Food Runners

Monday, September 30, 2019

101 Runs!

By Joanna Karlinsky

Tory Farms: one of the most prolific donors at Ferry Building Farmers Market, part of my 101 runs.
Restaurant owners don’t throw anything away that can be sold, offered free to guests, given to staff, or taken home to feed the family. Chefs don’t order an ounce more food than they can sell or feed staff with.  We think about food costs every day.  As the chef & restaurant owner of the long-shuttered Meetinghouse, Elite Café and Sweet Jo’s Café I know this well.  In the 30 years I’ve been aware of Foodrunners, I’ve never had leftover or excess food to donate, other than preparing something special for a fundraiser.  I’m retired now and had the occasion to spend my summer here in San Francisco making food run after food run.

Large tech company cafeteria donation. Another of my 101 runs!
I spent my runs getting to know the staff at donor businesses, from tech companies to bakeries, meeting the staff at the recipient agencies, from group homes to veteran’s services, and chatting with those receiving the food. They are always so grateful; the staff (almost) always helpful. The pride that comes with knowing you helped to keep food from the compost bin is very fulfilling.
Kara's Cupcakes. Best ever!
My favorite run, hands down, is Kara’s Cupcakes. You pick up from their manufactory in Dogpatch and they always have more than the church kindergarten can use.  So, I get to decide where to drop off the few other boxes. And I ‘work it’.  I run over to the senior center where the guys come out to help by lining up for a big ‘pass the food’ production. It’s one big box of the best cupcakes in the country. Then next to the All-Star hotel where the residents are always friendly, and full of thanks. Next to the daytime drop-in program at Arriba Juntos where the staff is smiles and jumps up to help when they see me walk in.
Bananas being donated at Mollie Stone's
Last weekend Food Runners dispatch got a call from some very panicked techies at a weekend ‘hackathon’ for girls. Apparently, they’d ordered breakfast for 150 twice. I got there to pick up the extra 20 pans of breakfast and @½ of the uneaten first order. You know how girls eat, right? When I was loading up one lovely young lady came running out to say she thought they’d have lunch leftovers as well.  I returned a bit latter to find 14 FULL buffet pans of Mexican food.  Fantastic until a pan of chicken in mole sauce spilled all over my truck. Honestly... the look on the faces of the people at the 4 group homes I delivered to was totally worth the mole. I have extended my stay in San Francisco through the holidays. I look forward to the food I’ll pick up and relay from parties & events to those with too little to party at all. 
Donation made especially for Food Runners, being picked up at Piperade Restaruant.
Advice: tarp and then put cardboard down on the area you’ll place food for travel. Looking to volunteer but feeling shy?  Just want to gossip about how much fun it is?   Message me and we can talk! Joanna Karlinsky

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

16 Years

by Nancy Hahn
Food Runners Dispatcher &
Volunteer Coordinator
Retired, 8.31.2019
Nancy on last day. Pictured with with Food Runners Executive Director Linda Murley (l.) and Nancy's replacement,  new Dispatcher and Volunteer Coordinator, Eileen Wong (r.)
“Do you think Doug would be right for the job?” Mary asked her assistant Peggy.  Doug had been helping with the “party” classes at Mary’s Tante Marie's Cooking School for some months. “No,” Peggy replied. "I don’t think Doug is a good fit, but his wife Nancy is looking for a job ad I think she might be." And so it began. 
Nancy in the Food Runners office making the magic happen.
In April of 2003, my son Erik was five months old. Time to go back to work. I was weeks away from looking for a job when Mary called. After the shortest, most to-the-point job interview I’d ever had, I was hired to be the Volunteer Coordinator and Dispatcher for Food Runners. My first order of business was doing a food run to Real Foods on Polk Street with delivery to North Beach Citizens. I was hooked on the Food Runners mission immediately. The experience was gratifying and full of meaning. I knew then that asking Volunteers to do food runs was going to be a privilege and a pleasure.

Nancy at Food Runners 30th Anniversary Party, April 2017.
In the early years, my work included the challenge of  convincing businesses to donate their excess food. Gradually people came to know us, trust us, and understand the importance of our mission.  
-->Then tech came to town.  A lot of tech. Suddenly companies were feeding their employees in-house regularly.  There was an abundance of excess food.  Around the same time, the issue of food waste exploded in the media, increasing awareness nationwide.  Donations began pouring in. Food Runners went from picking up an average of 10 tons per week in 2003 to 16 tons per week by 2014. Today, Food Runners picks up approxiamtely 18 tons of food per week that might otherwise go to waste. That’s the equivalent of 24,000 meals per week. 
Nancy accepting $250 donation raised by Holy Name Middle School students Raven and Sara.
The rise of tech created new challenges beyond merely scaling to the increased volume. Many of the tech companies resided in congested downtown areas with nowhere that a Volunteer in a car could pull up even for a quick curbside hand off. Thus, in 2014, Food Runners instituted a Bike Courier program.  Two years later, in response to rapidly increasing demand, Food Runners added two part-time Van Drivers to pick up congested area donations too large for the bike trailers.  My duties between 2003-2019 went from managing 200 Volunteers and one full time truck driver for 200 pick ups per week to managing 400 Volunteers, one full-time Truck Driver, three Bike Couriers and two Van Drivers for an average of 700 pick ups per week.  

Nancy and Volunteer Sally G at Food Runners bi-annual Volunteer Appreciation Party. May 2019.
But, the best part of my job as Food Runners Dispatcher and Volunteer Coordinator, has always been the relationships. From Volunteers like Eloise Joans, the first Food Runners Volunteer I ever met, to Recipients like Kristy Fairchild, Director of North Beach Citzens, to Donors Jo Licata, Community Projects Manager at the SF Hilton, it’s the relationships that have meant the most. Beyond preventing waste and alleviating hunger, it is the Food Runners community that fills my heart. It’s been a great ride. I am grateful for the opportunity to have served such a special organization for sixteen meaningful years. Thank you, everyone.