News Briefs: Project Open Hand gets $1.4M in federal funds

  • by Cynthia Laird, News Editor
  • Wednesday February 1, 2023
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Project Open Hand CEO Paul Hepfer. Photo: Courtesy Project Open Hand
Project Open Hand CEO Paul Hepfer. Photo: Courtesy Project Open Hand

Project Open Hand has announced that it will receive over $1.4 million in federal funding to support its efforts to provide life-saving, nutrition intervention services to its clients.

The nonprofit agency first started out providing nutritious meals to people living with HIV/AIDS in San Francisco, and then also offered groceries. In recent years it has expanded its mission to include meals to people with other serious illnesses in San Francisco as well as Oakland in Alameda County.

According to a news release, the new federal funding will help improve Project Open Hand's infrastructure, including, but not limited to, purchasing new delivery service vehicles, adding a mobile pantry vehicle, and upgrading kitchen and preparation equipment.

Paul Hepfer, chief executive officer of Project Open Hand, stated that the funds were allocated to the agency by Congressmember Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), who previously served as House speaker.

He added that the funds will "ensure that our programs and capacity continue to reach those in critical need of the medically tailored meals we provide."

Pelosi stated that the agency is an important part of the local safety net.

"The new federal funding headed to San Francisco for critical community projects like Project Open Hand is a major victory for families in our city," she stated. "This investment in Project Open Hand's mission to provide nutritious 'meals with love' in our communities will help ease food insecurity and advance Ruth Brinker's vision of a hunger-free San Francisco."

Brinker, a straight ally and grandmother, founded Project Open Hand in 1985. She died in 2011 at the age of 89.

The agency currently prepares 2,500 nutritious meals and provides 200 bags of groceries daily to sustain its clients, according to the release. It utilizes the services of more than 125 volunteers, according to the release. A spokesperson, citing figures from the agency's 2022 annual report, stated that there are 3,773 clients in the wellness program in San Francisco and Alameda counties and 3,080 in the community nutrition program in San Francisco only, for a total of nearly 7,000 clients.

The release stated that the planned improvements that will be made with the new funding come at a time when the organization's services continue to rise and requests for meal deliveries from clients continue to grow.

Project Open Hand's funding is part of a larger $30 million government package aimed to help San Francisco neighborhood-serving organizations, the release noted. It was announced by Pelosi and signed into law December 29 by President Joe Biden.

For more information on Project Open Hand's services, go to

"Tiger and Eagle's War," by Kekun Ouyang, Oak Center Towers, Courtesy of Art With Elders  

New SF art exhibit highlights seniors
"The Power of Creativity and Community" showcases over 90 original paintings and drawings made by seniors participating in the Art with Elders program from many programming sites and community partners located throughout San Francisco and the Bay Area, according to a news release.

The exhibition is organized into four groups: Art with Elders' 30th annual exhibit and Art with Elders Over the Years: Works from the AWE Archive, as well as artworks collected by artists participating in the AWE Senior Bridge Project: Mental Health and Social Connection, and in classes at Laguna Honda Hospital, the release stated.

Each artwork is accompanied with a portrait of the artist and information about their life and experience. LGBTQ artists are included in the exhibition, an arts commission staff member told the Bay Area Reporter.

The San Francisco Arts Commission Galleries has partnered with Art with Elders on two previous occasions at City Hall, once in 2001 and again in 2012.

"The San Francisco Arts Commission is honored to once again partner with Art with Elders for this joyous exhibition that allows us to engage and uplift members of our elders community in ways that empower creativity, build community, and foster a sense of pride about the journey of aging," stated Ralph Remington, the city's director of cultural affairs.

Art with Elders was founded in 1991 and has brought creativity and connection to 12,000 older adults in 75 senior communities across the Bay Area with its free or low-cost art classes.

"While encouraging and maintaining life-affirming community connections, AWE remains a powerful tool in the fight against social isolation by empowering our too-often disenfranchised elders to be seen and heard," stated Art with Elders Executive Director Mark H. Campbell.

Dr. Grant Colfax, a gay man who's the city's health director, noted that Laguna Honda residents have long enjoyed Art with Elders programming.

Laguna Honda, the nation's largest publicly run nursing home, was recently the subject of a scathing federal report and decertified after regulators found it in a "state of substandard care." The San Francisco Chronicle recently reported that city officials, including Colfax and Mayor London Breed, have asked officials to extend their moratorium on mandated transfers of the hospital's frail patient population, which is due to lift February 2.

In addition to the opening reception, which is free, there are several public programs in conjunction with the art exhibition. All take place from noon to 2 p.m. in the SFAC Main Gallery at the Veterans Building, 401 Van Ness Avenue, Suite 125. "The Role of Arts in Building Social Connection" will take place Saturday, April 1; "Inclusivity and Accessibility: San Francisco Cares" will be held Tuesday, May 23; and "SFDPH Laguna Honda Hospital: Hidden Healthcare Gem" is scheduled for Tuesday, July 11.

The exhibit itself will remain on display in the North Light Court through August 25.

Oakland Zoo to reopen Friday
After 29 days of closure due to a massive sinkhole resulting from the recent rainstorms, the Oakland Zoo will reopen to the public Friday, February 3.

A news release stated that repairs are near completion, in collaboration with the city of Oakland and private contractors, on the 40-foot sinkhole caused by a collapsed culvert located under the vehicle entrance to the zoo (at Golf Links Road).

Starting Friday at 10 a.m., people with reservations will be able to visit the zoo, as well as attend the zoo's popular nighttime lantern event, Glowfari, that evening. Glowfari, originally scheduled to conclude January 29, has been extended through March 4, the release stated.

During the zoo's closure, staff have continued to care for the animals and maintain the grounds. The release noted that the volume and velocity of water flowing across zoo grounds caused incredible soil erosion, eucalyptus trees to fall, flooding in various buildings, and overwhelmed drainage systems.

Tickets and member reservations for regular daytime admission and the Glowfari lantern program are available at

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