Food Runners

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!