(Louis P. Guaraldi and son Ron Guaraldi)

Ron Guaraldi, longtime Sales Rep for Del Monte Meats, (‘I remember when Del Monte cows would march down 3rd street in San Francisco!’) and his late father Louise P. Guaraldi, have been putting together bountiful boxes of food, home goods and children’s gifts during the holiday season helping Bay Area families in need for the past thirty years with the Food Basket Program.

The Food Basket Program was so important to Louis Guaraldi, former owner of Palace Markets, that the programs longevity was his dying wish to Ron. ‘Son, please keep The Food Basket Program going.’

Ever the devoted family and community man, in the twelve years since Louis’ passing, not only has Ron keep the program going, he has near quadrupled its efforts, taking the number of recipients from 150 families up to 400. This year The Food Basket Program delivered 300 hundred boxes to needy families in the Bay Area on December 10th, 2016.

In an interview with CW Magazine, Ron Guaraldi shared his and his fathers life long passion for offering those in need a veritable Christmas miracle in South San Francisco area with The Food Basket Program.

How did the Food Basket Program get its start?
My father Louis Guaraldi started the program in 1954 with the Young Man’s Institute, a Christian Organization consisting of six Bay Area Catholic churches, of Saint Vincent’s De Paul.

Who decides who gets the Food Baskets?
The Young Man’s Institute, Chapter 23, receives recommended names of families in need from the Catholic Churches in the S.F area. Generally these families consist of single mothers and their children. We also have many poor elderly people in our community who receive baskets.

What is in the baskets/boxes?
You name it: fruit, vegetables, chicken, cheese, butter, milk, bread, assorted meat, canned goods, cakes and sweets, juice… And a present designated to the age and the gender of the children living in each particular home. Each box weighs up to 80 pounds. The large boxes are designed to supply a family a weeks worth of wholesome food for the holidays. This year we collected over 3000 pounds of food, toiletries and toys to give to our recipients.

How does Del Monte and The Chefs’ Warehouse help out?
They generously allow us to store all the perishable goods for the boxes, collected the week before, in the Del Monte temperature controlled warehouses. This year for the first time, The Chefs’ Warehouse and Del Monte have allowed The Food Box Program contribution boxes to be located at each company location throughout the Bay Area, which has been a huge help. As well, all the companies we buy food from sell to us at cost, which provides a tremendous savings on the fresh food we can provide for our families in need.

This is a tremendous amount of work for you to take on.
It sure is!! Thankfully I get a lot of help from volunteers from Young Men’s Institute (YMI), in association with the Kiwanis Club of SSF, SSF Host Lions Club, and South San Francisco Scavenger Company and various other community organizations.

Other than honoring your father’s wish, what compels you to take the Food Basket Program on every year?
Let me tell you a story (of which I could tell you many) of why I keep The Food Basket Program going. A couple years back, on delivery day, I knocked on the door of a very low income African American family, a single mother and her three children. This family was so poor the electricity wasn’t even working. Realizing who I was, the mother must have ‘God bless’ me a thousand times. The children in the house consisted of two boys, 8 and 6 and their small adorable sister, age 4. The children followed me out to the van to help me bring their large box in to the house. Each box has a number on it corresponding with the recipients address. As luck would have it, each time I reached into the bag to try and get the assigned presents for the children, my hand landed on just the right place and I was able to give the boys their toys.

Then the little girl looked up at me and said, ‘Do you have a present for me, sir?’ Once again, I reached into the box and my hand luckily found the toy that had been included for a four year old girl. It still brings me to tears to think about this moment, because for me this is at the heart of why I do this program year after year. When I handed this sweet little girl her stuffed toy, her face lit up with delight. She looked at me and reached up her arms to give me a hug. When I bent down to give her a hug she squeezed my neck very tightly and said, ‘Thank you very much for my toy.’ When you see how grateful these families are and how in need they are, it brings you back year after year. It makes all the hard work more than worth it.

Any plans for the future for The Food Basket Program?
In February my brother and I will cook our annual Rack of Lamb Fundraising Dinner to start generating funds for 2017. And this year, my wife and I are planning on creating a ‘Go Fund Me,’ account to help get the word out raise the funds for the program.