Dec 04, 2017
ExtraFood: Innovative Ways to Address Hunger in Marin
Dec 04, 2017
By Robert Rosborough
I would venture to guess that nearly all of us are familiar with the SFMarin Food Bank. Indeed, MCBA participates in its food drives. But the Food Bank is not the only non-profit addressing “food insecurity” in Marin, which the USDA defines as “limited or uncertain access to adequate food.”
Unfortunately, the need is great. One third of all children in Marin live in households with insufficient income to meet basic needs, including food. Forty-six percent of seniors report running out of money for food each month. At the same time, a report from 2012 concluded that there is more than enough healthy food to end hunger in Marin; the problem is not supply but distribution and re-purposing.
ExtraFood is a Marin non-profit founded to address hunger in Marin by tackling the problem in just this way. ExtraFood Founder, Chairman and CEO Marv Zauderer wanted to do something to help end hunger in Marin. After a 20-year career in tech, Zauderer became a psychotherapist. During his fourteen years of practice, he was surprised by the number of people in Marin who were struggling to make ends meet. Passionate about helping people thrive, he wanted to do something to help that would make a real difference in his own community.
He consulted with Paul Ash, the Executive Director of the SFMarin Food Bank. Ash suggested creating a “food recovery” program modeled on Food Runners in San Francisco and so Zauderer did just that. He consulted with Food Runners founder Mary Risley about how to implement a program in Marin that takes excess food and gets it into the hands of the hungry.
ExtraFood takes all types of excess food generated by businesses, from already prepared to fresh ingredients to packaged goods, and matches the food with one of its many partner organizations that can get the food to those in need. ExtraFood picks up the excess food and delivers it where it can do the most good. Recipient partners include Catholic Charities, Homeward Bound, Downtown Streets Team, Canal Welcome Center, Whistlestop, and many other agencies.
A 1996 law—the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act—encourages the donation of food by protecting individuals and organizations that donate food from legal liability. Nonetheless, making sure that food arrives safely is ExtraFood’s number one priority and all deliveries are made in under 30 minutes, with most in under 15.
Despite being a relatively young organization (December 2d marked the four-year anniversary of its first food delivery), ExtraFood has already made more than 18,000 deliveries of healthy, fresh food totaling over 1.5 million pounds to nearly 100 different nonprofits. These deliveries reach over 6,000 people each month. And that also means that all of this food is not going to landfills and creating greenhouse gases.
ExtraFood considers innovation to be a central value of the organization and is constantly working to develop new programs and partnerships to extend its reach and reduce hunger even further. It provides food to SparkPoint Marin, a financial counseling and job-search service for low-income clients, which has allowed SparkPoint to attract new clients with an offer of free food. And ExtraFood is doing all of this efficiently, with 89% of its expenditures going to food delivery.
Coordinating delivery of something as perishable as fresh food from different businesses each day to different organizations that can use that food requires a dynamic, responsive organization.
ExtraFood put that responsiveness to good use during the recent fires. An outpouring from businesses that wanted to help meant that ExtraFood had new sources to draw on. As part of the extended Marin Interagency Disaster Coalition team, ExtraFood was onsite at the Marin Civic Center emergency shelter the very first day to coordinate food efforts. It was in touch with the shelter and numerous pop-up shelters throughout the county every single day to assess their food needs (and sometimes even to accept their excess food donations). It matched existing offers of food with these needs and when needed, went to businesses to fulfill the substantial needs of fire victims. ExtraFood played a major part in coordinating fire relief by keeping displaced folks’ (and some first responders’) stomachs full.
ExtraFood does all of this with only two full-time and three part-time employees. That means that it relies on the help of hundreds of volunteers to fulfill its mission. The need for volunteers extends well beyond delivery drivers to graphic designers, web designers, photographers, videographers, fundraisers and all-around office assistants. With the extra demand from the fires and the holidays approaching, now is the perfect time to help.