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Muffin Man

Group honors the “Muffin Man” for delivering food to people in Oakland who need it

on September 23, 2021

Out of the back of a green Dodge pickup, the Muffin Man has been feeding underserved communities in Oakland for almost two decades.

His truck is loaded with crates of canned food, baked goods, pet food; jars of spices, fruits, vegetables, dairy products; various meats, sweets, bread, and even flowers. Jack Dice distributes the bounty in Oakland neighborhoods, where he is known as the “Muffin Man” because he leads a group of volunteers called The Muffin People. They collect food that is approaching the sell-by date from stores and distribute it to those in need.

On Wednesday, Dice, 87, was honored for that work with a lifetime achievement award from Sustainable Contra Costa, which celebrates people and organizations for outstanding contributions to climate change work, a healthy environment, economy, and society 

“Jack Dice is a true community treasurer, an environmental hero,” Contra Costa County Supervisor Federal Glover said as he presented Dice with the award during the ceremony, which was livestreamed.

Dice has led the Muffin People for 17 years. The group, which has been around for 33 years and is based at St. Monica Catholic Church in Moraga, uses their own vehicles to transport the food from stores across the East Bay to organizations that help seniors and those who lack shelter or are barely getting by. Dice and a few other volunteers get to store loading docks around 7 a.m. and examine the items carefully before accepting them for distribution.

“If we wouldn’t bring it home to our own families, we don’t take it,” Dice said.

He estimates that they collect more than $1 million worth of food annually, much of which would have been thrown away.

The Muffin People currently are delivering daily to St. Mary’s Center, which serves seniors and preschoolers in Oakland; the St. Vincent de Paul Dining Room, which serves meals in Oakland; and the Emeryville Citizens Assistance Program, which provides food and furniture. Donations come from various Trader Joe’s and Safeway stores, Diablo Foods in Lafayette and Lunardi’s in Pleasant Hill.

Kirby Aho, a store manager at the Trader Joe’s in Lafayette, said he’s thankful for The Muffin People’s work and has taken employees to the places the food ends up.

“When you see the people receiving it, there’s this added level of humanity,” Aho said. 

He noted that in emergencies, such as when the refrigeration system has failed, he’s called Dice, who has picked up food at a moment’s notice.

“We couldn’t do what we do without people like Jack,” said Joe Riley, a custodian at St. Vincent de Paul who has known Dice for 10 years.

Much of the hot meals served in the St. Vincent de Paul Dining Room twice a day, five days a week, as well as the 450 to 600 bagged lunches the organization hands out daily come from Muffin People deliveries.

Chuck Blay, a volunteer with the Muffin People, said Dice has built up the program by adding stores and volunteers, which now total more than 40.

Dice said he will keep loading up his truck with crates of food as long as he is able.  

“That you are able to make a difference in some people’s lives with their food concerns, that they have, at least, food available to them, that is what motivates me,” he said.

This story was updated to correct the number of volunteers.

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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