Food Runners

Monday, December 6, 2021

A Very Special Place

Mary Risley
Food Runners Director

Hi, Everyone — Happy Holidays!  My Newsletter this month is about Nopa — Nopa on Divisadero at the corner of Hayes in SF — is by far my favorite restaurant in the world!!!

Nopa exterior (photo credit: Krista Robertson, Covering the Bases)
As a lifelong culinary expert, I am fortunate to have been able to eat at good restaurants all over the world.  And, my favorite is Nopa!!! Here, are the reasons:

Me, Mary Risley with Nopa Chef Laurence Jossel
First of all, I have known Laurence Jossel, the chef/owner, for over 30 years.  He worked in several good restaurants before opening Nopa in April of 2006.  And, here’s what I believe to be true:  he goes to the Farmers’ Markets at least three times a week; he has a whole hog delivered every Tuesday, that he butchers himself; before the pandemic, he would take his staff to see how things like the broad beans are grown; and, he would host the farmers at a big table at Nopa for lunch from time to time.  The staff is warm and friendly.

Chef Laurence on the line
And, the food is absolutely delicious!!!  This is because the chef-himself-tastes and corrects the seasoning and cleans the edges of the plates himself.  You can get rotisserie chicken-cooked over an open wood fire, as well as grilled pork chops.  

Nopa pork chops
At the end of the evening, they smoke their own cured bacon in the chimney as the fire dies down.  In the other, wood-burning fire, they cook things like beans with tomato sauce and feta and flatbreads.  I love sitting on the stools eating and watching the cooking!!!

View of the kitchen from the counter stools
You can eat indoors or outdoors and it’s important to book ahead! 

But, equally as important is that the cooks at Nopa make 250 meals for Food Runners to pick up and deliver to agencies feeding people in need.  What has happened in SF is that if two people have tested positive for Covid-19, in a senior or low-income apartment building, all the residents have to stay in their rooms.  That is why the meals that Nopa donates to Food Runners is so very important!!!

Nopa meals for Food Runners being prepped
Full time Food Runners van driver Perla Villa has this to say about Nopa’s meal donations: “Chef Laurence Jossel, owner of Nopa Restaurant, has done an amazing job to prepare these meals weekly for Food Runners.  His Staff Chef, Sean Eastwood, and team have made this weekly meal delivery delightful.  Together they have made a substantial impact in serving the most vulnerable citizens of San Francisco”.

Perla ready to deliver Nopa meals in the Food Runners van
“It is an absolute pleasure and honor to serve the community of San Francisco.  Each and every time delivery is made and individuals receive food donations, there is an immediate sense of satisfaction and joy on both ends.  My job as a full-time driver is so rewarding.  There is not a day that goes by where someone doesn’t show their appreciation for what we do.  It’s a daily reminder to do my best in providing for those who are in need.”  

Nopa's 250 meals per day for Food Runners
Thank you every one for your financial support of Food Runners — it is so very important at this time!!! Please tell your friends and neighbors to give to Food Runners to help feed those in need in our city; and also please help spread the word to anyone you know in food businesses here that they never need to discard edible or dated food— just go to to donate the food !!!

Happy Holidays from all of us at Food Runners — and thank you again !!! Mary

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Rewarding Mission

Tessa McLean
Food Runners New Dispatcher

I am honored and proud to be a part of the Food Runner team.  Over the past couple of months, we have made many changes.  It is extremely rewarding to support the mission and work for the community.  It has provided me with a strong sense of purpose that I didn’t get from managing restaurant operations and cooking professionally for over 20 years in SF.  I am in awe every day and feel so very fortunate to be a part of this great movement.

As the summer days fade away, most of our Volunteers are back with us—creating a harmonic flow that I haven’t seen until recently.  It’s been welcoming to see new and familiar faces— as everyone has been so helpful! We are now averaging 530 runs per week—of which 120 are done by Volunteers.  We have about 52 kitchen Volunteers a week.  The Chefs and the Volunteers at the Waller Kitchen are cooking, packing, and delivering a total of 4,800 individual meals a week!

I have also been getting to know the Donors of perishable and prepared foods; and the Recipients (or agencies) we deliver the food to.  It is remarkable to see both opening up slowly as the pandemic fears lessen.  During these times, we are humbled to be able to embrace these ongoing changes.  Although the future is uncertain, we are encouraged by our commitment to feeding the hungry people of San Francisco.

Thank you for supporting our organization!  Your funding is crucial to what we do everyday; and I look forward to continuing to serve our community! 

