Food Runners

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.