Food Runner's Mission
The mission of Food Runners is to help alleviate
hunger in San Francisco, to help prevent waste and to help create
community. Food Runners is a California 501.C3 Corporation -
with a Board of Directors and an Advisory Committee made up
of concerned individuals from throughout our community.
Food Runners is currently delivering approximately 10 tons of
food a week that would otherwise be thrown away. With help from
our volunteer coordinator, our paid truck driver and people
like you, we can provide enough food for 2,000 meals a day in
Our Founder, Mary Risley
A pioneering figure in the Bay Area food community, Mary Risley
started Tante Marie's Cooking School as a full-time professional
school almost 30 years ago.
In 1987, she founded Food Runners to help eliminate waste and
alleviate hunger in San Francisco. 12 years later, she was awarded
"Humanitarian of the Year" by the James Beard Foundation for
her work with Food Runners. In addition, Mayor Willie Brown
declared June 2, l999, Mary Risley and Food Runners Day in San
Francisco, and San Francisco Magazine honored her as one of
their "Best Players".
The Food Runners Story
Identifying the need like all chefs, Mary Risley hated to see
good food go to waste. But all too often, that's just what happened
at her Tante Marie's Cooking School. She assumed there must
be other food businesses in the same situation. She also knew
there were plenty of San Franciscans who didn't have enough
to eat. Frequently, she saw people going through garbage cans
on the streets. "To see so much edible food going to waste while
people were hungry just didn't make sense," she says.
Food Runners Is Born
In 1987, Risley and a small group of concerned professionals
came up with a simple idea: donate food from those who have
too much to those who have too little. She persuaded some colleagues
in the restaurant industry to save their excess food, which
she and a few friends picked up in their cars and delivered
to local shelters and food programs. Today, Food Runners has
over 200 volunteers, and more than 250 restaurants, bakeries,
groceries, farmers’ markets and other businesses regularly donate
Growth and Expansion
For eight years, Risley ran the all-volunteer organization out
of her home, fielding phone calls and coordinating pickups and
deliveries. To retrieve and distribute more food to San Francisco’s
needy, the program acquired a volunteer coordinator and a truck
driver who picks up and delivers extra large donations in the
Food Runners' refrigerated truck. And while Food Runners is
growing, it remains primarily a program of volunteers, with
its original grassroots spirit and simplicity of purpose intact.
A Sense of Community
Food Runners is a focal point where food donors, volunteers
and recipients connect with their community As Mary explains,
“People who like to cook are generous, and they like to see
others being fed. The volunteers who pick up and deliver the
food have an immediate sense of helping others at the most fundamental
level. And the recipients have tangible proof that their fellow
San Franciscans really care.”
History: 1987 to Today
April 1987 - A small group of food professionals decided to
do something about hunger in San Francisco. A phone network
is established connecting businesses that have excess food with
agencies feeding people in need. Volunteers pick up and deliver
the food directly.
Jan. 1992 - The Planned Overage program is added to the Food
Runners program. Once a week, participating restaurants use
their leftover food to create a main course for 25 to 30 people.
April 1995 - A full-time dispatcher and volunteer coordinator
are hired to arrange pick-ups and deliveries.
Nov. 1995 - The UPS Foundation donates a refrigerated truck
to Food Runners, allowing Food Runners to pick up and deliver
greater quantities of food from large events, conventions and
April 1997 - A full-time truck driver is hired to pick up and
deliver large food donations on a daily basis.
1998 - THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE/EXAMINER names Food Runners
founder Mary Risley as one of the ten most influential people
in the Bay Area.
1999 - Mary Risley receives the "Humanitarian of the Year" Award
from the James Beard Foundation in recognition of her work helping
feed the hungry of San Francisco through Food Runners. San Francisco
Mayor Willie Brown declares June 2 Mary Risley and Food Runners
April 2002 - At the 15th anniversary celebration volunteers
receive pins to commemorate 5, 10 or 15 years of continuous
Food Runners service.
November 2006 - Mary Risley was honored at a dinner given by
the North Beach Citizens. This day was declared Mary Risley
in San Francisco by the Mayor, Gavin Newsom. She also received
Proclamations from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the
California State Senate, and the United States Senate signed
by Dianne Feinstein. They were all in recognition for her efforts
to help feed the hungry of San Francisco through Food Runners.
April 2007 Mary Risley received the prestigious Jefferson Award
for making a difference in her community. As the recepient of
this award, she was profiled in THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE,
on CBS 5-TV, and on KCBS-AM.
May 2007 -- Over 100 volunteers attended the 20th Anniversary
Celebration of Food Runners. The volunteers were given commerative
pins for their years of service to their community.