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Trader Joe's & Food Runners: An Anniversary Worth Celebrating

By: Ashlee Thompson, Dispatcher

This year marks the 25th anniversary since Trader Joe’s began donating to Food Runners. From the start of our partnership until now, we estimate that with the donations from Trader Joe’s we have been able to feed over 1,000,000 meals to people in need. 

Chalkboard on display for shoppers to view at Trader Joe's Masonic St

Through what Trader Joe’s calls their Neighborhood Shares Program they donate 100% of all unsold products to local food recovery agencies across the country daily. Most of these products are nutritious items such as produce, meat, dairy, eggs, baked goods, and prepared/prepackaged meals. Flowers and potted plants are also donated and are a bringer of joy to our 200+ recipients throughout the city.

Snapshots of various items donated by Trader Joe's

All six Trader Joe’s located in San Francisco donate to Food Runners on a regular basis. Most of these donations go directly to our recipients, while some ingredients come to Waller Kitchen to be turned into individually prepared meals that are prepped, packed, and delivered by our volunteers.

While reflecting on 2020, Trader Joe’s shared in a statement, “This past year, as our communities faced exceptional challenges, we continued in this important everyday effort to support people in need. In 2020, we donated nearly $345 million dollars of food and beverages, which equates to approximately 69 million meals provided to our neighbors across the country.”

Left: Food Runners driver, Perla Villa, poses with a van full of donations.
Center: Recipients of Trader Joe's donations pose for a photos.
Right: Photo of my car full to the brim after picking up donations.

Our relationship with Trader Joe’s has allowed Food Runners to help The Neighborhood Shares Program with their goal that these important donations are equitably distributed to a diverse group of recipients in our neighborhoods.­ While also allowing Food Runners to fulfill our mission of alleviating hunger, preventing waste, and creating community in San Francisco. 

For more information about the Trader Joe’s Neighborhood Share Program visit a location near you or head to

Thank you to Trader Joe’s and thank you for your support of Food Runners.

Monday, May 17, 2021

A conversation with the Food Runners Truck Drivers

By Adam Teitelbaum, volunteer

This month longtime Food Runners volunteer Adam Teitelbaum interviewed our truck drivers who pick up and drop off the food that feeds thousands of people in need every week in San Francisco.

Adam: How long have you been with Food Runners?

Keith Goldstein: I have volunteered with Food Runners for 32 years. For the past 26 years I have picked up food from the farmers at the Ferry Plaza Market. Rain or shine. I haven’t missed a Saturday market pick up since the start of the pandemic.

Seth Acharya: I have volunteered for Food Runners for 22 years. I started when the market was at Green and Broadway Street.

Jose Juarez: I have worked for Food Runners for the past seven years. 

Adam: What do your days in the truck look like?

Keith: I yell out “Food Runners! Bring out your food!” at the end of every market and collect the boxes of excess food. I deliver to Martin De Pores, Salvation Army, the Mission Free Food stand and many other places where the food is distributed to those in need. I know all of the farmers at the Ferry Plaza Market as well as the staff at the shelters and always have a great experience. 

Jose: I drive the truck Monday- Friday, collecting food from; Trader Joes, Whole Foods, Oracle Park and Chase Center. I deliver to The Waller Kitchen facility, The YMCA, Mission Cultural Center, and several other recipients all throughout the city.

Adam: What does volunteering/working with Food Runners mean to you?

Keith: My Food Runners work is the best part of my week. 

Seth: I see those in need, queuing up for 2-3 blocks to receive this food. My pleasure is seeing the joy on their faces when they are given the food. This is the moment we need new volunteers to give whatever time they can spare to help Food Runners.

Jose: The people on site are always very friendly, polite, and thankful. I love this job. It is a blessing to me.

To continue to help feed the hungry and  prevent waste tell your friends to make a financial donation through Thank you!

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

A Conversation with the Chefs at Food Runners

Kate Hanson, 
Volunteer Coordinator

This month Kitchen Volunteer Coordinator Kate Hanson sat down with Food Runners Chefs Victor Parra and Francisco Duran, to learn more about their culinary background and what brought them to Food Runners.

Kate: What was your job pre-pandemic?

Victor: I’ve worked in the culinary industry ever since I immigrated to the United States – from small restaurants to 5 star hotels. Just before the pandemic, I was working at the St. Regis cooking for big conventions. 

Francisco: I worked as the Banquet Chef at the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco. When the pandemic hit, my job was eliminated. 

Kate: How did you get involved with Food Runners?

Victor: I learned about Food Runners after the St. Regis started donating to them and that led me to volunteer with Food Runners. 

Francisco: I knew Victor through the hotel industry, and he asked me to cover for him as the Food Runners head chef one day. Then I had an interview with Mary, and she hired me.

