Food Runners

Monday, August 5, 2019


By Tim Campbell 
Food Runners Volunteer and Advocate
Tim Campbell picking up food donations at Mollie Stone's on California St.
Food Runners is dedicated to collecting surplus perishable and prepared food and distributing it to those who DO want and need it. We help people survive the daily struggle that life can often present. I have been volunteering with Food Runners for more than 3 years. I do several food runs each week and also help Food Runners by representing the agency at community forums. We can be proud that Food Runners is doing its part to help the planet. We are part of a growing global effort to reduce food waste. Every ounce of food we share is an ounce that is kept out of our landfills. Food Runners new director, Linda Murley, and I were privileged to participate in the Master Food Preserver event and panel discussion in Half Moon Bay recently. What we learned astounded us. Special credit must be given to the other panelists, Zia MacWilliams from the Second Harvest Food Bank and Laura Moreno a PHD candidate studying food waste, for their incredible contributions to the discussion.

-90% of the food wasted in the U.S. ends up in landfills-
Food Runners truck picking up large donation.

Landfills are not designed to take dumped food and break it down. The mountains of garbage you see in these dumps actually inhibits decomposition. Underneath the surface layer of these mounds there is virtually no oxygen for the survival of the bacteria that is needed for decomposition. In fact, the opposite is true. What is actually being generated is methane gas which is a greenhouse gas 20 to 25 times more harmful to the ozone layer than carbon dioxide in terms of trapping heat in the atmosphere. We learned that it can take as much as 25 years for a head of lettuce to decompose in landfill!

-800 million people are starving in the world, 40 million in the U.S. alone-
Ferry Building Farmer's market donations.
 Food that would otherwise go to waste. 
One of the truly alarming facts shared at the meeting had to do with the enormous amount of household food waste in America. Encouraged by marketing behemoths to buy, buy, buy the average person wastes 238 pounds of food per year (21 percent of the food they buy), costing them $1,800 per year. I know that going forward I’ll be even more vigilant in keeping food waste out of my black garbage bin. I hope you’ll join me in that effort.


Runners Hint: Keep a large garbage bag and/or a small box in your car for redistributing food from large or heavy donations.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Food Runners Goes to the Grocery Store

by Mark and Fred Sherman, Volunteers
with Linda Murley, Food Runners Executive Director

Volunteer Fred arriving for pick up at  Mollie Stone's
Food Runners has many donation partners in San Francisco: restaurants, bakeries, caterers, tech cafeterias. Among our most generous donors are local grocery stores: Bi-Rite Market, Gus’s Community Market, Mollie Stone’s, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Whole Foods has been donating perishable food to Food Runners for 22 years.

Food Runners Volunteers, through their service to others, convey community to recipients. Recipients like Hamilton Recreation Center and All Saints' Episcopal Church in the Haight.

Food Runners deliveries at Hamilton Rec Center (L.) and All Saints' Episcopal Church (R.)
Food Runners father and son Volunteer team Fred and Mark Sherman shared their experience from a recent food run they did together picking up donations from Trader Joe’s and Mollie Stone’s.

“What struck me about both runs is that Food Runners has the fastest time to benefit of any charity that I know of,” said Mark. “What struck my Dad is how it generates appreciation x 2. Meaning that the volunteers are appreciative of the donors and the clients or recipients are appreciative of the volunteers. It’s great karma all way.

Father (Fred) and Son (Mark) picking up donations at Trader Joe's.
Some of last Saturday’s perishable and prepared food donations from Gus’sCommunity Market, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s went to the weekly food pantry at the San Francisco Friends (Quaker) Meeting. The Friends estimate 150 individuals attend the SOMA pantry each week. The peppers, lettuce, mushrooms and strawberries made the pantry a kaleidoscope of color.

For some of us, San Francisco is a city of abundance. A city of tall buildings, million dollar homes and endless Uber rides. For those on the fringe of abundance, those struggling with housing, healthcare, childcare, Food Runners and our grocery store partners convey nutrition and community connection.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Big Tech Donates to San Franciscans in Need

Linda Murley & Nancy Hahn
Food Runners

Food Runners Bike Courier Josean H transporting tech company excess lunch for delivery.

