Food Runners

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Learning Curve

By Andrew S. Ross
On-call Volunteer


I’ve made more than 60 runs since I started with Food Runners five months ago. That makes me a beginner, so I can’t say I’m speaking from experience.

My first ever delivery, was to Arriba Juntos, a community center in the Mission offering a range of programs for low-income and underserved children and parents in the area. Just one of more than 200 social service organizations, large and small, well-known and lesser-known, a panoply of human needs across the city.


My runs are primarily in the eastern parts: Inner Mission, Potrero Hill, South of Market. Neighborhoods where those in need find sustenance and care, and a respite from the streets: seniors centers like Castro Senior Center, halfway houses like La Amistad, women’s shelters like A Woman's Place, mental health care like Dore Clinic, veterans support like Veteran's Commons, immigration counseling like Valencia Community Center, a part of  Dolores Street Community Services.  Those “having a hard time getting by in society,” in the words of Patricia, the front desk clerk at the All Star Hotel, a 90-room SRO primarily for the homeless in the Mission. “If I didn’t have a job and a home to go to, I’d probably out on the street, acting crazy, too,” said Williams.


So, what am I learning, driving around areas where homelessness looks to be reaching dystopian proportions? That there are an awful lot of people having an awfully hard time in one of the richest cities in the world.  A lot of pain, a lot of people, more than I imagined. Hurting, damaged, physically and mentally, remaining for much of society out of sight and out of mind.

Not, however, to those on the front lines, providing care, sustenance and protection on a daily basis: the paid staff and volunteers, counselors and cooks at the places Food Runners delivers donated food to. To me, they are public servants in the truest sense of the term.

And Food Runners’ 600 donors -- grocery stores like Whole Foods, bakeries like Noe Valley Bakery, catering companies like Knight's Catering,  restaurants like Delfina, high-tech companies  like LinkedIn and business offices like Charles Schwab Corporation -- with a flow  of fresh fruit and vegetables, bread, milk, pastries, prepared meals, creating the first, critical link in the chain of assistance.


“None of it goes to waste, I promise you,” Williams, the front desk clerk at the All Star Hotel assured me.  That included the two sizeable bags of loaves and baguettes I brought from Tartine Bakery, one of the most revered bakeries in town. “Thank you, thank you. We’ll take everything,” a staffer at Golden Gate For Seniors in the Mission said to me, after receiving prepared dishes of curry, rice and salad from Spire, Inc., a health technology startup. “Sweets wouldn’t be bad,” she added with a smile. (Ok, next time, I’ll see what we can do.)

Friday, September 8, 2017

Full Circle

by Susan Ammon, Volunteer
On-Call Runner

I became a Food Runners volunteer over 10 years ago. I heard a public service announcement about Food Runners on the radio and I thought this would be so much fun for my teenage daughter and I to do together as it was a requirement for high school students to do volunteer service. I also thought that this type of activity suited me perfectly as I grew up with a “waste not, want not” belief system.

We did the runs together going to Green’s Restaurant at Fort Mason every Sunday and delivered the food to a variety of places such as women shelters, low-income apartment buildings and SRO’s. We were always greeted with warm Thank You’s and we both felt good afterwards. My daughter graduated and moved on, but I couldn’t put FoodRunners away. I travelled a lot for work so couldn’t have a “regular run” but I was happy to receive a call for a last minute pick-up and delivery in my other child Putt Putt (a 1990 Honda Civic Wagon). Friends visiting from out of town often came on runs with me and we had a great time! In addition, whenever I am at a luncheon meeting or dinner, I try to check in to see if they know about FoodRunners and what great work they do and how they could support them. Spread the word of sharing and caring!

I recently retired from the San Francisco VA Medical Center after 34 years and have a little more time to volunteer.  

Walden House 890
One of my most recent food runs involved picking up the food donations from a large grocery store and delivering them  to HealthRIGHT 360's Walden House. HealthRIGHT 360, serves clients with mental health and substance use disorder issues at various residential and outpatient facilities throughout California. For over 50 years, Walden House has provided primary care, mental health, substance abuse disorder treatment, re-entry and supportive services to those who can least afford it.

