Food Runners

Friday, March 16, 2018

North Beach Citizens

by Alexandra Vuksich

North Beach Citizens, 1034 Kearny Street

Walking along the streets of North Beach, you can imagine listening to Lawrence Ferlinghetti reciting poetry in his City Lights bookstore, catching a glance at Jack Kerouac or Allen Ginsberg smoking and drinking coffee at Coffee ’n’ Confusion,  breathing in the aromas of Cafe Trieste, North Beach Restaurant, Venetos, Mama’s, Liguria Bakery and the old Tosca’s.  But North Beach is known for much more than it’s food and culture.  It’s legend for its tight sense of “familia”; of community, and no other organization in the neighborhood exemplifies that treasure of the heart better than North Beach Citizens.

Opening its doors in 2001, NBC delivers services to those in need with trust, integrity and respect.  Each week approximately 400 citizens in need pass through their doors to avail themselves of the help NBC is able to give.  Many of their clients are seniors drawn from the surrounding neighborhood and the homeless who are referred to them by local merchants, neighbors, churches and SFPD — all word of mouth.  Whether you need a mailing address, housing, clothing, a place to sleep and clean up, a job or a well balanced meal, you’ll get it and get it quickly at NBC.  Last year alone, they assisted over 500 homeless, served just under 8,000 meals in their community room and distributed 88,000 lbs. of food through their Food Pantry.  And to prove their commitment to North Beach, NBC runs their own Street Beautification Program utilizing client volunteers to help keep the neighborhood’s parks and common areas clean and tidy, collecting about 2,887 bags of trash in 2017. 

Unloading Food Runners donations at NBC

So, how does Food Runner’s fit in to NBC’s vital mission?  “Food Runners are crucial to our program,” asserts Executive Director Kristie Fairchild.  “When we opened our doors in 2001, Mary Risley found us and donated food from her Tante Marie cooking school and ever since then you’ve been central to our ability to provide fresh, well-balanced meals to our clients.”  They appreciate the variety and diversity of the food that’s brought to them as well as it’s superior nutritional value.  It has a direct impact on the health and well being of NBC’s clientele. 

NBC staff sorting Food Runners donations for  Wednesday food pantry.
Wednesdays are especially busy at NBC — it’s the day clients can sit down to share a hot meal, grab staples from the Food Pantry and build friendships in a loving environment.    It’s the heart of a great North Beach tradition — Tutti Mangia!


Monday, February 19, 2018

Letter from The Director

Mary Risley
Food Runners Director

Thank you so much for your financial support this year.  Food Runners is still an amazingly efficient volunteer organization.  For an annual budget of under $400,000, the Volunteers, one full-time truck driver, one part-time driver in his own van, and a couple of bike couriers are delivering enough food to provide 3,000 meals a day to agencies feeding the hungry in San Francisco.  We can’t do it without your help!  The reason we are slowly moving to paying drivers to pick up and deliver excess perishable and prepared food in our city is that the traffic in the financial district and South of Market is overwhelming and many of our younger Volunteers don’t have cars.  We do, however, have a few who deliver food on foot, on a bike, or in a Lyft; but as you know it’’s harder and harder to get around San Francisco. 

Loading the donations at Google SF
Maybe, the young people who work in our booming tech industry are not driving, but they sure are enthusiastic about preventing waste and helping feed the hungry.  In the last few years, Food Runners literally has been picking up masses of food from such companies as Twitter, Google, Zynga, Pinterest, Stripe, Cisco Meraki, LinkedIn and Airbnb.

What happens is that a lot of the tech companies provide food for their employees (and sometimes guests) for lunch and later on in the day.  Sometimes, it is cooked by in-house food management companies such as Bon Appetit Management Co. or Guckenheimer and sometimes it is catered food brought in by outside companies such as Cater2me, Chewse, and ZeroCater . Or sometimes, it is complete individually packaged meals delivered to offices by companies like EAT Club, an on-demand lunch delivery service supplying meals to offices in  the Financial District and SOMA; and Thistle, a subscription home and office meal delivery service featuring healthy, plant based ingredients and pressed juices.  One thing for sure is that it is usually in abundance and delicious with many, many choices.