The tech company office is airy and bright. In the reception area, two leather chairs make wait time incurred feel like a trip to the spa. The clack of computer keys echoes through the large open style office. Welcome to the technosphere work world where all the comforts of home are at an employee’s fingertips; including lunch.
Steps away from these companies in San Francisco’s tech corridor are low-income housing units, shelters, halfway houses and a drop-in center run by two nuns. This is the dichotomy of have and have not in San Francisco.
Contributions from corporate cafeterias at Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, and Zynga result in donations to Food Runners every workday. Smaller firms like Udemy, Carta, Canvas and Minted, who serve catered meals on a daily basis, also donate their leftovers.

Food Runners van delivering sizable tech company donation.
Food Runners is glad of the tech companies who donate their surplus food. Conscientious corporate cafeteria chefs take the time to incorporate Food Runners into their kitchen’s regular service routine. This means wrapping leftover food so it can be safely transported to programs serving those in need.
Some tech companies sponsor in-house community giving/team building events. Team members make lunches especially for donation to Food Runners. Twitter’s “Friday for Good” was held on May 17. Twitter employees made 2,500 bagged lunches for those in need. Ten Food Runners Volunteers and both of our part time van drivers relayed the lunches to low-income apartment buildings in SOMA, the Mission, the Western Addition and the Tenderloin. 

Long time Volunteer Rachel K picking Twitter "Friday for Good" lunches.
Other programs benefitting from Twitter’s “Friday for Good” were Veteran’s Commons, a program housing formerly homeless veterans living with disabilities, and supported senior programs at Mission Terrace and Mary Helen Rodgers Community Arnett Watson Apartments, supportive housing for families who are low income or homeless, also received donations of food. Getting food to who needs it the most is the mission of Food Runners.

Smaato employees making bag lunches for donation to Food Runners, November 6, 2018.
Without Food Runners, hundreds of pounds of edible food leftover from tech company meals would end up in the compost.  Instead, excess food becomes a healthy meal for San Francisco seniors, families, and children in need.   

Friday, May 3, 2019

Volunteering with Our Hands and Our Hearts

by Eileen Wong
Food Runners Weekend Dispatcher

Donna W. loading donations at the Ferry Building Farmers Market
They’re strong, they’re kind, they’re humble and they’re compassionate. Who are they? They are our Food Runners volunteers. They pack the food in their cars to deliver to our neighborhood feeding programs.   What would Food Runners do without them?

We wouldn’t be possible. We simply could never afford to support thousands of San Franciscans without the generosity and talent offered by our volunteers.  Some do their runs solo, some with partners or friends, some as a family, but whatever form they choose for their runs, the impact they bring to our neighborhoods is truly inspiring.

Food Runners Volunteer Appreciation Party in full swing, 4.17.2019
To show appreciation to the volunteers, Mary Risley, hosts a gathering at her residence twice a year. We enjoy libations, light supper.  We meet, mingle, and share our Food Runners stories with one another. Like Jaime’s story from the most recent Volunteer gathering on April 17.  Jaime told about her food run delivering food to North Beach Citizens on Kearny near Broadway one bright, sunny morning. While unloading the food, her activity caught the eye of a dapper young man passing by. He inquired as to her mission which led to which led to discussion of her community service and ended with the two making plans for a dinner date.

Volunteers enjoying the party. Clockwise from top left: FR Director Mary Risley &
Mark B. Dave R & Priscilla S.  Les T. & Sue L. Mat R & Tory M.
After performing one of her very first runs, Volunteer Jodi shared her story via email. "I grew up in the Sunset, where yesterday's run was. Lycee Francais [the pick up location] used to be the Conservatory of Music and I took summer classes there for a couple of years as a kid. More recently I went to a number of chamber music concerts there with my parents before the Conservatory moved. Now my mom is in assisted living two blocks away. Edgewood Center, where I delivered the food,  started out as an orphanage. My mother escaped the Nazis on the Kindertransport (from Vienna), and when she and her brother came to the States, they spent time at Edgewood. When I was telling the guys who helped me unload the food this story, one of them said his father had escaped Czechoslovakia on the Kindertransport. (The Kindertransport saved close to 10,000 Jewish children during the war.)