Dr. Vitka Eisen
The President and Chief Executive Officer of HealthRIGHT 360 is Dr. Vitka Eisen. She is herself in long term recovery from substance use disorder. "I initially came to Walden House as a client in the mid-’80s. I was a heroin user." After  graduating from the program in 1987, Dr. Eisen ran the high school at Walden House. Over the years, she has served in various capacities at Walden House from director of the prison treatment program, overseeing all of criminal justice programs, to chief operating officer for about five years before being named CEO in 2010. Dr. Eisen has grown the organization to serve over 36,000 people annually. 

HealthRIGHT 360 New Integrated Care Center
In August 2017, HealthRIGHT 360 proudly opened its new Integrated Care Center on Mission Street. The Center provides a model capable of treating all San Franciscans but it is primarily designed to treat low-income patients, and  homeless individuals who can be more difficult to reach. The spacious new Center allows clients to receive comprehensive treatment services under one roof.

Food Runners Delivery at Walden House
Having the opportunity to serve an organization like Walden House by the simple act of delivering food means so much. As I mentioned above, I am a believer in waste not, want not and although I cannot do much about the wanting of food, I can help to prevent the wasting of food!  Thank you FoodRunners for all that you do and allowing me to be of service!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Ground Zero

By Stephanie Galinson, Volunteer
Kara's Cupcakes Main Bakery on Wednesdays


Many consider the Bay Area Ground-Zero for the U.S. food movement. The combination of diversity in its population, agricultural and culinary offerings as well as innovation, and progressive culture, offer the ideal climate for a robust food system.  Yet, for all its promise, San Francisco’s food system doesn’t work for all: one in four San Franciscans are food insecure, with twenty-three percent living at just twice the national poverty level
The San Francisco Sheriff's Department Survivor Restoration Program (SRP) is a powerful example of Food Runners' impact. The SRP helps women survivors of domestic violence to “restore emotional, physical, mental stability to create healthy environment for themselves and their families to heal from the violence of their past.” SRP’s Survivor Empowerment Program (SEP), conducts a weekly group meeting with its clients, many who are coming from work tired and hungry. According to Case Manager Claudia Larios, the SEP program “not only gives the women and their children a safe place, but they are now welcomed with a nutritious meal [delivered by Food Runners]. Having food donated to us not only feeds our clients and their children, it allows our clients to have dinner together with their children, as some don’t have time to go home and cook, and others don’t have enough money to make a meal.”  Larios adds that the weekly food donations also offer new food experiences, encouraging clients to try different foods like Mediterranean, tofu and quinoa. “We appreciate Food Runners and their volunteers for dropping off food to our program and helping our clients,” states Larios, “as it takes a community to help us support our clients through their healing process.”

The Survivor Empowerment program is one a myriad of organizations benefiting from donated surplus prepared foods each week. On Mondays, for the past several years, food from long-time donor Zynga, goes to Derek Silva Community, a residential HIV/AID program. Kevin Feauteaux, Silva’s Support Services Director shared the importance of Food Runners to Silva’s mission. “We’ve seen an actual measurable difference in the health of our clients due to a dramatic increase in their nutritional intake.”
 
My own regular runs, one to tech firm Mode Analytics and one to Bon Appetit Management Company’s commissary kitchen, where meals for several tech firms are prepared and distributed, have been memorable.  I like to corral one of my kids to go along with me, as food runs offer a host of valuable life lessons - learning to navigate the city, understanding who is providing (and donating food), and most importantly, understanding who needs it, and the impact of the donations.  During the school year, we regularly brought food to the Jamestown Community Center after-school program in the Mission. Jamestown works to develop the potential of underserved youth.  As a mother, I know how hungry kids are after school.  I was happy to have my kids in tow, to engage with their peers, for whom dinner might just be the Food Runners donation.

By Friday, as the work week winds down, Food Runners Volunteers are still busy taking prepared food donations food to Recipients like Casa Quezada, a program serving formerly homeless individuals with special needs. While donations are sometimes unpredictable in volume, they are always important supplements to the social service network in San Francisco.

Food Runners continues to remind both its Volunteers and the larger San Francisco communities they engage that, for all its riches, San Francisco is a city where hunger is a daily reality for many residents. Until hunger ends, there is a role for Food Runners and its partners in San Francisco.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

School Days

By Tim Campbell, Volunteer
Ritz Carlton run on Fridays

Hello to all you fabulous Food Runners, clients and donors. My name is Tim Campbell and I’m a retired photographer from the National Park Service (San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, specifically). I’ve been privileged to be a Food Runners volunteer now for about 6 months and I love it!

