Dessert festival gives back to SF-Marin food bank

Felicia Hyde

Hundreds of dessert lovers crowded around tables with colorful confections scattered throughout the gallery space as beams of pink and purple shone across the room. Families and loved ones laughed over candied cocktails, pudding-filled jars and bite-sized cupcakes while the faint aroma of coffee and whipped-cream frosting danced in the air. 


SweetSpotSF, San Francisco’s largest and only dessert festival, partnered with the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank and the SOMArts Cultural Center Saturday to celebrate sweets and give food back to local communities in need.  


“We thought it was a good fit, because it was food and if we’re doing a food festival, it should be food related. And we just really believe in the work they’re doing,” said Milan Clark, co-creator of SweetSpotSF with Samantha Johnston. “They do a lot of great stuff they’ve reached a lot of people and it’s localized. We really wanted to keep it local and give back directly to the community.”


The event collaborated with about 19 businesses ranging from mainstream to Mom and Pop shops to celebrate sweets and provide money for the local food bank. 


“We were approached for the first time by Samantha asking if we wanted to come and have a table at this event at SweetSpotSF because we were going to be receiving a portion of the ticket sales, which was lovely and a surprise to us.” said Debbi Bellush, community engagement manager for SF-Marin Food Bank. 


Last year the SF-Marin Food Bank received $1,000 which was equivalent to 2000 meals, thus for every dollar they received they were able to provide food for two healthy meals. 


Business partners and event organizers Johnston and Clark, both 32 years old, noticed there were many festivals and events within the city, yet nothing simply dedicated just for dessert which they were extreme fans of. 


“We reach out to a bunch of different dessert vendors in the area, either that we know or we just do a lot of online research to find them and kind of build a diverse set of desserts that cover kind of a little bit of everything,” said Johnston. 


Although the event was only been up and running for its second time, vendors of all ages were happy to contribute to the cause. 


“We were lucky to get involved last minute Milan was super helpful and made the last-minute application super smooth and easy,” said Vicktor Stevenson, owner and operator of Gourmonade. We just wanted to be apart of such a sweet event!” 


Unlike Gourmonade who didn’t attend last year’s festival, a fan favorite and another family-owned business, Yespudding showcased their different pudding from custards to bread pudding. 


Owner of Yes Pudding, Quanisha Johnson, was able to sell out of their products last year and continue to sell out of 400 desserts this year. 


“It’s crazy that people have been telling us how we were a favorite last year, like I couldn’t believe it,” said Johnson. 


The festival catered to people from all over, whether that be your average dessert fan to aspiring business owners. People were excited for not only sweets but also contributing to ending hunger within the San Francisco and Marin area. 


“We think that the proceeds going to SF Marin food bank, is a wonderful and heart felt idea,” said Breijana Moss, event attendees and one of the new business owners of M&B Desserts.  “The fact that the proceeds were going to families in need, pushed us even more to attend.”


Among the sold out tickets for the festival, foodies and local volunteers were more than excited to join in on the celebration. Local dessert lovers like Kim and Jade Applegate were more than prepared to attend the festival and purchased their tickets in early December


“We know a number of companies that we work with partner with the SF Food Bank and we volunteer there. So we’ve been there before and we’re glad that the venue also is supporting the cause,” said Jully Kim, an attendee to the festival. “It’s great getting to know local vendors and getting to know all these places we wouldn’t normally pick ourselves.” 


Despite being around for its second year, many hope for more businesses to share their desserts at a bigger venue in the future and allow others to showcase their work. 


“One of my passions is just to create experiences that have to do with food and like collaborating with different vendors and artists and all that. So my mind goes through to creating an event around it,” said Clark. “And one of my favorite movies is Willy Wonka. So I was like can I create a Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory? And it turns out yes you can.”