Unedited | Cramer Vs. Stewart | Part Three

Unedited | Cramer Vs. Stewart | Part Three

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Part Two | Cramer Vs. Stewart | Unedited

Part Two | Cramer Vs. Stewart | Unedited

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Part One | Cramer Vs. Stewart | Unedited

Part One | Cramer Vs. Stewart | Unedited

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Intro | Cramer Vs. Stewart | Unedited

Intro | Cramer Vs. Stewart | The Complete Interview -Unedited

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Thousands Line Up For Free Food In San Francisco

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


(12-16) 13:47 PST SAN FRANCISCO — Never have so many people waited so long in San Francisco for a chicken.

Not only a chicken, but cans of pears, corn, carrots and tomatoes, plus a sack of pinto beans.

The line Tuesday for the annual grocery giveaway at Glide Memorial United Methodist Church was longer than anyone could remember. It stretched beyond the liquor store on the corner, past a half dozen residence hotels, up and down the aisles of a parking lot and along the far side of the massage parlor. It coiled back on itself like a cobra.

“We may run out of food,” said the Rev. Cecil Williams, who this year appeared to mean it. “The line is all the way around the block, twice over. We’re trying to rush things along so the line doesn’t come back on itself three times.”

Six thousand sacks of groceries were handed out. The first thousand came with a turkey. The rest came with a chicken. A lot of people were willing to show up before dawn in rainy 40-degree weather, to make sure they got the turkey instead of the less weighty, if not lesser, bird.

Four hundred volunteers in red T-shirts began passing out the food at 7 a.m., about a half hour earlier than scheduled. By 8 a.m., the turkeys were gone and it was chickens only.

Williams stood on the sidewalk in front of his fabled Tenderloin church, directing traffic. In the race for the turkeys, a woman in a motorized wheelchair nearly plowed over a woman in a walker, along with Williams.

“Just a minute here,” said Williams. “Take it easy. Please.”

Inside the church, volunteers were loading up the sacks in an assembly line that would do credit to whatever’s left of the ones in Detroit. Sarah Anderson, who was perched on two cases of canned corn while she loaded cans from a third case into the sacks, marveled at the versatility of canned corn.

“You can sit on it and then you can eat it,” she said.

Aaron Harris, who was lifting 48 cans of tomato sauce at a time, said it’s important to do something good when times are bad.

“People are hurting right now,” he said. “It’s good to give back.”

Outside, the line was so long that dozens of volunteers were required to make sure it stayed orderly. There was also a line for the three outhouses that had been set up in the middle of Ellis Street.

At the end of the food line, John Sorensen and a pal, Danny Holliday, were waiting for their sacks.

“Times are tougher than ever,” said Sorensen, an unemployed construction worker. “I used to be able to find some kind of work. Not now.”

Holliday, an out-of-work waiter, said standing in line for free groceries “is kind of a new thing to me.”

“I’m broke all the time right now,” he said. “So this really helps.”

Across Ellis Street in front of Boeddeker Park, recipients conducted the usual swapping. Homeless people without access to kitchens were less than excited about a sack of uncooked pinto beans and more than willing to trade for a can of cooked vegetables. Deals went down by the dozens.

“OK, gimme the beans and the rice,” said one man in a denim coat to another man in a knit cap. “You get the peas, corn and carrots.”

E-mail Steve Rubenstein at srubenstein@sfchronicle.com.

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