Sacred Heart donations being loaded up.
Now that the school year is finished, it might be a good time to look at the role of some of the schools that have established relationships with Food Runners.

One example is the Schools of the Sacred Heart (Convent and Stuart Hall). The school’s food service is provided by the Epicurean Group and Food Runners contact is Chef Michael. Epicurean partners with local farmers and suppliers to serve healthy and locally sourced food for their meals.

Additionally, Epicurean and Chef Michael also provide the food for Hamlin School which is located on Broadway here in the City and donates to Food Runners as well. 

Acre Gourmet is also well represented as a source of nutritious food. Emily, from Katherine Delmar Burke’s School, Cameron at Cathedral School and Marissa at Bay School are the respective contacts for Food Runners.

Donations pick up in progress at Cathedral School
Lick Wilmerding High School, Director of Food Services, Solana Diaz started the Food Runners donation program herself and is very dedicated to the FR organization.

St. Anne’s School in the Sunset District began a Food Runners donation program as a way to teach students about giving back to the community. Their donations provide food for Metropolitan Fresh Start House, a community-based program designed to assist homeless veterans.

Solana at Lick Wilmerding passing donations to Food Runners
Food from school programs often go to other children’s programs. For example, food from Lick Wilmerding goes to the Edgewood Center which supports youth and their families through life’s challenges with a full range of behavioral health services. Food from Immaculate Conception Academy (which donates twice a week) is distributed to kids at St. Charles School while food from Sacred Heart Schools often finds its way to Back On Track. The Richmond District Neighborhood Center donates lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, among other things, to Argonne Elementary School, also located in the Richmond District.

Food Runners celebrates its 30th Anniversary this year and we thank all the schools and school districts that have become such an integral part of our mission that, food that might otherwise be wasted, is instead used to nourish the community and its children.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Special Delivery

by Darryl Chinn, Volunteer
Regular Runner

Grocery store donations awaiting pick up by Darryl
Greetings to all fellow Food Runners and donation pickup and drop-off clients. I am Darryl C.  I am a retired Army veteran, volunteering with the Food Runners organization for about 3 years (Thank you Dave for bringing me aboard and Nancy for guiding me with excellent directions).  It has been one of my beneficial coping mechanisms in dealing with PTSD. 

Unloading donations from Darryl's pick up truck
During my weekly Sunday drop-offs at HealthRIGHT 360's Walden House, which is known as 'the mother ship of the HealthRIGHT 360 locations in San Francisco," (there are two more smaller sites located at lower Hayes St. and on Buena Vista St. in the Haight among others), one will experience assembly line efficiency when delivering. It seems like “Santa elves” stream out from the huge building to offload the donations.  They have to do it quickly because you are offloading in a marked Muni bus zone.  You will always hear them give you a hearty “Thank you” plus a warm smile.

Darryl and Vera unload at HealthRIGHT 360 "Mother Ship."
During the week, I have met Danny, the Executive chef of all the HealthRIGHT 360 locations. I see Vera, the kitchen manager on the weekends at the Mothership and “Big Al,” the kitchen manager at Buena Vista on the weekends. We happened to know some of the same folks in San Francisco. That's part of the beauty of Food Runners. How it creates community.

Unloading with Lisa at the Neighborhood Food Program at All Saints'
For my Saturday drop-off at All Saints Episcopal Church on Waller St., I always look forward to my “bear” hug from Lisa M. who organizes the meal for the Neighborhood Food Program, serving a hot dinner for up to 200 guests in need every Satruday. She may be small in stature, but she exudes a bubbly personality bringing out the sunshine in everyone. All Saint's volunteer, the dependable William “Bill” V., rivals the abilities of workers at the grocery stores I pick up from in the transfer of donated items. 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Celebrating Food Runners, Then and Now


by Barbara Deutsch
Member of the Board of Directors of Food Runners

In April of 1987, I responded to a two-line blurb in the SF CHRONICLE food section. It asked readers to come a meeting about providing more food to San Franciscans in need. I’d been wanting to do something to help the growing numbers of people I was seeing in our streets and doorways. But what could I do? What I attended turned out to be the first meeting of Food Runners, where I met someone who had the answer to my question – Mary Risley. Mary’s idea was to pick up good wholesome food that was going to waste and share it with people feeding those in need. Zero cost - just the time and travel of willing Volunteers - very simple and very smart.