More Volunteers chillin' at the party.
There’s no doubt how incredibly grateful we are for all that Food Runners Volunteers do.  Not only do they deliver food, but they also deliver love, kindness and commitment in the quest to alleviate hunger in our communities and make wasted food a thing of the past.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Seniors in San Francisco

by Nancy Hahn
Food Runners Dispatcher and
Volunteer Coordinator

Full meal donations from Kaiser. Perfect for delivery to apartment buildings for Seniors.
Some go to socialize. Some go for the food. You may find some kicking up their heels in dance class. Just imagine your grandma laughing and cha-cha-ing her way across the floor of the rec room at the local Y. Art instruction. Bread making, Ceramics and crafts. Bingo. Healthcare instruction. Gardening. Field trips. Music appreciation. Free meals and more. These are examples of the many services offered by Senior Programs around San Francisco.
“Our day begins with people setting up work spaces for their art, while others peruse the daily newspapers to discuss the latest events. As para-transit vans arrive, individuals using walkers and wheelchairs join the other neighborhood regulars enjoying a cup of tea or coffee,” states Richmond Senior Center.
Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center wants all elders participating the their Senior Program “to feel healthy and vibrant, connected and mentally sharp.” Their Senior Program provides hot lunches, group exercise classes, intellectual stimulation, weekly line dancing, tai chi, special workshops, monthly blood pressure screenings, and a computer lab.
“Our dining room is more than just where meals are served, it’s where people gather to connect, share and learn,” states Curry Senior Center.

Senior exercise class at Castro Senior Center.  (photo courtesy of Golden Gate Senior Services)
 Older adults are the fastest growing age group in town. Nearly 30% of San Francisco’s seniors live alone. With San Francisco’s cost of living recognized as being  62% higher than the national average, surviving on a fixed income in San Francisco is more challenging than ever before. It is estimated that 50,000 seniors in San Francisco struggle with varying degrees of food insecurity, from occasional need for some to daily need for others.
Home bound seniors in need of food can look to Meals on Wheels for assistance. Meals on Wheels delivers nutritious meals directly to client’s homes.  Meals on Wheels is the only organization in San Francisco that delivers two meals a day, seven days a week that are nutritionally-tailored to meet the dietary needs of eligible seniors.
Volunteer Julie G. accepting donations at Real Foods on Polk Street.
 For seniors who are not home bound, food is available at Senior Programs throughout the city. Food Runners currently serves over 35 Senior Programs on a regular basis. The list includes senior centers such as Curry Senior Center, group homes such as Progress Foundation's Rypin’s House, subsidized housing apartment buildings like Dorothy Day Community Center and drop-in centers such as Pilipin Senior Resource Center. “When our clients have enough to eat,” states E of the Pilipin Center, “they can pay their rent and stay off the streets. The food from Food Runners helps so much.”
Taking nutritious food that would otherwise be discarded enables Food Runners to make an immediate and meaningful impact on the seniors being served. At Food Runners, growing old doesn’t have to mean going hungry. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Food Runners and Tech

by Nancy Hahn
Food Runners Dispatcher &
Volunteer Coordinator

Food Runners Bike Courier Josean on the job.
Long bus stops occupy both of the curbs that border the tall office building at 301 Howard. Thirty percent of the streets in SOMA and the Financial District change to “No Parking/Tow-Away” between 3-6PM or 4-7PM. And, the main arteries leading to the Bay Bridge, like 1st Street or Folsom near 2nd are absolute parking lots from two o’clock on. It’s impossible to even pull up to collect a quick curbside hand-off. So, how does Food Runners pick up from food donors in locations like these at rush hour? 

Food Runners bicycle couriers are on the job. They wear Food Runners use their own bikes. They pull big canvas trailers. They consult the Food Runners app in order to choose pick ups in their “territory.” There are two couriers Monday through Thursday and three on Fridays. Between them, they pick up and deliver approximately 2,000 pounds of food per week that would otherwise be thrown away.
Food Runners Couriers Josean (left) & Trevor (right) pedaling their routes.
So… where does all the food they pick up come from? The answer is: tech company in-house meals. All the tech companies provide in-house meals. And there are SO many tech companies in San Francisco, from well established giants like Twitter and Google who serve from expansive corporate cafeterias, to smaller firms like Canvas and Trust Token, who have catered food delivered on a daily basis.

