Wish Book: Peninsula Food Runners tackle food insecurity with leftovers

José León quickly popped open the trunk of his Mazda, smoothed out a blue tarp and started stacking 35 steam pans chock-full of roasted Brussels sprouts, flaky chicken pot pies, hearty rice noodles and delicate chocolate desserts into his vehicle on an autumn afternoon.

Parked outside a loading dock on LinkedIn’s sprawling Sunnyvale campus, León and his wife, Marie Pham, arrived to pick up leftovers that were weighed, packaged and donated after tech employees had their fill of the 1,050 pounds of protein and 630 pounds of vegetables chefs spent four hours prepping for lunch — free of charge.

The duo are volunteers with Peninsula Food Runners, and that day’s assignment was Life’s Garden Apartments, a senior affordable housing complex only 10 minutes down the road.

“We live in such a wealthy area,” León said, “but food insecurity is just a hop and a skip away.”

Jose Leon, a volunteer with Peninsula Food Runners, unloads food from LinkedIn at Life’s Garden Apartments, with the help of Angela Tong in Sunnyvale, Calif., on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022. Wish Book for Peninsula Food Runners. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) 

In 2021, Peninsula Food Runners moved more than 3 million pounds of food to hundreds of organizations across Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.

Starting with two donors and 40 volunteers in 2013, the nonprofit has since created a system — almost like a relay race fused with a delivery app — that passes along trays of vegetables, entrees, beverages and desserts like batons to prevent food from wasting away in trash bins and dumpsters.

The goal is to help the roughly 8 million Californians — 1 in every 5 people — who lack consistent access to food.

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

This effort will be especially vital as SB 1383 — a 2016 bill that aimed to reduce waste and climate impacts — started requiring businesses this year to take part in food recovery programs. The goal is to recover 20% of all edible food that otherwise was destined for landfills by 2025.

At Life’s Garden, more than 200 low-income seniors who are living with limited mobility, ability and money lined up for to-go boxes of LinkedIn’s leftovers. Nina Tan, resident activities director at the housing complex, said these donations help provide meals that residents may not otherwise have access to — physically and financially.

“It doesn’t matter what it is, whatever I am able to get for them I’m just happy, because I know they need it,” Tan said. “This food cooked for employees would otherwise be wasted. You are feeding good food to good people. It’s like a perfect combination.”

Ping Yu, far left, a volunteer resident at Life’s Garden Apartments, hands food to residents from LinkedIn, delivered by volunteers from Peninsula Food Runners, at …read more

Source:: The Mercury News


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