Thirty years later, three of the women who met that evening– Mary, Elizabeth Boileau and I – are still thrilled to be Food Runners. As committed Donors and Volunteers yourselves, you know why we’ve stayed with it all these years. The experience of doing something so basic, useful and connected to the community is always new and satisfying. Seeing the pleasure in the eyes of donors and recipients makes us all feel like a million bucks!

The happy look of a food run.
Our beautiful 30th Anniversary Celebration at the Ritz-Carlton last month captured what Food Runners is all about: screams and hugs as past and present Volunteers reconnected - cheers and ovations for everyone who lends a hand. Amazing food-themed hats and caps created by our own costume designer, Nancy Hahn.

Mary Risley                                             Nancy Hahn
At the dinner, In the front of the room were the supporters of Food Runners, particularly those who had given $1000 or more.  Also present were Volunteers, who were asked to stand, then sit, reflecting their years of service; and Donors of food, Zynga Twitter and Salesforce. 

After dinner, Mary and Nancy were honored for their total of forty-five years of incredible service. We are so lucky to have these two forces of nature: Mary as our guiding light, Nancy as our on the ground coordinator. Their hard work, enthusiasm, encouragement, persistence and daily cajoling have made Food Runners what it is today!

Mary addressing the crowd at the 30th Anniversary Celebration
America has finally begun to catch on to the Food Runners concept, and more and more organizations across the country are delivering good food that would otherwise go to waste. So many thanks to all of you for starting an important national trend, and for helping to change the world one bagful, one boxful and one trayful at a time.


Saturday, April 1, 2017

Keith & Co.

by Jacqueline Kelley, Volunteer  
On-call Runner
Food Runners truck ready for the Ferry Building Farmers Market
Once, the Hog Island Oyster Bar at the Ferry Building had huge sacks of leftover oysters to donate to Food Runners. Knowing that he couldn’t deliver loads of raw oysters to shelters, Food Runners Volunteer Keith Goldstein automatically thought to distribute the oysters out to the farmers who had donated food to thank them for their generosity, and everyone enjoyed fresh oysters as a payment for their kindness.

Keith receiving donations from Far West Fungi
This is one example of what has made Food Runners volunteers Keith and his partners Seth Archaya and Frank Ryan so famous at the Ferry Building Farmers’ Market. I once covered for Keith and Seth on their usual Saturday afternoon Ferry Building Farmers Market jaunt. I knew I was substituting for a really special group when I saw the look of dismay on some of the farmer's faces when I told them the usual guys were off for the day. As they put it: “where’s the guy who yells ‘bring out your food’?”

Click HERE to see Keith & Seth in action
After moving from England, Keith got started in the US as a house painter, and ultimately built up his own construction company, Everest Waterproofing and Restoration Inc., which repairs historic buildings in the city and around the Bay Area. Keith and Seth met when Keith traveled to the Himalayas and hired Seth as a mountain guide. Years later, Seth got his green card, moved to the US and started working for Keith. Seth’s wife, who is from Kathmandu, joined him in the US five years ago, and they now live next to Keith in Potrero Hill with their two kids.

Team Keith (from left): Keith, Frank, Seth
Keith, Seth and Frank have been a Food Runners volunteer team for over 20 years, taking the big Food Runners truck to the Ferry Building Farmers Market every Saturday. Before Keith was known for his signature  “bring out your food” call, he went to a Taste of the Nation event and signed up to be a volunteer for Food Runners founder Mary Risley. A few weeks later Mary called him and said, “we got enough people to sit in committees, are you any good at picking up food?” He started running food by himself with one of his pickup trucks shortly after.

One Saturday this month, I met with the guys and followed them as they circled the Farmers Market and picked up leftover food. What struck me was how happy the farmers were to see them — many of the farmers described them to me as family. After we picked up a good load of food, we drove it to the Hamilton Families Shelter Program in the Tenderloin, where the chef chose what he wanted to cook for the families staying at the program.

Keith collecting donations at Neighbor Bakehouse
From there, we traveled to Neighbor Bakehouse in Dogpatch, which was honestly one of the best bakeries I have ever been to (the owner gave me four different pastries to try, and each of them were incredible). The wonderful thing about riding with Seth and Keith was talking to them not only about Food Runners, but also about San Francisco and how it has changed, how to improve the city, our travels, and our families. That community feeling is what makes Food Runners the organization it is.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Saturday Morning Special

by Adam Teitelbaum, Volunteer
Trader Joe's Masonic Run on Saturdays
 


Donations stacked and waiting at Trader Joe's Masonic
A few years ago I was doing a story for KALW radio on San Francisco’s goal of Zero Waste by 2020. I discovered that one of the largest waste categories was food waste. It turns out that 40% of all food produced in the US is wasted. I had no idea.

