Food Runners

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.