Kate: Has anything surprised you once you joined Food Runners?

Victor: I was so surprised by the massive amount of possible food waste. 

Francisco: Yes! Working in hotels you don’t realize how much food waste there is. Now, I am much more aware of all the food waste in the U.S., especially from grocery stores. 

Kate: What are some of your favorite meals to cook at Food Runners?

Victor: My favorite meals to cook at Food Runners are spaetzle, beef Bolognese and frittatas. 

Francisco: I like the opportunity to make a nice plate of food, and to expose people to foods they may not have tried before – like short ribs or lamb chops.

Kate: What about when you’re off the clock and cooking at home?

Victor: When I’m off duty my favorite meals to cook are cioppino (a stew of fish and shellfish with tomatoes, wine, spices and herbs) and fresh pasta. 

Francisco: I love to cook Japanese food with a twist – like miso glazed salmon, and goma ae (a Japanese side dish of spinach with sesame seeds), and short grain rice with Japanese seasonings. 

Kate: Thanks Victor and Francisco for your time, I know how busy you both are! As a volunteer, I am always inspired by the incredible amount of delicious and nutritious food that your kitchen consistently turns out, and am grateful to work with you and the whole kitchen staff to feed hungry San Franciscans. 

To continue to help feed the hungry and  prevent waste tell your friends to make a financial donation through Thank you!

Saturday, March 6, 2021

It's a Miracle!

by Margaret McNulty, Recipient

Sunday donations from Tader Joe's awaiting pick up.  Flowers included!

There’s just no other word for it. It’s a miracle. A miracle that has touched our lives with such a selfless, bountiful blessing!

Imagine my surprise finding out that a business like Food Runners even existed. The brilliant business model of taking often discarded food and delivering it into the hands of the needy, and for no other reason than to benefit the hungry. Every time my building gets a delivery, it reminds me of the facial expression of my then two-year old son, Dylan, when he realized he would be getting candy from every door he knocked on at Halloween. I’ve never seen such pure joy in my life. I’ll never forget that look of wonderful surprise, mouth opened in an “O” and eyes opening as wide as a balloon! That’s how Food Runners makes me feel with every delivery. 

Our building  has been lucky enough to qualify and be picked for what I call the absolute “Bonanza” on Sunday’s. It’s like a gigantic smorgasbord of all kinds of  dated perishables from Trader Joe’s. Forget Halloween, it feels like Christmas; one where every wish comes true. The ability to present this much needed food to our Residents, 80% of whom are disabled and elderly, makes me feel like Santa Clause giving out goodies!

Just one part of a typical Trader Joe's donation

Our management team could not handle the distribution of food when delivered by Food Runners, for them it was a burden. Tenants started fighting over food in line, or, they just were rushing and not lining up at all. I knew that people were only fighting because they were hungry, so I offered to take the responsibility. Now we have a good system going and I’m not sure what most would do without it. It fills so many gaps.

Not only does it save our tenants from trip to the grocery store, a trip many cannot manage, but, it provides a diverse variety of food, some people wouldn’t be able to purchase for themselves, making it a real special treat to receive. I’m talking about chocolate croissants, cakes, and sometimes even apple pies! We get samplings of something from every food department: succulent melons from produce to top- of- the- line meats, cut deli delicacies and gluten free bakery; it’s just unreal!

Sorting the donations

When the pandemic hit, I really wasn’t secure in how our residents would fare and then Food Runners stepped in to the rescue. Now, the tenants line up, rotating floors getting first preference so the same people aren’t the only ones getting first choice of the limited goods. Before the deliveries, I intstuct anyone who needs food to hang a bag on the outside door handle of their apartment and those with bags hanging, I fill up first, going door to door. And if in the hallways we insist on everyone staying at least 6 feet apart, with masks and gloves, taking turns filling their bags. I constantly get comments like, “How wonderful!” and “You are helping so many people like this!”It has become the highlight of my day to make these door to door deliveries.

Individual meals prepared and donated by the Food Runners Meal Program

Getting these services from such glorious and caring people makes our world a better place. The drivers have become like family members, being so reliable and patient with us at every delivery. We also get individual meals two days during the week from the Food Runners Meal Program.

Over the holidays, our on property Resident Services dropped the ball on signing up our apartments for Salvation Army Holiday deliveries. When Ashlee heard that so many were going to go without, not only did she pick up the slack by bringing us meals. But she also took the time to learn that some older Tenants were having 90th birthdays, and she miraculously landed us Birthday Cakes, too! I can’t generate the joy on those peoples faces when they weren’t forgotten, but were celebrated instead. It was like getting to witness my son on Halloween all over again! What a miracle and a blessing that I got to be a part of that season!

