About Food Runners
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 currently delivering over 15 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 3,000 meals a day in San Francisco.
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 over 35 years ago.
In 1987, she founded Food Runners as a grass roots organization picking up excess food from businesses and delivering it directly to agencies feeding the hungry 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 2007 she was awarded the Jefferson Award for outstanding volunteerism.
The Food Runners Story
In 1987, Risley with 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 food 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 450 restaurants, caterers, grocery stores, farmers’ markets and other businesses regularly donate perishable and prepared foods.
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 who arranges for pickups and deliveries and a truck driver who manages 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 farmers’ markets.
- 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 Day.
- 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 recipient 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.
- April 2012 25th Anniversary of Food Runners party for 200 volunteers and other supporters.