AAI interviewed member Marv Zauderer, Founder and Executive Director of ExtraFood, an organization “helping to end hunger in Marin.”
How did you get into this kind of work?
For as long as I can remember, hunger has been the problem that has broken my heart. I think this comes from my Jewish upbringing – where food and a meal around the table were central to connecting everyone in the family.
My first career was in high tech and then I switched careers to psychotherapy. It was first as a psychotherapist working with vulnerable children and families in Marin that I began to see with my own eyes people who were struggling in my own community.
I started to hear the call to work on the problem of hunger. As it became louder, I had to figure out the best way to help. I started meeting with people in the community who were working on hunger, reading, watching documentaries, and learning about what people were doing about food and hunger.
I learned that 40% of edible food is wasted in the U.S. And, food waste in our landfills creates an enormous environmental problem. If global food waste were a country, it would rank 3rd in greenhouse gas production after the U.S. and China. In Marin, right here in our own community, there are thousands of people worrying about where their next meal will come from, while some of the best food in the world is wasted. And, so many of the hungry are hidden to so many of us, like homebound seniors and people working more than one job to try to make ends meet.
At one point I met with Paul Ash, head of SF-Marin Food Bank to discuss what I could join or start, to help work on hunger in Marin. I had already been volunteering for Food Runners in San Francisco http://www.foodrunners.org/. Paul gets the credit for sifting through my ideas and encouraging me to create an organization like FoodRunners here in Marin.
Not long ago, I brought a TV news crew along on one of our deliveries to a senior housing facility. Sarah, a resident who volunteers to distribute the food we deliver there, walked up to the reporter and said, “I moved into this facility in 2009 when I lost my house in the mortgage crisis. At that moment, I lost my faith in my community. Being part of this food program has restored my faith in my community.” These are the moments I live for.
How does ExtraFood work?
We fill a gap in Marin’s food system, sharing the abundance of our county with those in need. We work with non-profit food programs across the county to find out who is hungry, what kind of food Is needed, how much food is needed, and when the food is needed.
ExtraFood looks for excess food from grocery stores, restaurants, schools, businesses and other places that match our partners’ needs.
We dispatch our volunteers online and by text to pick up the food and immediately deliver it to our partners.
We started ExtraFood more than three years ago. The first week we delivered 100 pounds of food to our partners. Last week we delivered 15,000 pounds! In 3.5 years we’ve organized, recovered, and delivered 1,250,000 pounds of food.
Thanks to the outpouring of generosity across Marin, we reach more than 5,000 vulnerable people every month with healthy, fresh food.
What are the benefits of ExtraFood?
Through our work together, we and our partners are serving more people with more robust and healthy meals. In many cases, we are able to reduce the food program costs of our partner organizations, which then put that money towards expanded services.
ExtraFood donors save money on disposal fees, save money through tax donations, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions caused by food waste.
Volunteers feel a lot of love and gratitude from the food donors and the recipients they work with. They have a flexible volunteer opportunity that fits with their schedules. Hugs are a big part of this work.
Tell us about your involvement with Aging Action Initiative (AAI):
I was there from the beginning, at the first meeting of the Food and Nutrition WorkGroup. It’s been inspiring to work with other non-profit leaders across the county on a purposeful collaborative approach to making change.
How has collaboration helped you do your work? Specifically your relationships/partnerships in the AAI network:
Everything we do is in partnership.
For example, we take our strategic direction from research by the Civic Grand Jury 2014 report Aging in Marin: What’s the Plan? and Live Long/Live Well by the County’s Aging & Adult Services.
Systemic problems require systemic solutions
We partner with 175 businesses and organizations, such as Whole Foods, Target, Marin General Hospital, the Novato Unified School District, Cheesecake Factory, and the Marin Farmers’ Markets who have donated food to ExtraFood. We have delivered food to 92 sites across the county, such as Whistlestop, Marin City Community Services District, Warner Creek Senior Housing, Marin Community Clinics, Boys and Girls Clubs, Catholic Charities Canal Family Support, St. Vincent de Paul, and Homeward Bound. These sites include 21 new food programs we have started with our partners — expanding the safety net in Marin.
Systemic problems require systemic solutions, and the connections we’re creating among ExtraFood staff, 250+ volunteers, food donors, recipient partners, funders, and community advocates are building a living ecosystem, a renewable resource for our community that operates 365 days a year and will, we trust, outlive all of us.
What is an innovation in this area of food and hunger?
I’ll tell another story. Whistlestop called us to let us know funding was running out for one of their home-delivered meals programs. At the time, ExtraFood had a wonderful donation of healthy, sealed, microwaveable meals from Kaiser Permanente available. This turned into a fabulous partnership between Kaiser, Whistlestop, the County, ExtraFood, Byte Foods, and other ExtraFood donors which has tripled the number of people served by the program in the past 18 months.
What is your vision of aging in Marin?
My vision is from the age-friendly movement and from my many mentors in senior-serving organizations throughout Marin: “Where everyone can age in place with dignity.”
Aging Action Initiative (AAI) is a collective effort of over 65 different agencies, grassroots organizations, commission and neighborhood groups, funded by the County of Marin and coordinated by MARINSPACE, collaborating for an age-friendly environment. For more information visit agingactioninitiative.org or connect with us on Facebook.