Food Runners

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Fresh from the Farmers

by Dennis Curry, Volunteer
Noe Valley Farmers Market Run on Saturdays

Closing up shop at Noe Valley Farmers Market
When I was a kid, my parents volunteered with their church group at a soup kitchen. My dad told me about families in our community that didn’t have enough to eat. A few years back, I helped serve Christmas dinner at St. Francis Lutheran Church and I was struck by the broad swathe of people who joined us – elderly, kids, young adults, pretty much everyone you see in your neighborhood. St Francis’ Sunday “coffee and donuts” bagged lunches for those in need get help from donations delivered by  Food Runners. That was the first I’d heard of Food Runners, so I looked them up. Picking up leftovers from events and organizations and delivering to shelters who server up fresh, nutritious food at no cost to hungry people…a pretty simple, and great idea. So last November, I emailed Food Runners asking about volunteering. A few emails later, I was making my first pickup at Noe Valley Farmers’ Market – and I’ve been doing that run ever since.

 Market Manager Elizabeth and farmers load donations to Dennis's convertible.
I arrive each Saturday as the stalls are being torn down and unsold fruits and vegetables are packed up for donation. Sometimes I leave with a couple of large bags of greens, carrots and broccoli. Other times, my convertible is overflowing with so much with fresh, organic produce…. passersby jokingly ask if I’m on a juice binge or if I knocked off a corner produce store. I laugh and tell them I’m delivering for Food Runners before the light turns green and I continue my delivery. All-in-all it only takes about 90 minutes of my Saturday afternoons but it really makes an impact on me and my friends who help out, on the farmers who really appreciate knowing their unsold fruits and vegetables are helping feed people and on servers who bring daily meals to our hungry community.

Keith, Seth and Frank loading up at the Ferry Building Farmers Market
Noe Valley Farmers’ Market, whose donations benefit the Mission Free Farm Stand, is just one of many farmers’ markets who gather up fresh fruits and vegetables for Food Runners. Some of the others include: the Fillmore Farmer's Market, the Divisadero Farmers’ Markets, the Fort Mason Farmers’ Market whose donations support the Veterans Academy, with subsidized housing for 100 US veterans. And, the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market, where volunteers Keith, Seth and Frank have been doing their weekend run for the last 25 years. In the Food Runners truck, they make deliveries to four different shelters every week. Often picking up as much as 1,000 pounds of fresh produce during summer high season.  All of which gets delivered to San Franciscans in need. I’m glad to be a small part of such a great group of people who know what a little food can mean to our hungry neighbors.

Friday, August 17, 2018

San Francisco's Soup Kitchens

by
Nancy Hahn
Food Runners Dispatcher &
Volunteer Coordinator

It is estimated that currently, there are 7,500 homeless people in San Francisco.  And, the number is growing. Getting enough to eat while living on the street is not easy. Nor is it easy for the working poor. In a city where making under  $117,000/year is as tagged low income, the number of working poor is ballooning rapidly. How do you get enough to eat when you have no money for food? For many, the answer is dining at one of San Francisco's soup kitchens.



  • Glide feeds 1,500-2000 people, breakfast and lunch seven days/week and dinner, Monday through Friday. 
  • City Team offers nightly dinner, Tuesday through Friday and a Saturday "all you can eat" lunch buffet. 150-200 partake on a regular basis. 
  • Fraternite Notre Dame dishes out lunch Monday through Wednesday in their tiny dining room in the Tenderloin. You can find the Fraternite Notre Dame's Sisters serving dinner at UN Plaza on Tuesdays. 
All told, that's a lot of food for a lot of people. You've seen the lines. They often appear to be mostly men. But women, seniors and families are in need too. Hunger does not discriminate and waiting in long lines can be tough, if not impossible for seniors and small children. Shelters like Glide and St. Anthony's provide special hours for seniors and families.