Donations from Thistle
Food Runners works hard to spread all this incredible bounty to a wide variety of programs including City Team, a program serving nightly dinner in the 6th Street corridor to anyone who comes to their door; North Beach Citizens an organization helping neighbors in North Beach transition from homelessness to housing and from crisis to community and Derek Silva Community, a program for people living with disabling HIV/AIDS that provides the security of permanent, subsidized housing to its residents, allowing them to focus on their medical treatments, relevant mental health issues, and/or substance abuse issues without the threat of homelessness. The ability to serve healthful food to so many more people than ever before means so much to the recipient agencies  

I have been fortunate this summer and fall to be a guest for lunch at LinkedIn; Twitter; and Google (the San Francisco office) and I can assure you, the offerings are magnificent.  Sometimes the employees pay for their meals, but more often they are free.  I also ate lunch at a meal provider called Thistle, which must be a fun company to work for.  I gave talks to the employees of these companies about food waste and food recovery in San Francisco.  Thank you everyone for donating such wonderful, nutritious to Food Runners; and thank you for hosting me!

Donations from Google SF
Where is Food Runners going from here?  We could really use your help!  If you know anyone who is recently retired or between jobs, suggest to them they become a Volunteer for Food Runners.  It’s is a wonderful way to get to know our community and to get a sense of helping others.  And, if you know any looking to donate financially to a worthy non-profit in San Francisco, please introduce them to Food Runners.  We do, indeed, need more financial support to help pay for this modest expansion, in other words the paid drivers and couriers.  Again, thank you so much for so many years about caring about feeding the hungry in our community, Gratefully, Mary.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

San Franciscans Care

By Nancy Hahn
Food Runners
Volunteer Coordinator

The Golden Gate is gorgeous, the hills magnificent and the bay sparkling. San Francisco is beautiful, no doubt. But even more beautiful than its natural wonders are the citizens of San Francisco who care. 

Care package assembly with Lindsay's family.
For the past two Christmases, Lindsay G’s two young sons made bagged lunches to give out to the homeless. This year, Lindsay’s husband’s entire family wanted to join the tradition. As December days grew shorter, the family collected new gloves, hats, rain ponchos, toothbrushes and other amenities for care packages to be handed out along with the bagged lunches. But after attending a Food Runners benefit and learning that there is “tons of food out there,” Lindsay wondered if, rather than buy and make more food, she could set up a plan for the whole family (24 strong!) to do food runs. On December 23rd, Lindsay and family, riding in six different cars, picked up from Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Noe Valley Bakery, all for delivery to Haight Ashbury Food Program.  Robert of the Food Program set up a table in the parking lot where the children in Lindsay's family had the impactful experience of personally handing out the care packages to HAFP’s clients, a large percentage of whom are homeless. 

Care packages ready to go.
Carrie Sullivan, Culinary Programs Manager of CUESA contacted Food Runners in early December. “I have the opportunity to gather some CUESA volunteers together to make a holiday meal at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market on December 23rd, and wondered if there might be a shelter, group home, or drop-in program that might want some delicious food. Can Food Runners also help with pick up and delivery?” At noon on the appointed day, Food Runners Volunteer Michelle S arrived at CUESA’s kitchen for the pick up. The meal was loaded into Michelle’s car and delivered to the Fairfax, a group home for Veterans in the heart of the Tenderloin.

Volunteer Michelle S (left), wheeling CUESA's meal to her car.
Photo by Artie Cortez
“Hey, do you have anyone to pick up lots of food for the nuns on Sunday from here?” texted Chef Tim Stewart of McCall’s  Catering on the Friday before Christmas.  By “lots of food” Tim meant a complete Christmas dinner for over 500 people to be served at UN Plaza by the Sisters of Fraternite Notre Dame. Volunteers Mike K along with Ed S and his daughter Jessica jumped at the chance to make the pick up and delivery.  They met at McCall’s on the Christmas Eve afternoon and transported over 30 lexans filled with Tim’s holiday offering for the multitudes in need who would come to partake. 

Clockwise from top left:
1) Chef Tim preparing lexans for Volunteer Ed S. 
2) Tim and Ed loading Ed's pick up. 
3) Volunteer Mike K and Ed loading Mike's car. 
4) Unloading at UN Plaza.
In mid-December, Volunteer Kelly C called following her regular food delivery to A Woman’s Place Drop-in Center in SOMA. “A Woman’s Place is trying to put together a holiday lunch on Sunday, December 24th. They do not have cooking facilities and are seeking sandwiches, snacks and other easy to hand out type of foods.” Knowing that these specific donations might be in short supply on Christmas Eve, Food Runners contacted Annunciation Cathedral and asked if their parishioners might want to put together donations to fit the need. “We can do it!” exclaimed Christina at Annunciation. Food Runners Volunteer Samantha G picked up and delivered the donation. “Every time I do a run it reaffirms my commitment to Food Runners,” stated Samantha.  “Not only is the food needed by so many, I want to help the people who are out there helping.”

San Franciscans care. It means so much to so many.