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Food Runners caters to homebound elderly

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By Leslie Williams

RALEIGH, N.C. — It was a mile-marker passed without fanfare, confetti or prizes.

But the one-millionth meal delivered to a senior by the Food Runners Collaborative on Feb. 22 was a gift much appreciated by someone.

No one is sure which of the six nonprofit agencies served by the Collaborative was carrying the much-anticipated meal, but identifying the ultimate recipient of that hot, nutritious lunch was not the point, anyway, says Bob Lindsay, executive director of Food Runners.

“It’s really a recognition of what we’re doing for people,” he says.

Food Runners functions like a caterer for Triangle agencies that deliver free hot meals to seniors and other needy segments of the population.

Since shipping its first meal in March 2005, the organization has increased production three-fold to about 2,300 meals each day.

Food Runners was created and exists for the sole purpose of supplying Triangle nonprofits in business to deliver meals to homebound and otherwise disadvantaged residents.

It operates as a fee-for-service nonprofit, cooking meals each day beginning at 4 a.m., and leasing space to Meals on Wheels of Wake County and the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle.

From its building backing up to the North Carolina Farmers Market and the Dorothea Dix Hospital campus, Food Runners makes, packages and ships meals to agencies in Wake, Johnston, Durham and Nash counties.

Some are individually wrapped and ready for delivery by the client, while others are in large buffet containers, ready to be served at group dining centers.

The partnership began in 1999 when Wake Meals on Wheels and the Food Shuttle launched independent campaigns to build facilities for food storage and production.

Eventually, Lindsay says, the two organizations realized they were treading parallel paths.

“So Food Runners was formed basically as the banker to raise the money, build the building and lease the space,” he says.

The food part came later, when Meals on Wheels decided to hand over meal production to Food Runners as well.

The agency eventually took on the clients of another similar nonprofit that decided to close its doors as Food Runners’ were opening.

“Suddenly there were 2,000-plus meals that had no vendor,” Lindsay says. “But we swallowed the elephant and actually did it.”

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