Food Runners

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Partners in Good


The planning began in mid July.  Ashley called the San Francisco Food Bank.  The Food Bank referred Ashely to Food Runners.  Following the initial connection, "I'm so glad we found each other" became the refrain between Ashley and Food Runners.

This  year's Outside Lands Festival dominated the western end of Golden Gate Park from  Friday, August 12th thru Monday, August 14th.  An  average of 60,000 concert goers attended each day.  That's a lot of people in need of sustenance which was largely supplied by food vendors like Let's Be Frank,  American Grilled Cheese Kitchen and many more. In addition, the event's tech crew of over 150 required three fully catered meals daily.  Altogether, that translated into a mountain of prepared food that generated a mountain of leftovers.  Without Ashley and Food Runners, all that surplus food would have likely gone to waste.

Ashley delivering trays to vendors
Ashley Hillis, creator of the Zero Leftover Initiative, designed for events just like Outside Lands, had already cut her teeth doing massive food rescue at the Bonnaroo Festival held in June in Tennessee.   After working with Superfly Presents, the company that puts on Bonnaroo, she was invited to San Francisco to do recovery at Outside Lands.  Once on the job, Ashley was looking for a San Francisco agency to partner with for Outside Lands.  Food Runners was the perfect fit.

After many email and phone exchanges discussing logistics, on site operations got underway on Thursday, August 11th when Ashley met with Food Runners for a "walk through" of the Outside Lands sprawling set up.  Food Runners and Ashely met with Chef Steve of Chef's Touch Catering before supplying the food vendors at the various meadows with containers in which to place their leftovers for each evening's 10PM pick ups  to be performed by volunteers.

Ashley with FR truck drivers Dave and Kacie
At 10AM the following day,  the Food Runners truck, armed with security passes commandeered by Ashley, made its way around the Polo Field's track to the backstage catering tent for the first pick up of leftover crew food.  Food Runners' truck drivers, David and Kacie, loaded up trays of yummy lasagna, chicken, and potato gratin before taking off to resume their daily route.  By noon, hoards of folks were streaming into Golden Gate Park.  Purple hair, tie dyed shirts and flounced, full skirts abounded.  Highly amped strains of rock n' roll shattered the quiet neighborhoods west of Crossover Drive.  Outside Lands had begun.  All three loud, crowded, foggy, cold days of it.

Volunteer Bill W. piling up the donations
For three days in a row, the Food Runners truck arrived at 10AM to pick up the leftover crew food. For three nights in a row, the Food Runners truck came back at 10PM to pick up the vendor donations. For three nights in a row a small crew including Food Runners volunteer Bill W., his daughter Sarah, Ashley's mom Lisa and Ashley's sister Whitney all met Ashley at 9:30PM to collect the vendor donations. This involved Ashley wielding a golf cart from vendor site to vendor site while Bill, Sarah. Lisa and Whitney retrieved whatever the individual vendors had to offer.  Bill reported Ashley's driving skills to rival those of Danica Patrick!  "White knuckles all the way," he chuckled.

Sisters Whitney and Ashley on the job.


The overall donations averaged 30 trays per pick up.  That's 60 trays a day over three days.  At an average of 10lbs per tray, the grand total comes to approximately 2 tons!  That's 2 tons of nutritious food that went to San Franciscans in need instead of the garbage.  Rock on, Food Runners.  Rock on!  In addition to the food, Ashley also recovered boxes of useful items from event sponsors like Garnier Fructis.

One night's haul in the back of the FR truck
A thousand thanks to Ashely Hillis without whom the scope of the Outside Lands pick ups would not have been the same.

If you're outside of SF and want to learn how you can get involved with event/festival food recovery, please reach out to Ashley Hillis ashleyhillis@me.com. Or follow her food recovery adventures via Twitter @ashleyhillis.

The  Food Runners word is out!  More and more businesses are  doing it! Please welcome new donors West StudiosMerakiUva EnotecaSpurHipmunk and Crosslink Captial.  Wow!  Do you know what your office or local market does with their leftovers?  Tell them about Food Runners. Donating good food to those in need is just a phone call away at 415-929-1866.

Food Runners is now on Facebook and Twitter!  Check it out.