Food Runners

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Food Runners Now

Mary Risley, Director

Volunteers packing meals at the Waller Kitchen
Thank you so very much for your continued support of Food Runners!  You may well ask how has Food Runners adapted since the CoronaVirus outbreak in mid-March?  Our wonderful Volunteers and paid drivers are still delivering excess perishable food to the agencies that are still accepting food; but, the big news is that we are now taking much of the food donated to us and using it to cook meals in a kitchen of what was formerly the Hamilton Methodist Church on Waller St.  Six days a week, a team of professional cooks prepare enough meals to feed over 1,000 people.  A team of volunteers then packs the meals into individual containers for delivery.

          Chef Victor Parra                           Victor instructing his cooks
The kitchen crew is headed by Chef Victor Parra, an amazing cook who served as  Executive Chef at the St Regis Hotel prior to being furloughed due to COVID-19.  The kitchen Volunteers are organized by Ashlee Thompson, Food Runner’s new Dispatcher.  Each day our Volunteers and paid drivers distribute the meals to soup kitchens and low-income apartment buildings around San Francisco.  Your financial contributions enable so many hungry people in our city to receive food — thank you!!!  Even more remarkable is that your financial contribution is helping to keep two San Francisco restaurants and one catering company in business — Thank you Thank you!!

12,000 meals per week are prepared at the Waller Kitchen
In addition, we are very grateful to to help the following restaurants stay in business —- Nopa (on Divisadero at Hayes, Seaglass (in the Exploratorium) and JackRabbit Kitchen.  
      Chef Laurence Jossel of Nopa                       A meal from Nopa
Since mid July, Laurence Jossel and 8 of his staff at Nopa have been making 250 meals a day for Food Runners five days a week at a cost to us of $10 a meal.  This means that we have been able to deliver another 1,000 meals a week to our shelters.   Nopa also offers takeout and delivery to you and me Tues. thru Sat.  See for the menues!

             Chef Loretta Keller                          A meal from Loretta's Larder
Since the first of August, Loretta Keller of Loretta’s Larder has also been making 1,000 meals a week for Food Runners to deliver to our recipients.  Loretta and her staff of 8 also provide a fabulous menu for you and I to chose from and pickup on Fri. afternoons!  See for the menues.

Meals from JackRabbit Kitchen
Thanks as well to Will Pilz from for another 1,000 a meals a week. JackRabbit Kitchen is in the process of figuring out how to provide meals to the public.

So you see, your financial donations enable us to deliver over 15,000 meals a week to over 50 agencies feeding people in need!  Please, please share this email with your friends to help us raise more funds to continue to provide these meals. to our fellow San Franciscans!


Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Ethan's Story

Ethan Acharya

Bounty at the Ferry Building Farmers Market
Ethan is eight years old. He has short black hair and sparkly brown eys. He is full of energy and he loves to talk. Ethan has been a faithful Food Runners Volunteer since he was four. The highlight of his week is volunteering alongside his dad Seth, "Uncle" Frank and "Aapa" (long time Volunteer Keith G) on the Ferry Building Farmers Market run in the Food Runners truck. Ethan is so excited that his four year old borther Matthew has recently joined the crew. Below, in his own words, complete with his own spelling and grammar, is Ethan's story of how he spends his Saturday afternoons and what being a Food Runners Volunteer means to him. 

Seth and the crew collecting donations

"Food Runners is an non profit organization of people giving food to the needy. Food Runners get’s food from farmer’s market. the goal for Food Runners is providing the needy people food.

Me,dad,Aapa & uncle Frank do this volunteer service every Saturday. it’s called Food Runners. if you live in San Francisco I bet you’ve seen the truck before. So every Saturday at 12:30 we leave the house with boxes and then we go to pier 80 to get the truck.

Next we go to this guy named Tree at Martin de porres and we get more boxes. We ride to the ferry building farmer’s market.

We go around the market and we give the farmers the boxes. we carry around a cart and we say “Food Runners bring out your food." there is a farm named star root farm and there is another called EATWELL FARM & TORY FARM and a lot of others.

