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, those figures have jumped even more dramatically.

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.

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 just out of reach for so many. According to a 2015 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. In Santa Clara County alone, more than 200,000 people are living below the official poverty line.”

Even before the pandemic, more than 125 million additional meals were needed annually for people living with daily food insecurity in Santa Clara county alone. 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, 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. Comparatively, partner Second Harvest Food Bank is focused on grocery food 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 Stakeholder Working Group 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 will help other nonprofits increase efficiency and recover more food. Many nonprofits are active in the food recovery space, but coordination of efforts, sharing of resources, and better and more reliable communication is needed to bring the efforts of the smaller entities to scale, and to 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 plans to work with the nonprofit community to increase capacity.

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 in a recent SPUR convening for the Santa Clara County Food, Agriculture, and Health Access Initiative Referral.

A La Carte - completed

With the Food Shift case study as a road map, Silicon Valley Food Recovery created a mobile food distribution model and named it 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 food recovery in Silicon Valley. The steering committee guiding this initiative includes representatives from Second Harvest Food Bank; 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 Nancy Fishman, the innovator behind the A La Carte food truck concept.

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 us 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. You are an important part of the solution. We help because we can!

Silicon Valley Food Recovery during COVID-19

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Food Recovery Initiative has convened the Silicon Valley Food Recovery Council and is matching food donors with food recovery council members, so that we can get food to our neighbors in need during this unprecedented event. The initiative is also helping to find funding, facilitate coordination, and resource sharing amongst our food recovery members.

Do you have food or funding to donate? Does your nonprofit need additional food resources? Contact Robin Martin at: .

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.