Food Runners

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Saintly Saints August '09

Esther prepares the fruit salad. Ann concocts the savory salad. Pearl boils the eggs; 50-60 of them at a time. Casey lays out the bread. Sheila, Phil and Myron share the head chef duties on rotating Saturdays, planning the menus, choosing the recipes and directing the cooks. Joan, who buys the weekly supplies of plates, cups and utensils (all compostable, thank you) has the most celebrated job of the morning: starting the coffee. All the while, as she has done for the past fifteen years, sweet, petite, silver-haired Lisa directs the entire operation, darting from station to station speaking in her Belgian accented Dutch with her eyes all a-twinkle like a merry leprechaun.

This is the bustling scene you will find on any given Saturday as an all volunteer crew prepares the Saturday Meal at All Saint’s Episcopal Church on Waller in the Haight. For more than 20 years, All Saints has served the local community's poor and homeless population by providing a free, hot, nourishing meal served every Saturday morning at 10:30. They serve an average of 200 meals each week. The majority of the food for the Saturday Meal is delivered by Food Runners.

At around nine o’clock every Saturday morning, immediately after loading up hundreds of pounds of donated food from Trader Joe’s on Masonic, the Food Runners truck, rumbles up beside the pretty, shingled church with the smart white trim. Food Runners weekend driver, Edgar, greets Lisa and the Chef o’ Week with a smile. Edgar loves delivering to All Saints. Lisa and the Chef follow Edgar to the truck to choose what they need from what’s on board, always being careful to take only what they will use, leaving the rest to be delivered to other organizations. A church volunteer loads everything onto a blue cart and wheels it inside where the items get divided into what can be used that morning and, as in the case of meat that can’t be prepared in time for that day’s offering, items to be frozen and used the following week.

The line to partake of the meal begins forming as early as 8:30AM. Just as the Food Runners truck pulls away, a Food Runners volunteer arrives with a load of individual sized loaves of soft, fresh bread donated by the Academy of Science’s The Moss Room. Doors for the meal close at 11:30. The bread from The Moss Room along with bananas (there are always lots of bananas) and individually packaged salads from Trader Joe’s are distributed to folks who arrive late and/or those in need of a little something extra beyond the meal to take home.

When asked if he has a culinary training background, volunteer Chef Myron just smiles and says, “No. I just love to cook and doing this makes me feel so good.” His brown rice and chicken dish is legendary. At the end of the meal, Joan washes all the kitchen towels, aprons and other linens used. It’s a big job. Lisa, the self-dubbed “recycling queen”, makes sure that the trash goes into the proper bins before she checks the freezers so she can start planning for next week’s meal. Lisa is a force of nature, full of passion for her weekly mission. “Food Runners is such a blessing for us,” she gushes. “We could never do what we do without Food Runners. Especially in these hard economic times. And Edgar, he’s an angel. So polite and caring.”

All Saints’ Episcopal Church is aptly named. All the folks who contribute to the Saturday Meal Program whether they be church volunteers, Food Runners volunteers or Food Runners donors, are all saints indeed.

Food Runners picked up 117, 025 pounds of food in the month of June. Volunteers performed 870 runs and the truck did 203. Please welcome July’s 10 new donors including The Box Lunch Company who donated 1,600 pounds of frozen, sliced turkey on their first donation. Also welcome the delicious and nutritious donations from the Ferry Building Market Place’s newest market being held on Thursday afternoons. Last week’s nectarine donation was juicy and copious! Speaking of farmer’s market’s, the Wednesday evening Castro Street Farmer’s Market is now donating enough fresh produce to necessitate sending two Food Runners volunteers in two cars in order to fit in all the donations. Way to go farmers!

Do you know of a business that’s throwing away food? Help them be green and community focused. Tell them about Food Runners. Think how wonderful they will feel knowing that a Food Runners volunteer delivered their excess food to a program like the All Saints’ Episcopal Saturday Meal Program.