Silicon Valley Food Recovery

While the notion of hunger in a place like Silicon Valley may seem implausible, statistics show otherwise. According to the Silicon Valley Index, 12 percent of our population is food insecure and experts estimate that up to 40 percent of our region’s food goes to waste. During the pandemic, food insecurity figures jumped even more dramatically. Second Harvest of Silicon Valley, the largest food bank in the region, increased their food distribution volume by over 100% since the pandemic began, according to a research brief published by Joint Venture’s Institute for Regional Studies with support from the Food Recovery Initiative . Although good data on changes to the food system post-pandemic are not yet available, food waste remains a serious issue both economically and environmentally.

What are we doing?

Silicon Valley Food Recovery is actively engaged in solutions for the efficient delivery of nutritious prepared food directly to those who need it most. With intervention strategies based on data and solid analysis, such as the ReFED Roadmap, we work to support organizations and governments on the front lines of food access and waste prevention.

Why are we doing it?

Joint Venture’s food recovery programs bridge the gap between those who are hungry and the abundance of surplus food that is out of reach for so many. An analysis conducted across California by Northwestern University estimated food insecurity rates from food insufficiency, and found that 31% of Latino or Black households were food insecure as of July 2020. Food distribution to at-need populations have increased across Silicon Valley, for nearly all programs: participation in CalFresh has increased by 25%; Meals on Wheels and Great Plates Delivered, serving seniors, are both up by over 350%.

According to ReFED, the U.S. spends $218 billion a year growing, processing, transporting, and disposing of food that is never eaten, while too many people, especially children and the elderly, go to bed hungry each night.

What are the latest developments?

Santa Clara County Food Recovery Steering Committee - ongoing

The Santa Clara County Food Recovery Steering Committee is made up of city and county officials, zero-waste professionals, nonprofits, corporate partners, and citizens focused on the sourcing and recovery of prepared food. Thanks to recent re-funding, for another year of action, this committee is in the process of expanding to include haulers, food generators, and others involved in stemming the waste of prepared food in Santa Clara County. The group shines a light on the issues specific to prepared food, such as leftovers from events, whereas partner Second Harvest Of Silicon Valley focuses on grocery and farm rescue. The Steering Committee concentrates on methods to recover prepared food and to stem waste through:

  • Capacity Building - facility needs and opportunities
  • Sustainable Funding - through franchise fees, contracts, and fundraising
  • Establishment of Criteria - for recipient organizations

Silicon Valley Food Recovery Council - ongoing

Joint Venture is leveraging existing relationships with nonprofits to maximize food recovery in Silicon Valley. Funded through the generosity of Wells Fargo, Joint Venture has been tasked with bringing together a council to focus on prepared food recovery. With lessons learned through A La Carte, as well as Joint Venture’s ability to convene the appropriate stakeholders, Joint Venture helps other nonprofits increase efficiency and recover more food. Many nonprofits are active in the food recovery space. However, the coordination of efforts, sharing of resources, and more reliable communication is needed to bring the efforts of the smaller entities to scale. With strength in numbers, the council can help feed the growing population of those who are food insecure. State law 1383 will require food generators to donate 20 percent of their excess for human consumption by 2022 (2024 for some larger establishments). This mandate will increase donations significantly and Joint Venture is working with the nonprofit community to increase capacity. Members include Hunger at Home, Martha’s Kitchen, Olio, Replate, Copia, No Time to Waste, Nuestra Casa, Loaves & Fishes, Peninsula Food Runners, and Chefs to End Hunger. Second Harvest and Village Harvest, a nonprofit focused on recovering excess fruit from orchards and backyards, also help support the efforts of the council.

Local food system efforts

  • In May 2020, Joint Venture’s Food Recovery Initiative worked with Santa Clara County Food System Alliance and Sage on a USDA proposal for a resilient local food system.
  • Food Recovery Initiative staff serve on the newly formed Edible Food Recovery Technical Council Executive Committee, through the California Resource Recovery Association (CRRA)
  • Joint Venture staff served as a facilitator for the July, 2020, SPUR convening for the Santa Clara County Food, Agriculture, and Health Access Initiative Referral.
  • Joint Venture now serves on the Santa Clara Council Food System Alliance

A La Carte - completed

Silicon Valley Food Recovery created a mobile food distribution model named A La Carte. An original concept, A La Carte is a fleet of trucks, staffed by trained personnel who gather prepared and packaged food from corporate and university campuses for delivery directly into targeted neighborhoods with high-density populations of people in need. Joint Venture has since completed its role in A La Carte.

Learn more

Who's involved?

In 2016, Joint Venture partnered with Santa Clara County to fund and develop a food rescue system for Silicon Valley. This was just the beginning of what has become a much broader response to regional food recovery. The steering committee guiding this initiative includes representatives from Second Harvest of Silicon Valley; Martha’s Kitchen; Hunger at Home; Santa Clara County; Joint Venture board members Eric Houser and John A. Sobrato; several cities; zero-waste professionals; and citizens concerned about these issues.

Robin Franz Martin is Executive Director of the Silicon Valley Food Recovery Initiative. Robin is an experienced nonprofit leader with a passion for food rescue.

What are the next steps?

The Food Recovery team briefs potential partners on our projects and on California Senate Bill 1383, a 2016 law that mandates a 20% diversion of food waste toward human consumption. All large food producers must comply with this legislation in the next few years, and Joint Venture will assist partners in developing a framework to help meet this objective.

Where do I find out more?

To learn more about the Silicon Valley Food Recovery initiative, please contact:

Robin Franz Martin
Executive Director

Please help connect Joint Venture to corporations interested in reducing hunger and waste in our region by donating prepared food. We are eager to begin a conversation with those looking to focus their corporate social-action efforts on hunger relief and on waste reduction.

Thank you for your partnership with our Food Recovery Initiative.

Silicon Valley Food Recovery

Through Joint Venture’s Food Recovery Council and Steering Committee, the Silicon Valley Food Recovery initiative works to divert surplus, nutritious prepared food from the waste pipeline by delivering it directly to those who need it most. Current focus on Senate Bill 1383 readiness and implementation supports jurisdictions and local nonprofits in the fight against food waste. The Council is also playing a key role in the Food Recovery Program for Santa Clara County.

How You Can Help


Donate towards the cost of trucks, fuel and operating expenses easily and safely with PayPal. Just $20 will feed 10 people. Please donate what you can!

All donations are tax-deductible charitable contributions.

Food Donations

We need champions! If your company or school sends excess edible food to our landfills, please contact our Director, Robin Martin, and we can work together to stem the waste.

To learn more, check out our Protocols for Safe Food Donation PDF.