Little old ladies set up shop selling ‘free’ food on streets of S.F.


A Tenderloin Station officer is at one of the food sellers' popular spots, and he doesn’t allow them to stay. Photo by Lenny Limjoco/Central City Extra.

With the Heart of the City Farmers’ Market gearing up across the street at 8:30 a.m. on a recent Wednesday, six elderly Asian women line up their wares across the front of the Grant Building and entreat pedestrians, calling softly: “Buy. You buy.”

Canned Bartlett pears, bagged carrots and onions, boxes of Land O’ Lakes American cheese, packages of whole-wheat bagels, jars of Algood peanut butter, dried beans, sesame crackers and squat cans of evaporated milk were neatly displayed at their feet, along with grape juice and orange juice in plastic liters — clearly food obtained from community agencies’ free distribution programs.

“One dollar,” one of the women told a sidewalk shopper. That was the going price for most items, some of which bore a marked notice: “Not For Retail Sale.”

The women are a mid-Market Street phenomenon, on the scene the past year or so, operating at U.N. Plaza, on Market Street at Seventh, and at the corners of Mission and Sixth and Seventh streets. Sometimes, there’s only one, typically two or more are together, with six to eight in tandem on farmers’ market Wednesdays.

Read the complete story at Central City Extra.

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