November 8, 2015

Volunteering and Feeding through out the year! -By Sigal Kletter, Volunteer

Thanksgiving is just around the corner— we have almost three weeks to go, but the stores are packed with frozen turkeys, stuffing and all the ever needed ingredients to turn this holiday into an overboard feast.
I suggest you’ll watch the movie The Ultimate Gift. It tells the story of a spoiled grandson of a billionaire who shows up late to his grandfather’s funeral only to collect his share of the inheritance. But very soon he discovers his grandfather’s last will and testament includes a series of 12 tasks that he must go through, each containing an important life lesson. Though the grandson resists furiously at first, by the end of the movie, he has more than millions- he has a new appreciation for life, friendship, and the meaning of happiness—he has the ultimate gift.
Most of us won’t be leave our children and grandchildren millions of dollars when we pass away. But we can teach our children lessons about giving, servanthood, and thankfulness through actions and role modeling.  All it takes is a little investment of time.

The event that Americans commonly call the “First Thanksgiving” was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in 1621. This feast lasted three days, and it was attended by 90 Native Americans and 53 Pilgrims. The New England colonists were accustomed to regularly celebrating “thanksgivings”—days of prayer thanking God for blessings such as military victory or the end of a drought.

*[Thanksgiving is a controversial celebration of the conquest and genocide of Native Americans by Christians-colonists in New England. Professor Dan Brook of the UC, Berkeley leads the arguments and condemns the “cultural and political amnesia” of Americans that celebrate Thanksgiving]

As a federal holiday called Thanksgiving, it is celebrated every year since 1863, when, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens”. It means we are thankful for being here, living on this land, surviving and prospering.
Certain kinds of food are traditionally served at Thanksgiving meals. Firstly, baked or roasted turkey is usually the featured item on any Thanksgiving feast table. Stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, sweet corn, green bean casserole, various fall vegetables (mainly various kinds of squashes, as butternut squash has in New England), and pumpkin pie are commonly associated with Thanksgiving dinner. All of these are actually native to the Americas or were introduced as a new food source to the Europeans when they arrived.
As a result of the size of Thanksgiving dinner, Americans eat more food on Thanksgiving than on any other day of the year!

Those who cannot afford this feast, the poor and the needy are often provided with food at Thanksgiving time. The concept of giving back to the community is highlighted especially on that day. Most communities have annual food drives that collect non-perishable packaged and canned foods, and corporations sponsor charitable distributions of staple foods and Thanksgiving dinners; a wide variety of organizations are busy on this day: Meals on Wheels, Food Banks, Glide Thanksgiving Meals, Little Brothers: Friends of the Elderly, Feeding America and more. All that good hearted work is done by volunteers, many of them!

But stop and think for a moment: what happens during the year? Are these in need starve for weeks until this blessed day of feast is here? Do you know that 1 out of 7 people in California struggles with hunger?
Luckily, many organization are caring and helpful through the year. Shelters are open, food banks collects food, kitchens are open and many donors have their heart open generously.
My applause goes to the volunteers; all the hard work of organizing, sorting, cooking, packaging, driving and supporting donors on one hand, recipients on the other. People give their time, their heart and soul to help in any possible way. They show their care to another person. They get the growing need community to create bountiful community life.

Some give their skills, some donate money. But most of the volunteer give their time. An hour a week makes a big different to the weak and needy. Within this hour, a genuine smile and good intention brightens a dark day for another. Any time given goes a long way.
Helping, supporting, volunteering- this is not a simple one-time, feel-good exercise or just well-meant intentions. It is a continuous activity, full of compassion and very much needed all through the year. Consider every day to be a Turkey Day!

November 6, 2015

Peninsula Food Runners -By Sigal Kletter, Volunteer

To be an active volunteer has always been a big part of my life. It is the interaction with people that derives me to be involved. I find human beings to fascinating creatures, the crown of creation.

About a year ago, my daughter who works in one of the tech companies on the peninsula, told me about the Peninsula Food Runners [PFR]. Raised with the awareness to be sensitive to others’ needs, she set her company to donate lunch to PFR, to help others and keep away from an outrageous waste.
I just loved the idea of being a runner! It took away the need to go on my own, the burden of asking [begging] to help as a one person. It is all centralized and organized. I am part of a whole group and feel I have a supporting back. Feeling part of a group, of a community, empowers the individual.
The bottom line is, that I, by myself [like other individuals] cannot help with the welfare system, the financial systems or budgets, housing or providing jobs – my food runs is the helpful part. It helps the shelters and centers to save on food purchases[budget] and the savings can go to other needs.
So I am doing my active help; by volunteer I actually see both sides that benefit from these food runs.

