Hospital food doesn’t get rave reviews by food critics, but I know people who are truly grateful for the bounty that Kaiser Hospital shares with the community. A meal in a Styrofoam tray might look bland/mundane on first glance, but I have learned to see it from the perspective of folks who eagerly wait for the boxes of individual meals that I deliver each Saturday. It is fresh, ready to eat and free. When it is hard to get to a store, hard to afford food and hard to prepare a decent meal, hospital food is very welcome.
I pull into the fifth floor loading dock of Kaiser Hospital off of O’Farrell Street and get buzzed in so that I can wend my way to the Nutrition Department. Two staff members –Victoria and Mark or Emelita and Wayne -- take time out of their regular duties to dash into the walk-in refrigerators and gather up meals that are still fresh but, for a variety of reasons cannot be served to patients. Some days they fill four boxes, more commonly six and occasionally eight or more. The boxes are stacked on carts and rolled out to my car. The trunk, the back seat and even the passenger seat gets packed as needed. There is just time for a quick hello and my heartfelt thanks before I head out to make my deliveries.
I call ahead to say that I am on the way – although residents are each stop usually are waiting as I pull up. The first stop is Zygmund Arendt House, a modest building for low-income seniors on a quiet residential street. Frank and Roger help unload and wish me well. If there is enough food, then I zip over to Arnette Watson Houses on Eddy where Robert and Robert are on the sidewalk waving hello when I pull up. The boxes disappear onto a cart or chair or just their arms before I even can get out of the car and greet them. Always, I am thanked profusely.
The thanks that come my way belong to the staff at Kaiser and to the team that keeps Food Runners running. I am the lucky one: I’ve met nice people in circumstances quite different from mine, I put my car to good use (a kind of carbon offset, I’d like to think) and I know that some bellies will be full for another day.