Foodrunners is not an ordinary company or an ordinary blessing. It’s the most extraordinarily caring business model that I’ve ever seen. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts, toes and tummies! If I passed this letter around everyone, our tenants would sign their name and attest to the fact that these food deliveries have touched their lives in a myriad of ways. 

Food Runners Founder, Mary Risley, and young helper picking up donations

I thank the founder of Food Runners, Mary Risley, and everyone involved, including their own kitchen staff and volunteers, for coming up with such creative delicious recipes. I also want to thank our devoted delivery drivers, for their outstanding, reliable, professional patience and phenomenal, flexible and most accommodating service! Oh and of course a special dedication goes to dear Ashlee and Nancy, for making sure the organization keeps running its miracles so smoothly for us all.

I thank you ALL for your existence. You are a Godsend. Each one of you has touched many lives, bringing an abundance of blessings, inside and out. Food Runners and YOU are TRULY OUR  LIVING MIRACLE!
 Signed In Sincerity & Full Appreciation,
Margaret M. McNulty President of Residents, Bush Street Community Tenant Association, S.F.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Looking Back on 2020

Ashlee Thompson
Volunteer Coordinator & Dispatcher

As Food Runners entered its 33rd year, we faced one of the most unpredictable and challenging years in our history of helping to alleviate hunger in San Francisco.

Volunteers pack up meals for distribution
In mid-March, shelter-in-place restrictions forced many Food Runners donors to temporarily close their kitchens and dining rooms, effectively and suddenly cutting down our supply of donated food. Founder Mary Risley and her team  rose to the challenge of adjusting to the new normal by cooking out of her home kitchen in Pacific Heights. These meals were packaged into individual servings and delivered by Volunteers to shelters, drop-in centers, SROs, group homes, and low-income senior residences. A few weeks later the team of Food Runners cooks moved to Waller Center (formerly known as Hamilton Methodist Church) in the Haight. Chef Victor Parra and Chef Francisco Durran, together with a supportive kitchen staff and enthusiastic Volunteers, have been cooking and packaging 2,000+ meals a day, 6 days a week. 

Holiday Meal created by Chef Victor and his team to be
sent out on Christmas Eve 2020
2020 also brought along partnerships with three local eateries; Nopa, SeaGlass, and Jack Rabbit Catering. These partnerships have allowed Food Runners to distribute an additional 3,000 meals a week to those in need, while also helping to keep these local businesses afloat as restaurants try to navigate their way through these unprecedented times.

The Team at Seaglass packages meals that were
distributed on New Year's Eve 2020
I began my journey with Food Runners in April 2020 as a volunteer, after being furloughed from my job as a pastry chef. Soon I took on the role of meal program coordinator, and in October I began working as the Dispatcher. It’s been personally gratifying and inspiring to watch this amazing organization and its Volunteers continue to show up to help alleviate hunger in San Francisco, prevent waste, and help strengthen ties in the community.

As 2020 came to a close, like most, I found myself not expecting to find much joy and magic  this holiday season. Our city was again under strict stay-at-home orders, most of us had to cancel going home for the holidays, and the exhaustion of the pandemic was catching up with so many. However when I entered Waller Center on December 1st I was met with unmatched energy and enthusiasm. It was like entering Santa’s workshop — holiday music filled the workroom, Volunteers wore cheerful accessories, and our meal program elves were busy packing nutritious and delicious meals. On Christmas Eve I made a late-night delivery to Bush St Community. As usual, I dropped off the meals to Margo, the Resident Coordinator, and we had a brief chat where we caught up on each other’s lives. As I headed back to my car I began to hear numerous people, shouting out  “Thank you Food Runners!” And as I turned back I saw residents standing out on their balconies clapping, cheering, and thanking me for all that we do. A beautiful reminder that the magic of the holidays doesn’t come from going out, traveling, or even giving gifts. It comes from all of us. 

So now, let’s take one final look at the magical moments of 2020. Together with over two thousand new Volunteers who joined Food Runners in 2020, we’ve made an estimated 32,486 runs to pick up and drop off food and prepared meals. Food Runners has  rescued an estimated 4,049,129 pounds of food that would have otherwise been composted or ended up in a landfill. And our Volunteers have helped us prep and pack over 466,105 meals that went to over sixty different organizations. 

A Team of Volunteers poses after packaging 1,000 meals in just 2 hours

To help us continue to spread magic to the community please get involved today by donating money, time, or food. Cheers to 2021!