Meeting the people who give and those who receive adds a personal and very satisfied dimension to the act itself. When one meets people one on one, a whole new world is being exposed. People are so different and so unique! The different backgrounds, the different stories, the dreams that are achieved or the hopes that are still forming. Interacting with other people is so very interesting!

From the donors’ side I meet caring, eager to help people. Quite amazing, most of them are in their young working years, starting careers in a competitive market. And although they are busy, stressed about time [free time], they have it right in their hearts. They are aware of the greater need in local communities and are cautious about waste. Some even apologize when the leftovers is but 2-3 boxes, not realizing that every box, every gesture is helpful!

On the receivers’ side, I meet many broken heart and soul people. They are in their desperate state, ever so grateful for the care and help they get. So many times I feel the tears sting my eyes to their situation; roof over the head and food to keep the hunger away are basic needs of life. Many I meet in the shelters are with their families and the heart ache to see the pain these families go through for various reasons. Every little help to support and raise the hope for these men, women, children, elders is a small but needed miracle. Seeing their eyes feel with light, the ends of the mouth raised up in a smile, their hand reach out in a ‘thank you’ manner – that feels my heart with a lot satisfaction. It cheers me up and positively push me to do more. There is no better gift than presents like these interactions!

Research have shown numerous times that helping others and interact with others raises some necessary chemicals [serotonin and Oxytocin] in the blood to create a satisfaction feeling, closely attached to happiness. Like serotonin, which is widely understood to control your greater mood. If you’re in a good mood, you’ve got serotonin to thank. And if you’re in a bad mood, you’ve got serotonin to blame, because 80 percent of serotonin exists in the gut, and is governed by your state of hunger. Oxytocin is released through closeness with another person. It can be triggered through social bonding, like eye contact and attentiveness. This helps strengthen existing bonds and relationships. In the long run, these chemicals are in need for every person, every human beings. Donors and receivers benefits the satisfying feeling and happiness.

What does it mean ‘others’? I mean people who might be in a different situation, on a different path of life, another faith, in another community or from another background. But all are human beings, all are people with abilities and emotions and we all have many identities [we wear different hats]. Changing the world through positive thinking and active volunteerism we, each of us, can gain the happiness element; and, there’s a ripple effect: it increases productivity, loyalty and a healthy communal welfare.

September 30, 2015

Volunteerism within companies / corporates -By Sigal Kletter, Volunteer

The Bay Area of today has more than a few organizations who take environmental and social issues very seriously. Social issues and environmental issues are interwoven concepts that go hand in hand. Many leaders are highly aware of the connections between these two major issues; even the current Pope, Pope Francis, talks often and loudly about these issues and pushes leaders and strong leadership to achieve solutions. These are some quotes from different speeches he gave:
 ”We are not faced with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather one complex crisis which is both social and environmental.”
 “It is necessary not only to relieve the gravest needs but to go to their roots, proposing measures that will give social, political and economic structures a more equitable and solidaristic configuration.
 “We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it. We need to strengthen the conviction that we are one single human family.”

The core concept is that the world is us; each individual is a world for itself and part of the big world. The two have to go together! Nowadays, the world is a global village. Therefore, we need to start taking care of each other as a community, as the inhabitants of the world. We all need to assume and commit with social responsibility and serving communities and people in need to better our world. “Things have a price and can be up for sale. But people, people have dignity that is priceless and worth far more than things”.

In the last decade, more and more companies are realizing the need to improve awareness and participation of their employees for their key community initiatives. Companies are recognizing the value in providing service opportunities to employees; it benefits the company, the employees themselves and, of course, communities across the globe. They encourage employees’ volunteerism and many use a program called EVP*.
No doubt that encouraging employees to ‘give back’ or ‘pay it forward’ improves corporate image as a leader or participant in giving back at a local (national) level. A better public image certainly increases positive interaction with the public and benefits the sales [company profits].
Other benefits of encouraged volunteerism to a company are:
o It team building, boosts employees morale, it boots productivity and motivation. It brings a happy atmosphere to any company, small or big.
o It illustrates organizational values, social awareness and social responsibility in action.
o It demonstrates an employer as a positive role model and a good citizenship
o It builds strong local communities.