I interviewed Mary Risley, founder of Food Runners for that story. She pointed out that a lot of that wasted food was edible and should be donated instead of diverted to the compost bin. “Keeping food out of the compost and donating it to feed hungry people is way more better than turning it into dirt.”

Shortly after that story aired, I started volunteering for Food Runners. At first I filled in on small runs, collecting donations from a small grocery in West Portal and delivering  to a women’s safe house in the Sunset District. Eventually I started my Sunday morning pickups from Trader Joe’s on Masonic and Geary and delivering to the Haight Ashbury Food Program.

Carmen preparing the donations.
That Trader Joe’s location has been donating to Food Runners for 19 years. TJ’s donates everything from cases of blueberries and raspberries to leg of lamb and kosher brisket. They also donate a lot of fresh fruits, eggs and vegetables as well as bread and cakes. Especially useful to folks that live on the streets are the wide variety packaged ready-made salads. Carmen at Trader Joe’s gets the donation ready for me every week and sorts them into cases to make it easy for me to fill my van to the brim.

Unloading Adam's van at Haight Ashbury Food Program
I can honestly say that my food run is definitely a highlight of my week. Needless to say, I feel major gratitude and joy in knowing that I can help out my community in such a needed way. THANK YOU FOOD RUNNERS!!!

If you are looking to volunteer in your community I strongly encourage you to contact Nancy at Food Runners. You will be richly rewarded.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Nutritionally Sound

By Mary Bond, Volunteer
Kaiser Run on Mondays

Several years ago during a YMCA Presidio hike, I happened to have a chat with a woman who told me about Food Runners.  I think I’ve seen her once since that conversation. But thanks to her, a random stranger, I have a satisfying volunteer job that exposes me to interesting people and their jobs as well as sending me to areas of the City that are not included in tourist agendas nor were they a part of my own normal City browsing.
A couple of years ago, after some time as a fill-in, I began a regular run to the Kaiser Permanente Hospital on Geary Boulevard. Wow. They had boxes of amazing and beautifully packaged food, ranging from desserts and breakfasts to dinners and lunches. All of this was food that they were required by hospital regulations to dispose of but was still perfectly good - and would be for several more days! 

Typical Kaiser donation
OK, not gonna lie. One reason I agreed to this run was the easy parking spot. But, the donated food soon became my focus. It’s packaged in a way that makes it easy to consume - remember “TV dinners”? That also makes it easy to transport - especially thanks to the terrific Kaiser employees who pack them into boxes and truck them out to my car since, for safety reasons, only Kaiser employees are allowed access to the kitchen. Luckily, I have a Subaru Forester that provides plenty of flat space for all the donations. In the end, I knew that I was very privileged to be a part of the process that rescued all this food.

Kaiser staff readying the donations
Kaiser has been a Food Runners donor for over 15 years. What a great commitment! Recently I spoke to Priya Prabakar, Manager of Nutrition Services, about the motivation behind these donations and how she feels about Kaiser being an essential component of Food Runners’ mission. She shared with me that giving back to the community is very gratifying and important in all walks of life. Avoiding food waste is a rewarding benefit all around, especially for San Francisco's large population of people in need, who are provided with a meal they might otherwise miss. This food contains the appropriate nutrients for many different diets - such as heart disease or diabetes - as well as a regular diet. It’s the Kaiser Nutrition Department's, way to ensure that good, nutritious food is not only used, but used in a community that has very limited access to nutrition.

Loading the donations at Kaiser receiving area
The Iroquois Hotel on O’Farrell Street receives Kaiser’s donations on Mondays. It’s a five story, historic (1913) building operated by the Community Housing Partnership. As an SRO, it provides 74 units for low income residents, so when multiple boxes of food are delivered, everyone benefits. I love the little verbal exchanges I have with a resident who helps to unload the food. I go away with a smile and so does he. It’s difficult to leave a small amount of food for a large number of people. But thanks to Kaiser Hospital, I don’t have to!