By Mary Bond, Volunteer
Kaiser Run on Mondays
Several years ago during a YMCA Presidio hike, I happened to have a chat with a woman who told me about Food Runners. I think I’ve seen her once since that conversation. But thanks to her, a random stranger, I have a satisfying volunteer job that exposes me to interesting people and their jobs as well as sending me to areas of the City that are not included in tourist agendas nor were they a part of my own normal City browsing.
A couple of years ago, after some time as a fill-in, I began a regular run to the Kaiser Permanente Hospital on Geary Boulevard. Wow. They had boxes of amazing and beautifully packaged food, ranging from desserts and breakfasts to dinners and lunches. All of this was food that they were required by hospital regulations to dispose of but was still perfectly good — and would be for several more days!
Typical Kaiser donation
OK, not gonna lie. One reason I agreed to this run was the easy parking spot. But, the donated food soon became my focus. It’s packaged in a way that makes it easy to consume — remember “TV dinners”? That also makes it easy to transport — especially thanks to the terrific Kaiser employees who pack them into boxes and truck them out to my car since, for safety reasons, only Kaiser employees are allowed access to the kitchen. Luckily, I have a Subaru Forester that provides plenty of flat space for all the donations. In the end, I knew that I was very privileged to be a part of the process that rescued all this food.
Kaiser staff readying the donations
Kaiser has been a Food Runners donor for over 15 years. What a great commitment! Recently I spoke to Priya Prabakar, Manager of Nutrition Services, about the motivation behind these donations and how she feels about Kaiser being an essential component of Food Runners’ mission. She shared with me that giving back to the community is very gratifying and important in all walks of life. Avoiding food waste is a rewarding benefit all around, especially for San Francisco’s large population of people in need, who are provided with a meal they might otherwise miss. This food contains the appropriate nutrients for many different diets — such as heart disease or diabetes — as well as a regular diet. It’s the Kaiser Nutrition Department’s, way to ensure that good, nutritious food is not only used, but used in a community that has very limited access to nutrition.
Loading the donations at Kaiser receiving area
The Iroquois Hotel on O’Farrell Street receives Kaiser’s donations on Mondays. It’s a five story, historic (1913) building operated by the Community Housing Partnership. As an SRO, it provides 74 units for low income residents, so when multiple boxes of food are delivered, everyone benefits. I love the little verbal exchanges I have with a resident who helps to unload the food. I go away with a smile and so does he. It’s difficult to leave a small amount of food for a large number of people. But thanks to Kaiser Hospital, I don’t have to!