Some of the generous farmers at the market

They fill up the boxes with food and we collect them with the cart

Then we leave the market and we go around town giving homeless shelters food so when the homeless arrive they get food. Then we go to pier 80 again to get our car and park our truck and then we go home THE END!

Tips: who started Food Runners  - Mary Risley. it was established 30 + years ago with the idea nothing goes to waste and the service does it every day! I love doing Food Runners it’s fun."

Like father, like son

'Tis the season of giving.  Food Runners is growing fast in repsonse to the growing food insecuirty in our wonderful city.  We need your help.  Plese donate what you can. Every little bit helps. 


Thank you!

Loading the truck with the donations

Get Well card drawn by "Uncle" Frank and signed by 
the farmers at the Farmers Market when Ethan broke his arm 
just as Shelter in Place went into effect last March.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Making Volunteering a Family Affair

by Matthew Joe, Volunteer

I am a 15-year-old sophomore at George Washington High School in San Francisco. Before the pandemic, I helped my community by teaching reading to elementary school children but can no longer do this because of social distancing rules.
I was introduced to Food Runners though my Auntie Kim and I started to go every Sunday with her to the Fort Mason Farmers Market. At the farmer’s market, I am excited by all the produce that the farmers offer. The ruby red tomatoes are gigantic and bigger than my hand. The basil, parsley, chives and cilantro overflow in their crates. The peaches, nectarines, cherries and other stone fruit are changing to apples, pears, and persimmons as we move from summer to fall. I pinch myself as I delight in the bounty of jewels that the market has to offer. How lucky are we? These days, customers social distance, wear masks, keep 6 feet apart and the farmers pick out your produce for you. I overhear customers exchanging recipes for caramelized leeks. Farmers often give suggestions on what to make with the bounty of brocollini and cauliflower.

I know that some of my fellow students at George Washington High School are homeless or food insecure. Additionally, I have seen tent encampments all over the city. Along major corridors such as Van Ness or Mission, I see homeless men, women and children asking for donations. There are many in the hospitality industry that have lost their jobs. There are so many people with so little and asking for our help. I am very happy that I can volunteer for Food Runners and make a difference.

Each week I see Susan at Happy Boy Farms who gives us kale, tomatoes, chard and more. We drop an empty box at K & J Farms at the start of the market and at the end of the market pick it back up and it is overflowing with fruit. When the farmers give donations to us, it can be a 20 pound box of tomatoes, or a 30 pound box of white, green and purple cauliflower. We are getting a real physical work-out here. The market is buzzing, the farmers are smiling and the air is scented with fresh herbs, flowers, vegetables and fruit. We fill my dad’s mini van with all the produce we can fit. This is a multi-generational family affair with my 14 year old brother, Tyler, my 12 year old sister, Katherine, my aunt, my mom and dad. The security guards give us a grin and a wink.

Initially Food Runners was an avenue for me to help my community, but I soon realized it offered so much more. Along with the physical and meaningful work, Food Runners offers community. The Fort Mason Farmers Market vendors are very generous and sympathetic. It is heartwarming to see that they also want to help Food Runners. I think anyone who wants to volunteer with Food Runners should know that they will find a very welcoming, inviting and generous community. I hope I can encourage more youth and multi-generational families to volunteer.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Heroic Efforts

by Mary Risley, Director

Nopa's entrance. Photo credit: David McDuff

Since the beginning of July, Food Runners has been picking up and delivering 1000 meals a week made especially for us by Nopa.  Nopa has done an incredible job of providing nutritious, individual meals for Food Runners Volunteers to deliver to our fellow citizens residing in low-income and senior apartment buildings throughout the city during this time of crisis.  Here are some examples of what Nopa makes for Food Runners each week:

Nopa is a truly remarkable restaurant.  At Nopa there is a real farm to table connection and the very thought-out menus have appeal for everyone! 

Kitchen staff at SeaGlass preparing meals for Food Runners
Since the beginning of August the cooks at SeaGlass, the restaurant in the Exploratorium, have also been cooking and packaging 1000 individual meals for Food Runners Volunteers to deliver to San Franciscans in need.  Here are examples of what they are making:

Chef Loretta Keller states, “I have been meaning to tell you [Food Runners] how much we appreciate the opportunity to make these meals.  It has given us a new and much-needed sense of purpose during this nightmare-for-restaurants-time. 

