Plant a Seed, Grow a Legacy | Radha Stern & Gary Maxworthy

February 20, 2018

When you enter Gary Maxworthy and Radha Stern’s home, the scent of Radha’s homemade oatmeal-chocolate-chip cookies wafts through the air. If you catch them around mealtime, Radha is likely to offer you lunch.

Food is family, friendship, and community to the couple. They’ve made feeding struggling neighbors their personal mission. Their connection to the Food Bank is so strong that when they got married in 2000, they tied the knot at our San Francisco warehouse.

Food Connects Us

“Food is nurturing,” said Radha, who has been a volunteer fundraiser for the Food Bank for many years. “Whether it’s a hot dog or a gourmet meal, food connects us. It’s the time when people come together. But if you’re hungry, you can’t think, and you can’t succeed.”

Both Gary and Radha have experienced scarcity in their lives. Gary grew up post World War II in England where there were often shortages. Radha grew up in a working-class American family, and she was a single mom in her 20’s, struggling to put food on the table.

The couple met later in life in the food brokerage business. After a successful career, Gary decided to retire in his mid-50’s and devote his life to service. He ended up working at the Food Bank and creating the Farm to Family program.

A Food Revolution

Farm to Family radically changed food banking in the Bay Area, and across the country. Before the program, people received mostly canned and boxed food, but Gary convinced farmers to donate their extra produce. Today, the majority of what the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank distributes is fresh fruits and vegetables.

“I’m so proud of the fact that we are able to provide people with healthy, nutritious food both with Farm to Family and the work Radha has done,” said Gary. “Our small ideas have turned into something.”

2017 Community Partner Honoree | Gary Maxworthy

September 19, 2017

After spending much of his adult life leading a Bay Area-based food distribution company, Gary Maxworthy suffered through a tragedy.  It was 1994, he was 56 years old, and his first wife died.  As the grief slowly began to subside, Gary’s three children came together and suggested a change.  They wanted him to do something with his life that would strengthen his community.  Gary agreed and soon joined AmeriCorps as a VISTA volunteer. His first and only assignment was with the San Francisco Food Bank. His mission: to think of ways to address the growing problem of hunger.

This was at a time when food banks were distributing mostly boxed and canned non-perishable foods.  Gary had an inkling of an idea that not only would increase the amount of food we distributed, but also to provide tons of fresh, healthy produce for our participants.  He started reaching out to his old food distribution contacts – growers and packers up and down California – and asked if they would be willing to donate their extra produce to the Food Bank.  The initiative was called Farm to Family.

Eventually the idea took off.  Now, nearly two decades later Farm to Family serves a statewide network of 43 food banks, providing 180 million pounds of fresh produce every year.  Six-hundred thousand Californians are nourished by this food every week.  Just last year, Farm to Family delivered its one billionth pound of fresh produce!

While Farm to Family would be enough to make someone a “Food Hero,” Gary went beyond all of that.  He has been revered for his innovative spirit, his leadership, and his mentoring of Food Bank employees.

Gary announced his second retirement earlier this year, but before he could ride off into the sunset, he was chosen as the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank’s 2017 Community Partner Honoree for his incredible legacy and contribution to food banking, not just locally, but around the nation.

Watch Gary’s tribute video above.  And listen to Gary, in his own words, in this recent KQED Perspectives piece.