In August, Marin-based ExtraFood rescued its 5 millionth pound of food, a significant milestone for the nonprofit in the fight against hunger.
A call from Nugget Markets in Corte Madera quickly turned a regular summer day for the team and volunteers at the county-wide food recovery nonprofit ExtraFood into an extraordinary one. In the blink of an eye volunteers had picked up and brought the donation to Marin Community Clinic’s San Rafael Health Hub, which provides food distribution and other services to low-income Marin residents, that marked the organization’s record accomplishment.
“One of the best things about my job is that I stand in the middle of many rivers of generosity that enable us to make an impact 365 days a year,” says founder and departing executive director Marv Zauderer (Will Dittmar has just been named as his replacement). “ExtraFood is about sharing abundance here, so all can thrive.”
The Kentfield-based nonprofit got its start in 2013 when Zauderer, who began his career in technology and pivoted to psychotherapy, launched a move to get food to the one in five Marinites who worry about where their next meal will come from.
Founder and departing executive director Marv Zauderer
“Hunger breaks my heart and the climate crisis terrifies me,” says Zauderer, adding that the emissions from food waste in the world is twice the amount generated by all the cars in the U.S. and Europe and that rescuing food lowers those emissions. “If people have the food they need, children can learn, adults can find jobs to lift themselves out of poverty and seniors can age in place with dignity.”
But none of that can happen without the more than 750 volunteers who have donated some 60,000 hours since ExtraFood began to get nourishing food into the hands of 8,000 hungry people per month. “One of the most frequent things I hear when I ask volunteers what they like about the job is that they get a hug when they deliver,” Zauderer says, adding that volunteers complete whichever deliveries fit into their schedule. “They feel the triple impact of our work: the impact on hunger, the impact on the climate crisis as they’re reducing food waste, and they feel the impact on systemic change in our community.”
The operation works with military-like precision because fresh food can’t wait. First, the staff identifies regular and spontaneous donations of excess fresh food — prepared food, fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, eggs, meat, baked goods — and matches those with the needs in the community, often reaching out to nonprofit distribution partners like senior housing centers, after-school programs and homeless shelters and food pantries. When a match is found, it is posted to a web portal and then staff or volunteers grab the assignment, hop into a refrigerated truck and deliver it free of charge. “Those are our marching orders,” Zauderer says.
The job is full of powerful moments, but one that really stood out for Zauderer was when he visited a senior housing center that ExtraFood delivers to and encountered a woman who had lost her home in the financial crisis.
“At that point, I lost my faith in this community,” the woman told Zauderer.” Being part of this food program has restored my faith.”To make a financial gift visit give.extrafood.org; businesses and schools can donate extra food at goingplaces.extrafood.org.