Fall/Winter 2012: Behind The Scenes

Food Runners delivers

Every Thursday, we get a call from Paul O’Malley, a volunteer driver with the San Francisco-based Food Runners. “I got your bread,” he says. “Dropped it off, see you next week!” And there, at the door of St. Gregory’s, are large bags full of fresh whole-grain loaves, baguettes, rye rounds, and seeded rolls.

Food Runners is a brilliantly simple and incredibly effective nonprofit started in 1987 by chef and cooking school instructor Mary Risley, who was appalled by the waste she saw in restaurants. She persuaded some colleagues in the industry to save their excess food instead of throwing it away, so she and a few friends could pick it up in their cars for delivery to local shelters and food programs. Today, Food Runners has over 200 volunteers like Paul, who make runs in their own vehicles, as well as its own truck and driver for large pickups. In San Francisco, more than 250 restaurants, bakeries, groceries, caterers, company cafeterias and farmers’ markets regularly donate perishable food that would otherwise be thrown out…as do individuals with food left over from one-time events like weddings, company picnics, holiday parties or bar mitzvahs. Food Runners collects it all, and brings the food to hundreds of pantries, after-school programs, shelters, soup kitchens, and children’s centers.

Coordinating, dispatching and arranging pickups and deliveries is the work of Nancy Hahn, director of operations for Food Runners and a passionate supporter of groups like The Food Pantry. “We want to prevent waste and build community,” she says. “Why throw away perfectly good food? There are hungry people who could really use it right now.”

Nancy sends The Food Pantry plenty of bread every week, and she calls us when she has unexpected bounty: last month it was surplus box lunches from a week of conventions, with gourmet sandwiches and cookies, as well as huge untouched trays of cheese and fruit. “600 lunches at the Palace. 600 at the Grand Hyatt. Another 150 at the Marriott,” says Nancy. “It was positively raining food!”

If you live in San Francisco and have food to donate, call Food Runners….a smiling volunteer will come pick it up! If you have time to offer, call Food Runners…Nancy will send you to collect food and deliver it to someone who needs it. You might even find yourself at The Food Pantry, where a grateful group of our volunteers will help unload your car. Food Runners, 415-929-1866.

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