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Peninsula Food Runners tackle food insecurity with corporate leftovers

Peninsula Food Runners tackle food insecurity with corporate leftovers

José Leon quickly opens the trunk of his Mazda, flattens the blue tarp, and prepares 35 steam buns chock-full of roasted Brussels sprouts, flaky chicken pot pie, hearty rice noodles, and a delicate chocolate dessert for an autumn afternoon. I started loading it into my car.

Parked outside the loading dock on LinkedIn’s sprawling Sunnyvale campus, Leon and his wife, Marie Pham, ate the 1,050 pounds of protein and 630 pounds of vegetables consumed by the chef after their tech employees satiated them. , arrived to be weighed, wrapped and picked up with donated leftovers. 4 hours to prepare lunch — free.

The two are volunteers for Peninsula Food Runners, and their assignment for the day was Life’s Garden Apartments, an affordable senior housing complex just 10 minutes down the road.

“We live in a very wealthy neighborhood,” Leon said.

On Wednesday, October 19, 2022, Peninsula Food Runners volunteer Jose Leon unloads food from LinkedIn at Life's Garden Apartments with the help of Angela Tong in Sunnyvale, CA.  (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)
On Wednesday, October 19, 2022, Peninsula Food Runners volunteer Jose Leon unloads food from LinkedIn at Life’s Garden Apartments with the help of Angela Tong in Sunnyvale, CA. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)

In 2021, Peninsula Food Runners have moved over 3 million pounds of food to hundreds of organizations in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.

Started in 2013 with two donors and 40 volunteers, the nonprofit created a system that carries trays of vegetables, appetizers, drinks and desserts like batons. Trash and trash.

The goal is to help nearly 8 million Californians (1 in 5).

Peninsula Food Runners hopes to raise $30,000 through Mercury News’ annual Wish Book program. Do more to increase the nonprofit’s delivery capacity by recruiting more volunteers, connecting with more donors who have extra food, and adding at least 1,000 new recipients to the program. Hire more staff. .

This effort is especially important because SB 1383 — a 2016 bill aimed at reducing waste and climate impact — began this year to require businesses to participate in food take-back programs. The goal is to recover his 20% of all edible food that was destined for landfill by 2025.

At Life’s Garden, over 200 low-income seniors with limited mobility, abilities and financial limitations lined up for a to-go box of LinkedIn leftovers. Nina Tan, director of resident activities at the estate, said these donations help provide meals that may otherwise be inaccessible, physically and financially.

“Whatever it is, whatever I can get for them, I’m just happy. Because I know they need it,” Tan said. This food cooked for the members is otherwise wasted.You are giving good people good food.It seems like a perfect combination.”

Life's Garden Apartments volunteer resident Ping Yu, far left, hands out food to a LinkedIn resident at Life's Garden Apartments in Sunnyvale, Calif., Wednesday, October 19, 2022. For Peninsula Food Runners.  (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)
Life’s Garden Apartments volunteer resident Ping Yu, far left, hands out food to a LinkedIn resident at Life’s Garden Apartments in Sunnyvale, Calif., Wednesday, October 19, 2022. For Peninsula Food Runners. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)

Nearly 1,000 volunteers within the Peninsula Food Runners system not only deliver food to senior living communities, but also deliver food year-round to emergency shelters, transitional housing programs, family resource centers and affordable multi-family housing. Delivering.

Maria Yap, founder of the nonprofit, uses close, one-on-one relationships with locals and personalized delivery schedules to deliver frozen chocolate croissants, freshly baked butter chicken, cupcakes, ready-to-eat vegetables, and bottled groceries. He said it has become easier to distribute commodities such as organic beverages.Hungry mouths go up and down the peninsula.

“The great thing about our system is that we can give people as much as they want or are given,” she said. “I asked myself a very simple question: Where are the people in need of food? They are not just in shelters. You may not have transportation.

Donors range from LinkedIn and Adobe corporate kitchens, grocery stores like Trader Joe’s, and bustling Asian markets, to nearby school districts, universities, and caterers. Surplus produce is often discarded at local community gardens and farmers markets as well.

More than 15.4 million pounds of food have been diverted from landfills and 12.8 million meals provided since the nonprofit was founded.

Peninsula Food Runners was born after Yap saw a San Francisco food bank dispose of an otherwise excellent product because it didn’t have enough space for storage and distribution. But many of the places she volunteered to avoid turning down her donations, even though they didn’t have the infrastructure to accommodate them all.

Growing up in a poor family in Malaysia, this needless waste struck a personal chord after she grudgingly ate what little her single mother could offer Yap and her seven siblings. she said.

Knowing that many food-insecure people don’t always go to food banks, Yap said he started Peninsula Food Runners almost a decade ago to turn frustration into connection.

“People who are food insecure often have a roof but no food in their refrigerators,” says Yap. “Over the years, I have learned that there is enough food around. , waiting for people to fall off the cliff.”

Life's Garden Apartments volunteer resident Ping Yu prepares a meal provided by LinkedIn at Life's Garden Apartments in Sunnyvale, CA on Wednesday, October 19, 2022. The food is delivered by Peninsula Food Runners volunteers.  The Wish Book of Peninsula Food Runners.  (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)
Life’s Garden Apartments volunteer resident Ping Yu prepares a meal provided by LinkedIn at Life’s Garden Apartments in Sunnyvale, CA on Wednesday, October 19, 2022. The food is delivered by Peninsula Food Runners volunteers. The Wish Book of Peninsula Food Runners. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)

This lifeline is even more important as the pandemic and rising food, gas and housing costs have effectively shrunk the paychecks of many residents.

Yap likens the current food distribution ecosystem to a school playground. If older children have the resources to control all kickballs during breaks, younger children have to ask to play, which can create power structures and resentment. , she is trying to add a kickball to the school’s equipment, so everyone can play with their own ball, making it easier to manage.

“People need food,” Yap said. “You have to put it in the right hands.”

On Wednesday, October 19, Peninsula Food Runners volunteer Jose León receives food from LinkedIn cafe supervisor Siria Rose.  2022. The Peninsula Food Runner Wish Book.  (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)
On Wednesday, October 19, Peninsula Food Runners volunteer Jose León receives food from LinkedIn cafe supervisor Siria Rose. 2022. The Peninsula Food Runner Wish Book. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)

wish book series
Wish Book is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization operated by The Mercury News. Since 1983, Wish Book has produced a series of stories that highlight the wishes of those in need and help readers fulfill their wishes during the holiday season.

wish
Donations help Peninsula Food Runners expand its staff and connect with more donors, volunteers, and recipients of food recovery efforts. Goal: $30,000

how to give
Donate at wishbook.mercurynews.com or mail a coupon.

online extras
Read stories, view photos and videos from other Wishbooks at Wishbook.mercurynews.com.

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