Chef Loretta Keller. Photo Credit: ConnectedTraveler.
With the addition of the meals produced by Nopa and Seaglass, Food Runners is now delivering more than 14,000 meals a week to help feed the hungry of our city.
If you would like to become a Volunteer, please call 415.929.1866 or visit  Food Runners website. And, even more important please, please support Food Runners financially by going to

Mary Risley, Director


Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Common Themes

Rori Reber, Volunteer

There are many common themes when it comes to food service and food waste. My background is in corporate events and even the best planning results in leftover food. No successful event can run out of food, and that leads to over-ordering. The same can be said of companies who cater meals for their employees as well as grocery chains selling good-looking food to the public.

It seemed natural when I retired from corporate event work, to bring my passion for food redistribution right where it was needed the most. For three years I have made Food Runners deliveries all over the city. 

Rori picking up at Piperade, pre-pandemic
with delivery to North Beach Citizens.
It was an eye-opener delivering food to recipient services in buildings that I drove by for years and never knew about: the Dore Clinic and Shelter, the All Star Hotel, Golden Gate for Seniors, Mother Theresa’s. I asked about who and how many people were being served. 

When the pandemic hit, Food Runners’ mission quickly changed to using donated food to cook meals and we volunteers met the call to action. 

Truck Driver Jose with a Whole Foods donation.
I was pleased to jump right in and fill a huge need that got bigger every day. When I started, the kitchen at Waller Center prepared 1,200 meals daily. Now it’s grown to 2,000 meals a day, sometimes more. This production of meals is a tribute to everyone’s hard work and contribution.

Rori working with Les
There are many common themes to Food Runners’ volunteering: first, there’s a sense of purpose - everyone’s there for the same reason; second, it’s a way to really connect in this time of social distancing. We wear masks, aprons and gloves and our work stations are 6 feet apart. Volunteering at waller kitchen is a great source of information; I have found out about what’s trending, new places to shop online, cafes that are open, travel tips, Netflix series… all the conversations and friendship making things that help create community. I often see the same faces (you can recognize people under a mask after awhile!)  and we keep up with each other’s stories. This sense of community is an important part of our commitment.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Coming Together in Crisis

by Nancy Hahn
With Olivia Evans, Volunteer

It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes a community like San Francisco to come together and help its citizens during a crisis like the COVID pandemic.  The need for food is greater than ever before. So much is being done around town to help feed those in need.  Frontline Foods created a platform from which the community donates money to be used by local restaurants to prepare food for local healthcare workers. SF New Deal pays restaurants from community donations to prepare and deliver meals to neighbors in need. The San Francisco Marin Food Bank created Pop-up Pantries and also added a home delivery program to to get food to the most vulnerable.

Volunteers at work in the Waller kitchen
Here’s what’s happening at Food Runners during the pandemic. In April, Food Runners created the Food Runners Meal Program. Under the guidance of a professional chef using a bare bones staff and a host of Volunteers, the Meal Program cooks and packages approximately 2,000 meals on a daily basis. The meals are then picked up by more Volunteers and delivered to agencies all around town  serving those in need. In addition to the Meal Program, Food Runners has partnered with Betty Zlatchin Catering, Nopa, The Liberties and Il Casaro Pizzeria, all of whom are making food especially for donation to Food Runners.

Donations made espcially for Food Runners from
The Liberites (L.) and Il Casaro (R.)
Food Runners has also recruited more than 800 new volunteers since the beginning of the crisis. Volunteers like Olivia Evans and her mother Christine Carswell. Olivia tells the story. “As a San Francisco native I was looking for ways to help my city get through the tough times brought on by the pandemic. I read that more and more folks would be at risk of going hungry, while more and more food pantries were closing to practice social distancing. I knew helping San Franciscans access food, was volunteer work I wanted to do. That is how I found Food Runners! I assumed that someone, somewhere in the city, was making sure leftover food would not just go to waste, but I never knew who was doing it, or that I could be part of it. I gave Food Runners a call, and for the past 3 months, I have been delivering meals donated by a Noe Valley neighborhood favorite, The Liberties to different shelters across the city. "

"My mom, who also lives in the city, found out what I was up to (as mom’s do) and decided she wanted to help as well. Our biggest challenge is our teensy tiny smart car. Mom and me take turns delivering the meals, and sometimes we both squeeze into the smart car plus 25 sandwiches, burgers, pizzas and salads. Since the beginning of lockdown, we have delivered over 800 meals."

