Food Runners

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Stars Under the Stars

The evening felt special right from the moment I miraculously found a parking space a mere block from my destination.  The fog that threatened to shroud the entire city in its cold, damp blanket couldn't quite push past the hills surrounding the Castro.  A circle of clear, darkening sky hovered above the bustling neighborhood.  A crescent moon smiled down from the middle of the circle. A bright star twinkled next to the moon.  Magic was in the air.

 For months I'd heard about how wonderful the  Castro Street Farmers Market pick up was.  Last Wednesday, I went to see for myself.  Food Runners volunteer Ora S. and her husband Dan H., a truly renaissance couple who'd done the run often, arrived right on schedule.  They parked their trusty, dusty but not quite rusty 1982 Volvo station wagon on the corner of Beaver and 16th.  They stepped out of the car bubbling with excitement. The Castro Farmers Market was their favorite food run.

"What's first?" I asked.  Dan showed me where to get a cart. "There's always a ton of food," he said.  "The farmers here are so generous. It's just fantastic."  "Sometimes we bring our son along," Ora chimed in.  "Once the car was so full that Dan and Nathaniel had to walk home!"

We wheeled the cart past a table overflowing with fat, ripe heirloom tomatoes in many shapes and colors. Perfect produce fanned across the tables at every booth. "Wait a second," Dan said stopping in his tracks when Vidal of Bautista Ranch waved him over.  "I forgot  the books," Dan fretted. With that, he ducked back into the Volvo returning with a stack of children's tomes that he'd authored. "I hope your kids like these," Dan remarked as he signed the volumes. Vidal thanked Dan before piling several boxes of succulent plums on the cart.  "We've loved getting to know all the vendors," Ora elucidated.  "It just makes the job more fun.  They are such an interesting and diverse group and they care so much about giving back."

As we strolled past table after table of amazing organic fruits and vegetables, farmer after farmer stacked donations onto the cart.  We made numerous trips back to the Volvo.  Happy Boy Farms donated beans and broccoli.  Far West Fungi donated tender mushrooms of several exotic varieties.   Saleem at   East and West Gourmet gave tubs of delicious hummus as well as bolanis and more. "I'll bring those writings I promised you next week," Dan told  Saleem shaking his hand.  "Saleem is Afghani and we've been exchanging philosphy," Dan explained.

"Avez-vous quelque chose ce soir ?" Ora asked the silver haired vendor from Crepes & Brioche as he packed up his truck.  Oui, oui," he replied handing down several bags of crusty, aromatic baguettes.  "He doesn't speak any English," Ora informed  me.  "How lucky that you and Dan speak French," I observed in admiration.

After we'd made the rounds of all the vendors, we returned to the Volvo to load up. We stuffed every nook and cranny except Dan and Ora's seats. Ora tried to close the back hatch, but it wouldn't latch.  "Dan," she implored. "I need your muscle."  Dan placed his shoe on one of the boxes and gave it several healthy shoves.  The hatch closed at last.

I followed Dan and Ora to the Father Alfred Center in SOMA for the delivery.  The Father Alfred Center is a live-in drug and alcohol rehabilitation program providing a "safe and supportive environment in an urban residential setting."  The clients were waiting for us with smiles and had the Volvo unloaded in minutes.

In an email to me a few weeks previous to my tagging along,  Ora summed up the Castro Market run like this:  "The vendors were amazingly generous.  The wagon was packed to the gills with the most gorgeous peaches, beans, breads, cheeses, tomatoes, eggplant, flats of strawberries, kale and on and on.  The delivery was very easy.  Totally life affirming."  Totally life affirming.  Ah, the beauty of Food Runners!

Food Runners picked up and delivered 114, 320 pounds of food during the month of September.  Volunteers performed 846 runs and the truck did 222.  Please welcome September's new donors Town School for Boys, Foods by Jude, and the Divisadero Farmer's Market.  Many, many thanks to Tante's Special Events and Catering for all their great donations following  a slew of September's outdoor events and festivals such as Opera in the Park, Tour de Fat, Now and Zen, Folsom Street Fair and more.  Thanks as well to Green Mary who encourages food vendors at street fairs and other local outdoor events to donate their excess food to Food Runners.  Look for Green Mary and her crew the next time you attend such an event.  They will be by the dumpsters sorting the compost from the recycling from the garbage in an effort to alleviate waste.

Holiday season is almost here and that means parties.  Parties here, parties there, parties everywhere.  Want to give your hostess a truly unique and inspired gift?  Tell her about Food Runners and give her a beautifully wrapped box with a card inside displaying Food Runners phone number, 415-929-1866.  You'll be giving  her the opportunity to do something meaningful when the party's over.  And if you're the host, give yourself the same gift.  Either way, your holiday spirit will soar.