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 food from the waste pipeline by supporting its delivery 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, one of the most straightforward, effective ways to reduce greenhouse gases in California. Joint Venture is leading the Food Recovery Program for Santa Clara County for the next two years, and working with municipal stakeholders on the long-term health of the program.

By recovering edible food, we are saving food, feeding people and fighting climate change.

California residents throw away more than 6 million pounds of food each year. An enormous number of resources go into growing, processing, transporting, and eventually disposing of wasted edible food. At each stage, greenhouse gasses are created, negatively affecting our environment. Food and other organic material that ends up in the landfill creates methane, a potent greenhouse gas that’s about 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Landfills in California are responsible for 21% of the state’s methane emissions. Recovering surplus food in Silicon Valley is one of the most powerful, impactful, and costeffective ways to fight climate change.

The surplus food collected in our area is used to feed our neighbors in need. 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. 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.

What are we doing?

Silicon Valley Food Recovery is actively engaged in solutions for the efficient delivery of nutritious 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. Current focus on Senate Bill 1383 readiness and implementation supports jurisdictions and local nonprofits in the fight against food waste.

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, with a keen eye on the climate impact this redirection of edible food has on our planet.

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%.

What are the latest developments?

Starting in July of 2021, this initiative has directed all its energy and focus on preparing our community to implement the food recovery portions of the new SB 1383 state legislation set to begin on January 1, 2022. The Implementation Committee of the Recycling and Waste Reduction Commission of Santa Clara County has awarded $250,000 to Joint Venture’s food recovery initiative to oversee the launch of its first county-wide food recovery program. Over the next two years, executive director Robin Martin and her team will guide county jurisdictions toward implementation of the food recovery requirements outlined in SB 1383, the first law in the nation mandating certain businesses to donate the maximum possible amounts of their surplus food. Sub-committees for mutual support of SB 1383 tasks were formed by Joint Venture through the Silicon Valley Food Recovery Steering Committee, and they have helped to strategize implementation by developing a County model ordinance, creating education and outreach materials and a web site that provides required connections, determining methods for monitoring and enforcing edible food generators, and more.

The Scope of Work directs Joint Venture to launch and manage the new program and make recommendations for long-term management of a county-wide Food Recovery Program.

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 refunding, for another year of action, this committee expanded 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 recovery. However, the subcommittees are focused on SB 1383 compliance, which includes both grocery and prepared food recovery.

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 and Santa Clara County Public Health, 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 certain food generators to donate their surplus for human consumption by 2022 (2024 for some smaller establishments). This mandate will increase donations significantly and Joint Venture is working with the nonprofit community to increase capacity and be prepared to comply with the new law. Members include Hunger at Home, Martha’s Kitchen, Olio, Replate, Copia, No Time to Waste, Nuestra Casa, Loaves & Fishes Family Kitchen, Peninsula Food Runners, San Jose Conservation Corps and Chefs to End Hunger. Second Harvest of Silicon Valley 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

Joint Venture’s Food Recovery Initiative serves on the board of the Santa Clara County Food System Alliance.

Food Recovery Initiative staff serve on the newly formed Edible Food Recovery Technical Council Executive Committee, through the California Resource Recovery Association (CRRA), chairing the Best Practices and Protocols Subcommittee.

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?

Supported by Joint Venture board members Eric Houser and John A. Sobrato, in 2016 Joint Venture partnered with Santa Clara County to fund and develop a food recovery system for Silicon Valley. This was just the beginning of what has become a much broader response to regional food recovery.

The current subcommittees and Steering Committee include representatives from the following:

  • Republic Services
  • California Restaurant Association
  • Loaves & Fishes Family Kitchen
  • Waste Connections
  • Stanford Healthcare
  • Martha’s Kitchen
  • Second Harvest of Silicon Valley
  • Santa Clara County Environmental Health, Recycling and Waste Reduction, and Social Services Agency
  • Private citizens
  • Zero Waste Professionals
  • Jurisdictions

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?

This initiative will lead the Santa Clara County Food Recovery Program for the next two years, then identify a long-term municipal home for the program, working to ensure its long-term finan-cial and programmatic health. The initiative will continue to run the Silicon Valley Food Recovery Council, supporting the recovery infrastructure and leadership of our region.

Where do I find out more?

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

Robin Franz Martin
Executive Director

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.