How can a corporate or any company support and encourage employees to do community service?
 An internal Social Impact Scorecard that measures how the employees embrace the “local knows best” philosophy of corporate social responsibility.
 Start Dollars for Doers Grants—after X hours of service [40-60 per year is the average], employees earn a $X grant for their charity of choice.
 Every employee can use four hours per month of paid work time to volunteer. The company collects feedback from nonprofits regarding the impact of employees volunteering, particularly in terms of increasing their capacity. (When evaluating hours and impact, the company monetizes the social benefits of volunteering; this measurement is based on an awareness that volunteer hours aren’t created equal; Hands on volunteering or skilled based volunteering)
 Throughout the year, employees captured images of their volunteer acts, the engaging results of which formed the content of the photo exhibitions, culminating in a celebration event
 Companies make sure their employees who take the initiative to volunteer are treated well.
 Paid hours to volunteer per year: a company views volunteering as a collaboration between giving back to the community and bonding employees, customers, business partners, retailers, and consumers together.
The truth is, as Helen Keller said, that “until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other’s welfare, social justice can never be attained.” And Pope Francis added: “None of us can think we are exempt from concern for the poor and for social justice”.

I have used this quote so many times before, as I find it core to social justice and humanity concepts:

“If I am not for me, who is for me; and if I am (only) for myself, what am I. And if not now, when?” (Rabbi Hillel). Rabbi Chaim Cohen adds:” I find this to be the most inspirational and motivating message. I was created for a specific purpose – there is no other ‘me.’ Consider that I am here for others – bearing the ‘me’ in mind, how can I make the difference to the world? Lastly, there’s no time like the present.”

Rabbi Ari Kahn adds: “People who focus on being righteous can become self-absorbed and self-righteous; while those pursing good deeds and actions become righteous.”

And finally, “Who is wise? One who learns from every man… Who is strong? One who overpowers his inclinations… Who is rich? One who is satisfied with his lot… Who is honorable? One who honors his fellows.” (Ben Zoma) Nir Greenberge adds: “This is my favorite quote because it upends our society’s definitions of these things. We tend to think strength, happiness, wisdom and honor are reliant on external circumstances – how much wealth you have, how strong you are, how much you know…. Jewish wisdom shows all four are internal; it’s all up to the person himself. Want to be rich? It’s about your attitude, not about how much money you have. Want to be smart? You don’t need Einstein’s genes, just the ability to open your eyes and watch people around you. Want to be strong as a hero? It’s in your heart – just be strong enough to do the right thing.”
*An Employee Volunteer Program (EVP) is defined as a planned, managed effort that seeks to motivate and enable employees to effectively serve community needs through the leadership of the employer. EVP is also called workplace volunteer programs or employer- supported volunteer programs, are typically one component of a company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) program, community engagement program (CEP), or other program that addresses the company’s involvement in societal causes.

October 2, 2013

Where shall we start with Food Waste? -By Maria Yap, Founder

When my 9-year-old daughter was younger, she used to say to me, “Mommy, I don’t like this. Then she would pause for the longest time, watching me keenly for a reaction. It was often hard to hide my expression of disappointment since she did not seem to like what I was offering her. My mind would be racing in disbelief about what I had thought would be a winning meal. This moment of judgment felt like hours even though I’m sure it was only seconds. On good days, with a smile spreading across her face, she would declare in a loud voice…”I loooovvvveee it!!! I would sigh with relief. Yes, a successful meal. A small moment to celebrate.

So what does this have to do with the Peninsula Food Runners?

Well, at the moment I feel like my daughter. I don’t like the food waste that is going on. I don’t like it when I hear how people define what is good and bad. This is about how we feed ourselves and our children. What we encourage them to eat. And what we eat ourselves. An apple with one dent or black speck is bad. Leftovers that have sat two days in our fridges are bad. It’s time to consider taking a fresh look at our relationship with food to begin to confront our wasteful tendencies.

Here are some things we can do:

First, educate ourselves. Here is an article, 12 Myths About Hunger. You will be blown out of the water when you read it. I was!

