Food Forward: Making The Most Of Surplus Donations

BOSS benefits from the wonderful generosity of our community, who donate clothing, towels, toiletries, and food all year long. This month BOSS will pilot a new way to share some of the food we receive with people in need.

The BOSS Food Services Program operates two industrial kitchens, one at our Ursula Sherman Village housing program in West Berkeley where we prepare breakfast and dinner for the residential participants there, and also dinner for The Casa Maria program in Oakland. The other is at South County Homeless Project in Hayward, where the participants have three meals a day. We also provide some food items to the Multi-Agency Service Center (MASC) for the benefit of drop-in BOSS participants and clients.

All year long, the Food Services Program receives generous donations of both fresh and non-perishable food items. Sometimes these donations exceed the capacity and kinds of food the program is able to prepare, so staff designed a pilot initiative to distribute non-perishable items to the residents of BOSS transitional housing programs.

On January 22nd, surplus food items were sorted and arranged into bags by volunteers and delivered to residents at seven BOSS transitional houses. Residents submitted applications, then received items appropriate for the number of family members in the unit and their access to either a stove or microwave.

Staff also crafted and included with the food bags a packet of information regarding free food and meals throughout Alameda County, and information on how to buy and store foods relative to date stamps that appear on food packaging. All in all, 122 bags of groceries, serving 81 adults and 41 children were provided. The bags included staples such as beans, rice, pasta, canned vegetables and fruits, canned tomatoes and sauces, shelf-stable milk, oatmeal, dried fruits and canned proteins.

According to DeShannon Williamson, BOSS Program Manager at Casa Maria and Rosa Parks houses, “It was a hit and a total success with our residents.”

To donate food or get involved in food services, contact Craig Edelblut at