables, with the title "Cleo Neslon Community Garden"

A Food Secure Future Is In Sight at Sunnydale With New $1 Million Investment

With new insights from Sunnydale community members and a one-million-dollar grant from the Stupski Foundation, Mercy Housing California (MHC) is taking significant strides towards expanding access to fresh, nutritious, culturally relevant food for residents of Sunnydale, a former public housing community in San Francisco engaged in a resident-led neighborhood transformation.

This new grant will enable Mercy Housing and partners to implement a series of community-driven initiatives like recruiting a green-grocer to the neighborhood and supporting a teaching kitchen in the Sunnydale Hub community center, which begins construction this summer.

MHC plans to use the investment to address the nutrition-based health inequities Sunnydale residents experience, countering historic disinvestment and food entrepreneurship barriers. After partnering with MHC for the past two years, Stupski sees investing in the food security plan at the Sunnydale Hub as a critical part of cultivating a thriving and equitable food system.

“Mercy Housing California is growing food security initiatives at the Hub that are both specific and responsive to feedback from Sunnydale residents. This project will strengthen an ecosystem rooted in community – where fresh, healthy food is both more accessible and actually grows from the ground up,” said Aileen Suzara, Director of Food Security at the Stupski Foundation.

In 2020, MHC engaged in an extensive community engagement process at Sunnydale with support from the Stupski Foundation, resulting in the creation of the Sunnydale Food Security Recommendations Report. Research partners OnSidePartners, SF New Deal, and Urbane Development compiled the report with support from MHC’s Resident Services team at Sunnydale by working with dozens of resident stakeholders to identify the food and wellness goals held most strongly by community members.

The report goes beyond food security and identifies ways to advance “food sovereignty” – meaning that on the path to ensuring food security for every family, MHC will prioritize solutions that put more control in the hands of Sunnydale residents and create food systems that are accessible, affordable, culturally responsive, and healthy.

With these new funds, MHC can begin the implementation of this robust food security plan for Sunnydale HOPE SF, including:

  • Recruiting a small, welcoming green-grocer to operate out of the ground floor commercial space at MHC’s Block 3 residential community, addressing the long distances residents currently must walk, bus, or drive to buy fresh food.
  • Investing in Sunnydale’s beautiful community gardens, supporting residents in harvesting their own produce and herbs, and cultivating the gardening expertise that many residents already hold.
  • Developing a teaching kitchen and culinary medicine program in partnership with Kaiser Permanente, providing cooking classes that honor a variety of cultural traditions.
  • Coordinating with food banks around supplemental food delivery and other resources to make sure all residents can access many options for healthy, affordable food.
  • Using ongoing neighborhood meetings to center resident engagement and evaluation, seeking input from Sunnydale community members on all these projects, and incorporating their feedback into future plans.

Like safe, affordable housing, good food is a basic human right, an opportunity for community connection, and a crucial part of all healthy neighborhoods. MHC is deeply grateful to the Stupski Foundation for its major investment in improving food systems, and to the many resident partners who are boldly pursuing a better future for their community at Sunnydale.

Stupski Foundation is committed to spending down all its assets by 2029 to make the greatest possible change in the places it calls home – the San Francisco Bay Area and Hawaiʻi. Learn more at stupski.org.