Second, we need to start with ourselves. How can we better manage the food we consume. There are many ways to reinvent a dish. We do it with our turkeys after Thanksgiving. Here are some fresh ideas for using old bread.

Third, we have to help our children see food differently. We don’t discard the whole without taking the time to consider what is still good. In the case of an imperfect apple, we cut out what is unpleasing to us and enjoy the rest. We must stop the mind set of throwing away and starting anew. That kind of thinking may be good for certain things, but when it comes to food we don’t have to be so black and white. If we just take a second every time we are at a crossroad at least to consider the alternatives to salvaging the food before we toss it into the bin.

And finally, we need to re-educate ourselves about what we know about food and expiration dates. Here is somewhere to start.

I love it when donors see the difference they make in donating food that they have labored in. Or when grocery workers are clearly relieved they don’t have to throw out more food. I am amazed by the volunteers who step up because they see the importance of recovering all this food and taking it to those in need. I love it when recipients’ eyes light up at all the amazing food they receive. When I talk with people about the subject of food waste recovery I have yet to be told that what I’m doing is a waste of time. I welcome any discussion that anyone has to how we can reduce food waste. Here’s to defeating hunger and food waste!

September 2, 2013

The Beginnings -By Maria Yap, Founder

My first introduction to SF Food Runners came when I was a student at Tante Marie’s, a cooking school in San Francisco in the Fall of 2006. A highly energetic woman, Nancy Hahn, came in one day and shared Food Runners’ philosophy and working model and invited us to volunteer.

I was intrigued and signed up because I have always had the philosophy of trying something first and then deciding whether I like it enough to want to stay with it. I did a couple of runs to the recreational center for seniors in Chinatown. It was simple enough. I went to the location of the donors, picked up the food and was given an address of the recipients. But after a couple of runs, I didn’t continue because I had two young children (3 and 7) at home and a mother-in-law who was battling with lung cancer.

After my mother-in-law passed, as well as my grandmother and our family dog within the period of 6 month, I again felt I needed to o get out to do something that I could feel good about. My good friend Cheri, who had been a food runner volunteer, encouraged me to give it a try again and I signed up. I began volunteering 1-2 hours of my time on the weekends since my husband could take care of the children.

Volunteering at Food Runners gave me something that I hadn’t expected: gratitude. That gratitude seeps into your soul when you see and meet the people you are bringing food to. It makes me realize how truly lucky I am to be fed, clothed and have a roof over my head. I sometimes even feel like I need it more than the recipients. In giving, I receive the intangibles: joy, gratefulness, happiness, fulfillment, love etc.

A couple years ago, I decided I wanted to do more. I began to set up Peninsula Food Runners to serve San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties. I thank Mary Risley, Food Runners Founder for her ingenious discovery of feeding the hungry and reducing food waste. I am forever grateful that she has allowed me to share the Food Runners concept on the Peninsula.

Thank you for taking this journey with us at Peninsula Food Runners. This organization can only exist when generous donors and volunteers come together.

August 31, 2013

An Outing for Children

In this photo three of our youngest volunteer runners help to deliver food to Home and Hope in Burlingame. Home and Hope provides care for foster children and helps families in transition. Sign up at to pickup and deliver excess food. Volunteer as an individual, family or company group.

Thanks again to our recently added donors who are helping our cause in reducing food waste and eliminating hunger….Genentech, Bon Appetite, Compass Group, AOL, Replicon, Wal-Mart Labs, ZeroCater, Rebecca Jean, Guckenheimer Catering, and Trader Joe’s.

August 8, 2013

We Build it and now they (Donors) are coming!
Huge thanks to our new donors who are helping our cause in reducing food waste and eliminating hunger……Kid Chow,, Belmont & Burlingame Farmer’s Market, Andreessen, Trader Joe’s, and Walmart.

June 6, 2013

Leading the way

Turn, based out of Redwood City, is the first company to utilize Peninsula Food Runners’ web-based application which allows donors to donate excess food to recipients. Once the donor sends out a request for a food pickup, the application will match a local shelter to receive the food donation. The application also sends out an automated message to all available “food runners” asking to pickup and deliver the food to the needy. Thank you Turn and our volunteers for helping to alleviate hunger and reduce food waste!