The Liberties donates freshly made ‘service’ meals 7 nights a week to Food Runners. With a recent donation from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, The Liberties will continue donations of meals each night for the foreseeable future. Owner Ian Duggan estimates that his pub has made 2,500 meals for donation since May.

Typical Volume of daily donations from The Liberties
Early in the pandemic a drop-in center for homeless women became a 24/7 shelter. The center had no showers, no beds, no real kitchen. There was just a lobby with hard plastic chairs. The Liberties and Food Runners helped get meals to the program until the women were placed in hotels. Food from The Liberties is now going programs serving Veterans and a group home in the Outer Mission.

Food Runners in action. People helping people.
During these strange, unprecendented times and despite isolation and social distancing, Food Runners has found new ways to fulfill its mission of helping feed San Franciscans in need. With the creation of the Food Runners Meal Program, the restaurants and caterers making food expressly for Food Runners and all the new Volunteers flocking to the fold, the light shines brightly on Food Runners and the importance of people helping people. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

What's Happening Now?

by Mary Risley, Director

Food Runners Meal Program ready for action.
(photo credit: Stephanie Meyer)
Hi Everyone – Thank you so much for your continued support of Food Runners.  You may ask “what has Food Runners been up to since the virus outbreak?” And, here is the answer:

Chef Todd cooking in Mary's kitchen              and in Waller Central kitchen
In the first week of the San Francisco lockdown, a young chef called Todd Corboy contacted me about cooking for the hungry.  So, we started a "Partnership” as they say, where he started cooking from donated food in my kitchen.   He borrowed gigantic pots, stood on a milk crate, and stirred with a gigantic whisk, and made things like chilli and vegetarian soup.  His fellow cooks were Josiah, Marcella, and her sister,  Karlla.  These things were then chilled outdoors on ice and then put into individual containers to distribute to people in need by Food Runners.

     Individual container in fridge                            Ready for distribution
You see, places we normally take food, like Glide, NorthBeachCitizens and Martin DePorres are not allowed to serve meals indoors; so, they are giving individual containers of food to their clients on the sidewalk out front.  Also, there are many low-income apartment buildings were the residents have to stay in their rooms because one or two of the residents have tested positive for the virus.  What Les and Perla and various FR Volunteers are doing is distributing these meals to these agencies and SRO’s to help alleviate hunger.

Sandwiches ready to be individually wrapped for outdoor hand out.
After two weeks, the whole operation was moved to the kitchens of the Waller Center (formerly known as Hamilton Methodist Church) in the Haight.  With a larger kitchen, Todd was able to greatly expand the operation.  With two more cooks and a host of Volunteers, he is now supervising the production of approx. 2,000 meals a day, that is delivered six days a week to agencies feeding the hungry—all from donated food in a donated kitchen.

Former Hamilton Methodist Church now know as the Waller Center
(photo credit: Stephanie Meyer)
In the first couple of week, Food Runners was picking up masses of excess food from bars, restaurants, and deli’s in SF that were closing.  But, now most of the donated food that Todd and his crew is cooking with comes from grocery stores such as Whole Foods, Gus’s Market, and Trader Joe’s.  We also pick up twice a week from the SFProduceMarket.  We are very grateful for ALL THE FOOD that is donated and welcome more.  If you know, anyone with a business in SF with excess food, please tell them about our service.

