San Franciscans are Very Generous

Jul 2010: I believe deep down that most humans want to help their fellow humans in need. And, nowhere is it exemplified more than in Food Runners. Food Runners, which has been going for over twenty years, is a grassroots organization in San Francisco of volunteers picking up food from businesses that have excess food and delivering it to the neighborhood food programs. These include soup kitchens that feed the hungry, food pantries that give bags of groceries to families, childcare centers, senior centers, drop-centers, and single resident apartment buildings.

Each week, over two hundred volunteers donate an hour a week to make a pick up and delivery. There is also a paid driver doing large pickups in a refrigerated truck. Altogether, approximately ten tons of food is delivered each week that would otherwise be thrown away or composted. You can volunteer on It will give you the feeling of directly helping people in need.

The purpose of Food Runners is to create community. For the most part the funding for Food Runners comes from local foundations giving modest grants every year. And, we also send an annual fundraising letter every year before Thanksgiving. There are over two hundred annual financial donors. And, the best part is that many of them give $500 a year which entitles them to dinner at my home cooked by a well-known chef. There are over seventy regular donors who look forward each year to this dinner. You can join this group by donating on All contributions are welcome.

Another way you can help is to tell anyone you know with excess food about this free service. All they have to do is put the food in a food-safe container and call 415.929.1866. We will see that the food is picked up within a few hours and delivered where it can best be used. Food Runners can pick up after catered events and parties—just call 415.929.1866 to arrange this ahead. Some of our outstanding donors are Traders Joe’s, Genentech, Bay Bread, and Taste Catering. No amount of edible, nutritional food is too small.

We are very proud of a new organization starting in Connecticut—Food Runners of CT. Andy Geremia, who lives and works in central Connecticut, heard me being interviewed on NPR last year and is doing a very thorough and admirable job of starting up the same type volunteer organization there. For more information, check out

When we tell people about Food Runners, most people think that it is restaurants that have leftover food to donate. Actually, a well-run restaurant plans well so they don’t have any excess food. However, there are a few that make a tray of food each week for us to pickup and take to a neighborhood-feeding program. Most notable in his generosity is Gerald Hirigoyen, the chef/owner of Piperade (on Battery St. near Green St.) and Bocadillos (on Montgomery St. near Washington). At Piperade, they have been making food for us to pick up each week for the last twelve years. That tray of food is delivered each week by a volunteer to North Beach Citizens, a drop-in center on Columbus. You can learn more about this terrific neighborhood center on Not only does Gerald donate food every week, but this year he was the Well-Known Chef who cooked for our financial donors. And, what a great dinner it was! Gerald is so fun and lively; and, he and his chef Robert cooked an amazing dinner for about 40 people. We started with a Spring Vegetable Salad that was exceptional. Then, we were served Duck with Fresh Cherries served with Braised Romaine Lettuce. The dessert was a Cornmeal Cake with Fresh Berries and Cream. It was all so fabulous! Not only did Gerald donate the dinner for 40 Food Runner supporters, but he donated a case of the wine he makes in France. Thank you, Gerald and Robert, so much!

Now, what we know is that there are in San Francisco glamorous restaurants and neighborhood restaurants; but if you really want true comfort food in a warm, friendly place, you can always count on Piperade. For years, Gerald has had his finger on the way San Franciscans like to eat. He watches and learns and adapts. Not only that, but most lunches and dinners he is there making sure everyone is well served. Bocadillo is also lots of fun. This small casual place is perfect for a glass of wine or two with some small plates before or after going a movie at the Embarcadero. I especially love the meatballs with peppers.

Not only is Gerald Hirigoyen an amazing chef knowing how San Franciscans want to eat; and a generous contributor to all the food events, but he has written three really good cookbooks. His most recent is PINTHOX which is a collection of small plates from his native Basque region of France. It is a Basque tradition to cook onions and bell peppers together in a mixture called Piperade. This can be used as a filling for omelettes or in a soup; however, here it’s is turned into a sauce for chicken thighs. I recommend serving these spicy thighs with baked wedges of potatoes and steamed little green beans. Gerald recommends serving the chicken thighs with a bottle of light, fruity Navarre red wine. Bon appetit!