Volunteer Terry H. loading donations at Juul.
 "We held a hack-a-thon yesterday and it was impossible to know how many people would show up," stated the event coordinator at a sleek SOMA start-up.  Result:75 individually wrapped sandwiches donated to Food Runners.

"We order catered lunch daily," explains the office manager from a start up in the Financial District.  "There are 47 people in the office and we order for all 47 everyday. But then people get called to away to meetings or are on a diet or just don't care for the in-house lunch selection of the day."  Result: 3-5 trays of meal o' day donated to Food Runners.

"I prepare lunch every day for a number equivalent to 90% of our total workforce," remarks the head chef at a corporate cafeteria of a large, well-known company.  "There is no way of knowing in advance how many employees will eat in-house on a given day and how many will go out. I can't be caught without, so there are always leftovers." Result: an average of 10-20 trays (equivalent to 50-100 meals) donated to Food Runners daily, M-F.

Volunteer Andrew R & Chef loading donations at Adobe.
 Starting at around 1:30 every weekday afternoon, the tech company on-demand pick up requests flood in fast and furious. These on-demand orders are in addition to the already standing pick up orders from companies like LinkedIn, Google, Twitter and more. The large donations are picked up at loading docks by Food Runners drivers using their own vehicles. All in all, Food Runners picks up and delivers an average of 2,000-2,500 meals coming from tech company donations on a daily basis. And the food is great! Extremely high quality and almost always made the same day. It means so much to Food Runners recipients like the Women’s Resource Center, who offers support services, education and shelter referrals to women and mothers transitioning out of incarceration, when Food Runners bicycle courier Trevor pulls up laden with tech company lunch leftovers, ready to heat and serve. Food Runners and San Francisco’s current technocracy together are doing a lot to help prevent waste and alleviate hunger in our fair city.  

Monday, February 4, 2019

Serving Our Community

By Kim Hirschfeld
On-Call Volunteer
Food Runners delivered bounty creates free groceries at  SF Quaker meeting Food Pantry
As San Francisco grows, so does the need.  With rents skyrocketing out of control, the face of hunger extends far beyond the homeless man on the corner of Jones and Eddy.  The landscape of food insecurity extends to all neighborhoods and much of the hunger is hidden.

It might be the child sitting next to yours at school. It might be the family living in the Richmond who earns too much to qualify for Cal Fresh, but not enough to pay the rent and still put food on the table. It might be the senior you saw practicing Tai Chi in Washington Square Park, who subsequently heads over to  Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center for a hot meal and some much needed free groceries.

Food Runners exists to help our neighbors in need like those mentioned above by helping support the local agencies serving our at-risk communities. Here is what some of those agencies are saying about how Food Runners deliveries help.

Chef Danny (in white) unloading at HealthRIGHT 360 Walden House
 "As part of HealthRIGHT 360, we serve multiple sites encompassing over 1,000 people," states Danny Higginbotham, Executive Chef of Walden House Northern and Southern California Operations. "I estimate that the food delivered by Food Runners saves me $1,000,000 per year."
Student Thank You poster
 "A few years back, I won an award for my Study Cafe program," recounts former Gateway High School after school Program Director, Joanne Wells. Gateway's population includes a high percentage of students from low-income families. "I always say the award was due to the food. Once food was available, more students participated and they were able to focus better on their work because they weren't distracted by hunger." Joanne retired last June and is happy to know that Food Runners deliveries to Gateway continue.

"Our neighborhood meal program would shut down plain and simple if it weren't for Food Runners," says City Team program coordinator Christophe Nusbaumer. City Team provides a hot meal nightly, M-Th, to those in need in the 6th Street corridor area. City Team also serves an all-you-can-eat lunch on Saturdays.

Unloading donations for the evening's dinner at City Team
"This is Jerry," rumbled a voice over the Food Runners phone message line on January 15th. "I live in the Veterans housing in the Presidio. I just called to say thank you for all the food you bring to our building. Without Food Runners, many of us would not have enough to eat on a regular basis.  What you do makes such a difference. Thank you from the bottom of my heart and from all the guys too."

Food insecurity is part of the fabric of San Francisco every day. And everyday, Food Runners does what it can to ease the burden for as many at-risk communities as possible. The need never sleeps and neither does Food Runners.