Volunteers hard at work with Todd (left) and Les (right)
Another really remarkable thing that is happened in the last 4 or 5 weeks, is that we have more than doubled the number of FR Volunteers; from just under 400 to well over 800.  Granted some of the new Volunteers didn’t live or work in SF; and, may go back to work in time; but we are very grateful for the extra help now.  It is truly remarkable how much this calamity has drawn people together and led them to want to help each other.  Not only is Food Runners, expanding by cooking meals for people in need, but we are getting more recognition, more Volunteers, and more money!!!
Thank you everyone so very very much,
Mary S. Risley

Volunteers on the line
(photo credit: Stephanie Meyer)

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

What It Means to Me

by Mary S. Risley

As I approach my 80th Birthday, I have been thinking about how fortunate I am!  Just think I could have been born into a family with an absent father and an addicted mother; I could have been born into a family where all the kids were born before the mother was 24 years old; or, I could have been born with mental health problems and no possible care.  Nothing is for sure in this world!  I could be an addict myself hanging out around the corner; I could be cleaning houses for a living; or, I could be living on the streets in San Francisco, unable to take care of myself responsibly.  So could we all!  I sincerely believe that not living on the streets is a matter of having good luck; making good decisions; and having the right guidance in life.

As a resident of San Francisco for the last 50 years, I still don’t know what I can do to help the homeless with housing; but, what I do know is I can help get them food.  And so can you!  Thanks so much to the Volunteers, one paid truck driver, and several part-time bike couriers of Food Runners who, together, are making almost 700 food runs a week which amounts to approximately 18 tons of perishable and prepared foods to agencies feeding the hungry in San Francisco. This is enough food for 24,000 meals a week!

I fully realize how many requests for money you get each year; but, please, please help support our remarkably efficient grassroots non-profit organization, which soon will begin its 33rd year.   Please send a check to Food Runners, 2579 Washington St., SF, CA 94115.  Or, donate through

Mary S. Risley, Director

Monday, January 13, 2020

A Food Runners Christmas Carol

by Linda Murley, Executive Director

When I was a little girl my mother was a Sunday school teacher and I was one of her pupils. I remember coloring bible story pictures: a star, a manger, a donkey, a lamb.

Union Square at Christmas
I stopped going to Sunday school when my mom became a Lou Reed groupie, (it was the 60’s)but  Sunday mornings have remained a time for reflection. I do a food run on Sundays and this holiday season has been especially rewarding. My run is from Haight St. Market to an adult rehab program. These programs, along with the homeless shelters and soup kitchens in the city are sanctuaries for the people who come there to rest, sleep, eat.

The sign outside Walden house offering sanctuary.
On December 24th Food Runners’ staff and volunteers saddled up our reindeer and took donations of food to recipient agencies serving those in need. Two programs who feed the homeless: City Team feeds between 100-175 people daily and the Bayshore Navigation Center feeds from 60-100 people daily, depended on Food Runners to supplement their Christmas eve meal offering. Proper Foods, a prolific donor of beautiful and delicious prepared meals, had overestimated the downtown workforce buying lunch on the 24th and had dozens and dozens of meals to donate. A volunteer picked up 400 dinners leftover from a fundraiser, Susie Cakes donated hundreds of cookies and cakes.

AIDS Foundation donation.
Food Runners took donations of food to Arriba Juntos, The Castro Senior Center, the Community Justice Center, the Epiphany Center, the Mission YMCA, Mother Theresa’s soup kitchen, the Sanctuary, the Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation program, Veteran’s Academy in the Presidio and many others.

Noe Valley Christmas Lights
The Holidays are a time of year when food and volunteering converge. You should know, that with your help, Food Runners’ completes 700 food runs and relays 18 tons of food each week. We do this every week, so I guess you could say we celebrate the spirit of Christmas all year round.

To help with your New year’s resolutions, we present the following research by the Mayo clinic. The 6 health benefits of volunteering:

1. Volunteering decreases the risk of depression.
2. Volunteering gives a sense of purpose and teaches valuable skills.
3. Volunteering helps people stay physically and mentally active.
4. Volunteering may reduce stress levels.
5. Volunteering may help you live longer.
6. Volunteering helps you meet others and develop new relationships

Volunteer Rori Reber picking up the donations at Piperade Restaurant.
I personally think volunteering helps strengthen the empathy factor that seems lacking in some of us today. Sharing and empathy are like any skill…like playing the violin for example. If we do not practice, the music we make on the violin is discordant. If we do not practice kindness and service to others --the music of life -- we can become discordant humans. 

Too another year full of the music and food runs!