On the morning of Friday, Oct. 5 at Buchser Middle School, cafeteria staff were busy cooking lunch. On the menu today were barbecue chicken with roasted potatoes, corn dogs, BLT club sandwiches and roasted tomato garlic cream pasta.
Later, a volunteer with the Peninsula Food Runners (www.peninsulafoodrunners.org) picked up leftover and untouched food from the school and dropped it off at a local non-profit organization. Participation in this meal donation program is part of the Santa Clara Unified District’s (SCUSD) efforts to address the local hunger dilemma.
“We are participating in the meal donation program because, at the end of the day, we have food leftover from the cafeteria,” said Karen Luna, SCUSD’s Director of Nutrition Services. “We serve anywhere from 3 to 12 entrees at each school site each day. The numbers of entrees we serve varies based on the type of school. Our department is regulated by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and we’re not allowed to just give food away to anybody. We want to be able to donate the food. There was a new law that passed last year that gave us more latitude in being able to donate to non-profit groups.”
Buchser parent Jeannette Weedermann connected SCUSD with Peninsula Food Runners. Through this partnership, Weedermann has facilitated meal donations for StandUp For Kids-Silicon Valley, where she serves as a Director of Program Support.
“Buchser started donating meals this year around February or March,” Luna said. “This program was so successful that we started another meal donation program at Santa Clara High School at the beginning of this school year.”
“What we do at Peninsula Food Runners is that we gather volunteers in our food community to help us bring food from our donors to the recipients,” said Maria Yap, Founder and Executive Director of Peninsula Food Runners. “Our mission is to recover good edible food and to relay it to those in need.
“Our other mission is to divert good food from the landfills,” Yap continued. “When you have good food that’s not being dumped, that food is going to people in need. And that food is not being trashed and going to the landfill. We get wonderful meals. We don’t pick up from fast food locations. In Santa Clara County and San Mateo County, as of today, Peninsula Food Runners has given back about 2.1 million meals in the last year. We prevented 2.6 million pounds of food from going to the landfills.”
According to Yap, Peninsula Food Runners has software on Chowmatch.com that allows donors, volunteers and recipients to communicate about food pick-ups and drop-offs. Yap’s husband, Tod Hing, created the Chowmatch website and its software — now organizations in over 500 cities in the United States use it. Chowmatch is free for users in San Mateo County and Santa Clara County only.
Besides SCUSD, other local meal donors who have worked with Peninsula Food Runners include Levi’s Stadium, City Beach, Nvidia, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Yahoo and Google. The JW House, City Team, Bill Wilson Center, Project Sentinel and a homeless shelter in Sunnyvale have been among the local meal recipients.
Yap’s overseas upbringing influenced her to be mindful about food conservation.
“I grew up in Malaysia. My mother was a social worker,” Yap said. “She would take me on her home visits and I saw how the poor lived. Here in America, we have so much food and it gets thrown away. It bothers me. I can’t stand to see food being wasted.”