Food Runners

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Passing the Torch

  by Mary Risley
Director, Food Runners

Ladies and Gentlemen; Boys and Girls; Friends and Family,

I want to express my sincere gratitude for your unwavering support and friendship over the past 35 years. It is with gratitude and excitement that I announce it is time that I hang up my apron and pass the torch to ensure that our work and legacy continue for years to come.

Some of the original Food Runners Volunteers, clockwise from top left:
Rachel K, Dawn D, Judy S (r.) + pal and Micki E
You know our story to date: 35 years ago, a small group of women and I started Food Runners with the mission of helping our fellow San Franciscans in need. In the spring of 1987, the staff and the San Francisco Food Bank could not handle fresh produce, because they did not have access to clean water to wash their hands. So, we decided to set up a non-profit where volunteers, in their own vehicles, could pick up excess perishable and prepared foods and deliver it directly to the neighborhood agencies feeding the hungry.

Today, with the help of approximately 300 volunteers, and a couple of paid drivers, we are picking up and delivering over 18 tons of edible food each year. All of which are directed by our incredible full-time Dispatcher, Tessa.

Now to how our story continues: Fifteen years ago, a man named Marv Zauderer spent many hours picking my brain on how to start and run an organization like Food Runners. He then founded a very similar program in Marin and called it ExtraFood. Today ExtraFood is led by Will Dittmar, and I am excited to announce that we are planning to merge Food Runners operations in San Francisco with ExtraFood’s in Marin. I will continue as an Advisor to this work, providing training and technical assistance, which means I will continue to help raise funds; host parties for our volunteers and donors; support community engagement; and ensure that ExtraFood can implement food rescue in San Francisco with the same efficiency that our community has come to expect.
Again, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to everyone who has supported us in the past, and I urge you to continue supporting us in the future. Thank you for being a part of this amazing journey.
With all that being said, please allow me to introduce you to Will Dittmar, Executive Director of ExtraFood:

Dear Food Runners Volunteers, Supporters, and Community,

Let me start by saying what an honor it is to carry on the work of such a storied organization. To be part of this community and to have Mary Risley, who I consider the Godmother of Food Rescue, allow me and ExtraFood to help lead the next chapter is humbling to say the least. ExtraFood is here today in no small part thanks to Mary's support and, thanks to her guidance years ago, we carry the same mission as Food Runners: to feed more and waste less; to share the abundance of our community, with our community; and to do so with the help of our friends and neighbors.
However, I understand many of you will have questions and I would like to answer some that may be top of mind.
    What does this mean for me and my fellow Food Runners?
Mary’s and my goal is to ensure a smooth transition, one that creates no impact for volunteers, recipients, or food donors. We will still be rescuing food day in and day out and ensuring it makes its way to the recipients you know and love.
    Is Food Runners going to be called ExtraFood now?
No. We value the legacy, reputation, and community that Food Runners has built in San Francisco. ExtraFood is privileged to now be a part of it, but Food Runners will continue to be Food Runners in San Francisco.
    I'm a Volunteer and use the Food Rescue Hero/Food Runners app and I work with Tessa. What will happen when the merger occurs?
ExtraFood does have its own food rescue system, similar to Food Rescue Hero's. However, we will continue to operate on the Food Runner's app in San Francisco while we determine the best platform for all of us to use in the future. Additionally, Tessa will still be here helping you along the way during your food runs.
    Will I be able to do trips in Marin?
The Food Runner community, like ExtraFood's, is a confluence of people from all over the Bay Area. As our two organizations become one regional entity, my goal is to make sure we reflect that while leveraging our collective power to create greater impact for those we are privileged to serve. That means, in the future you will be able to stick to the trips you care about most in San Francisco, or identify new ones in new areas. It is up to you.
    How do I stay up to date on what's going on, next steps, and learn more about ExtraFood?
You can stay up to date on our progress and developments through our newsletter and website. Please also follow us on our social media accounts: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Twitter. You will also be able to access updates through Additionally, feel free to reach out to using this email address if you have any questions or concerns:

Mary and I want to recognize that this is a shift for all of us. We are collectively moving from community-based, county-wide organizations to a regional organization. While that, by its nature, will mean that certain things change, I am confident it will be for the better. Better for our donors, community partners, and individuals we will support; better for our vision of a strong, sustainable safety net; better for our goal to mitigate hunger, food waste, and climate change. While we grow our work and impact, we want to assure you that our community will remain a top priority, our north star.
Thank you for your continued support, and we look forward to this new chapter of serving our community together.
Mary Risley, Director, Food Runners
Will Dittmar, Executive Director, ExtraFood

Mary Risley                                Will Dittmar