Surplus Harvest

What are we doing?

Joint Venture is collaborating with private, nonprofit and government agencies to ameliorate hunger and poverty in Silicon Valley by pursuing a new collaborative regional framework that matches surplus food to authorized agencies. The framework plans include new software applications that can provide innovative information and communication technologies to collect more surplus food and expand the network of donors and distributors.

The new system will not duplicate the efforts of other Silicon Valley organizations, but rather enhances the mutual work being done by developing a more productive and efficient contact and delivery system.

Our Plan

Joint Venture will develop partnerships with Silicon Valley organizations. These partnerships will help provide greater visibility and a broader network to this regional approach. As more people become aware of the systems network, donations and distribution of surplus fresh food will reach those in need more efficiently.

Businesses also will benefit with tax-deductible donations and recognition. Our efforts will help non-profit agencies spend their fiscal donations on improving their clients’ future with social services and case management, instead of buying much needed food to meet the increasing demand.

Why are we doing it?

According to a recent Joint Venture Institute for Regional Studies research brief, “Poverty in the San Francisco Bay Area,” the poverty rate is still near record high for the area despite the tech boom. Hunger and food insecurity affects families (especially children), individuals, seniors and veterans. While living with a roof over their heads, they are still unable to make ends meet. Hunger also hits the homeless in all regional areas, and access to prepared food is critical. In Santa Clara County alone, more than 200,000 people are living below the official poverty line. Poverty in Silicon Valley is in need of a solution.

Recent regional and national studies highlight this unmet need of our residents. Even with Federal food stamps, and the best efforts of all the current donors of surplus food and non-profit food recovery and distribution organizations, over 125 million additional meals are needed annually for the hungry in Silicon Valley. In fact, overall one in six Bay Area residents is food insecure.

Concurrently, food waste in America negatively impacts us environmentally and financially. A recent national study found that the U.S. spends $218 billion a year growing, processing, transporting and disposing of food that is never eaten. Recently, Congress held the first-ever hearing focused on food waste, recognizing the severity of the problem.

With so many hungry and so much waste, locally and nationally, both problems can be alleviated by surplus food recovery and distribution to feed the hungry while benefitting everyone. Congress is considering the Food Recovery Act to offer increased tax incentives and financial support to facilitate the storage, transport and distribution to organizations that serve people who are food insecure.

The potential for federal maintenance and expansion by offering tax incentives for business donations will help, but will not solve the problem regionally. Potential donors need this financial incentive, but also require regional rules in the standardization of food handling safety regulations and the donor liability protections.

The 2015 Santa Clara County study, “Food Rescue Services, Barriers and Recommendations,” calls for new ideas to develop a system approach to reduce food waste and improve the quality of life for food insecure families. An innovative approach is required, one that respects and enhances the outstanding efforts by many organizations already trying to alleviate hunger in Silicon Valley.

Who's Involved?

Joint Venture has partnered with Urban Harvester, Silicon Valley Talent Partnership and Santa Clara County on the initiative. Our Steering Committee includes: Diane Doolittle, Juniper Systems; Dr. Judith Greig, Notre Dame de Namur University; Eric Houser, Wells Fargo; and Dr. Dennis Jacobs, Santa Clara University.

Latest Developments

  • On June 12, 2015 the Joint Venture board approved a new initiative for the pursuit of a regional framework for surplus food donation and distribution to feed the hungry. Joint Venture is collaborating with Urban Harvester, a 501(c)3 nonprofit and our first partner in this initiative.
  • Steering Committee member Eric Houser encouraged Urban Harvester CEO Linda Hess to apply to Wells Fargo for a grant. In January 2016, Urban Harvester received a $50,000 grant from Wells Fargo to pursue its expertise in the Bay Area to feed the hungry.
  • Encouraged by Dr. Dennis Jacobs, Santa Clara University’s Director of the Frugal Innovation Lab, Professor Silvia Figueira, met with Linda Hess and agreed to have a team of her computer science graduate students work on new communication software to increase the productivity of surplus food recovery and distribution with Urban Harvester providing guidance and requirements.
  • In January 2016, Silicon Valley Talent Partnership and Joint Venture jointly submitted a proposal to the Santa Clara County Food Coordinator RFP Announcement. On March 22, the county awarded SVTP and JVSV three-year seed funding of $280,000 to establish a Regional Food Rescue Working Group (RFRWG) and fund the initial creation of a strategic plan that will develop tactics to: increase the capacity of food assistance groups to adequately rescue and redistribute food within Santa Clara County; research gaps for food assistance programs, food access barriers, and opportunities for vulnerable populations; increase nutritious food donations; and develop food source reduction outreach and assistance to businesses and residents to reduce the over purchasing and overproduction of food. News release.
  • After months of networking, we co-hosted with our partners the Inaugural Silicon Valley Food Recovery Forum in March 2016 with over 100 leaders of these food recovery and distribution organizations.
  • We hosted on June 2 the first Working Council Meeting of leaders who volunteered to work on a Community Action Plan after attending the Food Rescue Forum.

What are the next steps?

Joint Venture and Silicon Valley Talent Partnership are co-chairing the Working Group of leaders to prepare the Community Action Plan. The goal is not simply to formulate a plan, but to collaboratively develop the plan with the community to ensure its implementation, which will require business education, enabling policy and the increase of available and efficient transportation and cold storage. Groups are being organized and will be meeting over the next few months to delve deeply into issues to develop the plan.

Where do I find out more?

To learn more about the Surplus Harvest initiative, please contact:

Marci Gordon

For more information about Urban Harvester, visit

Urban Harvestor logo

Surplus Harvest: Helping the Hungry in our Community

The Joint Venture Surplus Harvest Initiative is working to alleviate hunger in the region by eliminating food waste and distributing surplus food to those in need.