Volunteer Frank R collecting  Saturday Ferry Building Farmer Market donations
It takes the efforts of countless people and agencies to keep the soup kitchens running and able to provide for such large numbers. Food Runners is an important part of the stew, delivering much needed provisions to all the soup kitchens regularly. On Saturdays, the Food Runners truck swings by Martin DePorres with loads of fresh produce from the Ferry Building Framers Market. On Mondays and Tuesdays, the Food Runners truck stops by Fraternite Notre Dame with ingredients to be cooked like eggs, produce and milk donated by Whole Foods. He daily deliveries to Mother Brown's kitchen bringing meat, produce, dairy and even flowers from Trader Joe's. Johnny, the Food Runners Van Driver makes a daily stop at City Team providing catered food from the tech companies to be heated and served in City Team's dining room. When very large donations like 350 gallons of gelato or 30 cases of chicken tenders come in, Food Runners shuttles the food to Glide or St. Anthony's Dining Room.
Food Runners truck delivering to Fraternite Notre Dame
Keeping San Franciscans in need fed is all in a day's work at Food Runners. The importance of the mission cannot be overstated. It is a privilege to be able to help people in need in San Francisco.



Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Growing Needs of Seniors

by
Susan Kobayashi, Volunteer

Volunteer Andrew D. picking food for delivery to seniors
Helping seniors to live healthy, fulfilling lives has been a long-time aspiration of mine.  Until my grandmother’s generation, households in our family were multi-generational.  As family members became elderly and in need of support, they were seamlessly cared for by the rest of the family, particularly the woman and girls in the family.  My grandmother had cared for both of her husband’s parents until their death.  But when she herself became elderly, after my grandfather’s death, she was living alone.  My parents put her in a senior care facility.  She died within a year.

Some facts about seniors in San Francisco:
  • Seniors currently represent 19% of San Francisco’s overall population, higher than the national average.  And that number is rising.  By 2037, there will be 100,000 more seniors in San Francisco than there are today.
  • Many live alone, far from their children.  City polls taken throughout the past decade show that only 24 percent of San Francisco elders had children living within 20 minutes travel, compared with 40 percent in other major cities.  
  • About a quarter of San Francisco's senior citizens are considered poor because they live at or below 150 percent of the $860 federal poverty income level, which equals about $1,300 a month. 
  • Approximately 50,000 seniors do not get enough to eat on a regular basis.

The largest organization to support senior independent living, Meals on Wheels, delivered 2 million meals to 4,500 seniors across the city in 2017.  Along with the delivery of meals, they conduct safety checks every day and offer nutrition counseling, social work such as home visits and referrals to outside services.  They also utilize volunteers to visit with seniors to reduce isolation and assist them with daily needs.  They help with improving home safety by distributing grab bars, smoke detectors, microwaves and refrigerators.


Food Runners helps feed seniors by bringing food to a variety of facilities.  
Currently, Food Runners serves over 35 senior programs on a regular basis including subsidized housing residences like Dorothy Day Community, Mission Terrace, and Sala Burton; drop-in centers such as Curry Senior Center, Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center and Downtown Senior Center and group homes such as Rypin’s House and Golden Gate for Seniors. 

Loading donations at Kaiser for delivery to Zygmut Arendt House
I first became aware of Food Runners and its mission in November of last year through Mary Risley, the organization’s founder.  My first runs were to Mercy Terrace, a facility for low-income seniors.  Taking perfectly good food that would otherwise go to waste and bringing it to those who need it is a way that I can make an immediate impact.  I have served on a number of nonprofit boards but feeding people by making regular and ad hoc runs as well as helping out at volunteer and major donor appreciation events brings me closer to addressing a vital need.  Small as it may be, I want to do what I can to alleviate one of the critical problems created by the increasing wealth gap in this city.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Feeding the Children

by Pat Tucker, Volunteer

They are preschoolers; they are elementary age kids; they are teens. And they are hungry. Our fair city of world-class medical facilities, internationally recognized culture, and more millionaires – and billionaires! - than we can count, has children that go hungry. Really. However, Food Runners delivers food to more than twenty-five programs that serve these young citizens every day. Who are the heroes that care about young stomachs and thus young minds?

