On a typical day, Manon Fisher, Utility Specialist for Business Strategy and Performance for the SFPUC’s Wastewater Division, serves as a liaison for the agency’s asset management and capital planning programs. She works closely with various groups within the SFPUC as well as other City departments to integrate policy direction, affordability and asset management needs, to prioritize capital investments and demonstrate value to San Francisco water and sewer ratepayers.
But, for three straight weeks, Fisher served as the Feeding Unit Planner at San Francisco’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) out of Moscone Center, set up in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. When called into duty, Fisher admits to feeling a bit nervous with the thought of going to work at Moscone Center every day with hundreds of other people.
“Once I got there and saw all the fantastic work that everyone was doing, I immediately realized that I was in the right place,” said Fisher.
She helped put in place a system to support mass-feeding efforts taking place across San Francisco.
“Before the assignment, I didn’t realize just how many people in San Francisco were food- insecure,” explained Fisher.” On a good day, before COVID-19, over 170,000 people in San Francisco were reliant on food assistance programs. Now, we’re dealing with a crisis on top of a crisis.”
Due to the shelter-in-place order, and the need for social distancing, nonprofits who usually undertake these existing feeding efforts, were struggling to get food to the people who needed it the most. Fisher says with her planning expertise, she was able to quickly match the challenge with a solution. Because the City has a large fleet of vehicles, and many employees who can drive, she developed a pool of staff, who are also disaster service workers (DSWs), to help deliver meals.
“At the end of my three-week deployment, we were up to approximately 1,000 meals delivered each day through this pool of disaster service worker (DSW) staff,” exclaimed Fisher.
She explains what was unique about this Feeding Unit was that it brought together many City departments and other partner organizations like the Food Bank, Glide, Project Open Hand, St. Anthony’s, Mother Brown’s and Meals on Wheels, to support a coordinated goal of providing greater access to food, particularly for San Francisco’s most vulnerable communities.
“Despite working 10-12 hours every day in an extremely fast-paced environment, my experience at the EOC was really empowering,” recounts Fisher. Fisher shared she felt like she was able to directly contribute to the city with immediate results to immediate problems. “I was humbled to work with other passionate, motivated and capable public servants. Everyone came together to help solve a common problem and it didn’t matter what classification you were, which department you came from, or how long you had been working for the City – everyone was in it together and willing to put in the work to get the job done. There was a true sense of camaraderie!”
Fisher strongly encourages everyone who can do so, to serve as a disaster service worker, when one can immediately see how their work directly impacts those in the community.