CA City Opens ‘Free’ Food Market for the Homeless, Costing Taxpayers $5.5M

By: Julia Mehalko | Published: Jun 10, 2024

San Francisco has opened a “free” food market for lower-income and homeless residents of the city. However, some critics have blasted this program, as it is costing taxpayers $5.5 million.

The market was designed to help those struggling in San Francisco to not have to worry about affording food purchases towards the end of the month, when they may be running out of resources such as food stamps.

A $5.5 Million Program

This free store — called the Food Empowerment Market — is located in San Francisco and has just opened up to residents who qualify this past Sunday.

People walking across the street in San Francisco in the daytime in front of trolleys.

Source: Daniel Abadia/Unsplash

Those who are eligible to be a part of the program can receive groceries in the market for free.


Easing Burdens

According to supporters of this program, this marketplace was created to help ease some of the burdens that food stamp holders may have towards the end of the month when their resources are running low.

A close-up of many fruit items on shelves of a grocery store.

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As many people in San Francisco increasingly suffer from food insecurity thanks to high prices seen at grocery stores, the creators of this program are hoping to help out those who may be hurting the most.

A “Supplemental” Program

Geoffrea Morris pushed for this program’s legislation back in 2021. Now that it has officially opened this past weekend, Morris is explaining that this marketplace is only supposed to be a “supplemental” source for people.

Many people shopping for fruit in a grocery store.

Source: Rob Maxwell/Unsplash

“This is a supplemental source for food. Food stamps should be the primary source. This is a supplemental source especially close to the end of the month when families are facing the pain, especially with inflation,” Morris stated.

Helping Those Who Are Struggling

Morris further stated that those who are struggling with food insecurity likely have other problems they’re trying to deal with. This marketplace was designed to help these people.

A dog laying on the lap of a homeless man sitting on the ground outside by his bag.

Source: Nick Fewings/Unsplash

“If you’re having food insecurity you’re having other issues as well and you need to be engaged with the services the city has put in place to improve your life and the life of your children,” Morris explained.

How the Marketplace Works

Upon walking into this “free” marketplace, one can see that it appears to look like a regular grocery store in any city in the United States.

A close-up of many cereal boxes on a grocery store’s shelves.

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However, only those qualified for this program can shop for free here. When checking out, all items are weighed and scanned so that inventory is kept up to date.


Taxpayers Are Paying for This Program

Some critics in California have blasted this program, as taxpayers are paying millions of dollars to offer free food to only some of its residents of San Francisco.

A close-up of many vegetables on grocery store shelves.

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However, supporters of this program have explained that they’re simply trying to help out those who face the most struggles, particularly when it comes to being able to afford food.


High Inflation at Grocery Stores

High inflation seen throughout the United States has caused food items at grocery stores to skyrocket in price in only the last few years.

A person walking through a supermarket aisle with products all around on shelves.

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While average Americans have struggled under these high prices, those who rely on food benefit programs such as SNAP have increasingly had to deal with food insecurity.


San Francisco’s Ongoing Problems

San Francisco has faced certain problems that many other major cities in the U.S. have, especially thanks to high housing costs and high inflation.

A bird’s eye view of the skyline of San Francisco seen during sunset.

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However, this Golden State city has seen even more severe issues within its city limits than other American towns, particularly when it comes to its homelessness problem.


City Programs for the Homeless

For years now, San Francisco has enacted various types of programs, all in an attempt to help solve — or lessen — the city’s homelessness problem.

A homeless man sleeping on the ground outside.

Source: Jon Tyson/Unsplash

Many of these programs have faced fierce criticism over the years. Supporters of these programs have long explained that they’re trying to combat drug addiction and homelessness with these programs — though many disagree with this assessment.


The Latest California Solution

This free marketplace in San Francisco comes only a few weeks after city residents criticized the local government when they learned that a program was offering free vodka and beer to homeless people who were alcoholics.

A close-up of the tops of beer bottles.

Source: Thanh Serious/Unsplash

Many residents were aghast over this program, as they didn’t believe it would help those who were struggling with both addiction and homelessness get better. However, supporters of this program have stated that regimented doses of alcohol could help addicts.


Future San Francisco Programs

San Francisco is considered by many to be one of the most progressive and liberal cities in California — and in the entire United States.

A bird’s eye view of downtown San Francisco seen in the daytime.

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In the near future, as the city continues to deal with its unique problems, people will likely continue to see similar programs attempting to help relieve some residents’ burdens.