Sisters Gladys Harris & Sanra Young, founder of the FrandelJa Center
As it turns out, heroes attend to different facets of the issue.  First, there are the founders of programs to care for the whole child.  Two sisters who saw a need in their Bayview community began the FranDelJA Enrichment Center.  The name is a sort of acronym using the names of four children, but the director told me, to them it means ‘family’.  The center provides childcare for infants, toddlers and preschool kids for whom the food often meets a crucial need of the day.  When the food is plentiful, the director shares it with the families most of whom she knows need help. Additionally, after-school programs with Rec & Park, community centers, and high schools have food available whenever kids are around, much of it delivered by Food Runners. One director of a high school ‘Study CafĂ©’ said that Food Runner brings real food that kids will eat, as opposed to the food supplied by the regular vendor. 

Donations pick up at  Lick Wilmerding High School
Second, there are the donor-heroes who see their excess food as something to be gifted.  More than seven schools donate regularly to Food Runners and  their food goes to other children.  Lick-Wilmerding High School is among these schools and one of my regular runs.  It is often very tempting to pilfer a bit of the rosemary-roasted potatoes or the luscious quinoa salad for my own larder…wouldn’t those teens just as soon eat pizza and Fruit Loops? Let’s hear it for these special cafeteria chefs! I deliver ‘gift’ pans to Edgewood Center for Families and Children, a program for children and teens with behavioral issues.  Thirty percent of Edgewood clients are residents at this wonderful facility; the food never goes to waste. It is indeed a gift. So are the feelings I have when I get there.

Thank you poster from Clara House  kids
Finally, there are the folks that pickup this food and deliver it to the needy kids – that’s the Food Runners Volunteers. All heroes of a sort. Their time, their energy, their dedication…it means kids can eat; they can feel good; they can learn.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Human Touch

By Andrew S. Ross, Volunteer

From my experience of being an on-call Food Runners Volunteer for the last couple of years, I realize that there are so  many service organizations in San Francisco that are feeding those in need. There are hundreds of volunteers who sort the food, prep it, cook it, serve it, or package and hand out as takeaway. Volunteers comprise the human touch, and for them, it’s labor of both love and understanding, sometimes based on direct experience. 

Volunteers set up and ready to go at Haight Ashbury Food Program
“Most of our Volunteers were clients at one time,” said Robert Miles who runs the Haight Ashbury Food Program, a Farmers Market-style pantry of fresh food, groceries and canned goods, which serves approximately 150 people every Saturday. That includes Robert, a former client, who lived in Golden Gate Park for six months. “When you know where they’re coming from, you know what it’s like. You fit in. You want to help them.”

Left: The gate at Martin DePorres
Right: Volunteer stirring the soup at Martin DePorres
                                                                                                                                                                 
In addition to the Haight Ashbury Food Program, Food Runners delivers to a range of providers like:  North Beach Citizens, where Volunteers help sort and distribute food on weekdays to area homeless; All Saints Episcopal Church in Haight-Ashbury where Volunteers cook and serve hot lunches every Saturday; Annunciation Cathedral in the Mission, where Volunteers prep, cook, serve (and clean up after) dinners for the homeless on the third Tuesday of every month; City Team, South of Market, where volunteers sort food donations and serve dinners five evenings a week; St. Francis Lutheran Church in the Castro, where "Sunday Morning Hospitality" Volunteers sort food donations and prepare bag lunches and a hot meal for their neighbors in need;  and Martin de Porres, in Potrero Hill, staffed completely by Volunteers serving up to 200 people from a soup kitchen with breakfast and lunch five days a week and brunch on Sunday.

St. Francis Lutheran Church volunteers prepping for Sunday Morning Hospitality.
Photo credit: San Francisco Cares.
From his experience as a volunteer in the soup kitchen at Martin de Porres since 2004, “‘I came to love the community and by that I mean both the volunteers and the guests,” said Peter Rothblatt, a dance instructor and massage therapist. “Everyone is treated with dignity and respect. And I’ve been able to see and confront my prejudices. I feel I have more compassion as a result.”

Friday, March 16, 2018

North Beach Citizens

by Alexandra Vuksich
Volunteer

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

By 
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.