Silicon Valley Food Rescue

Joint Venture’s Silicon Valley Food Rescue initiative reduces hunger by gathering prepared food from regional university and corporate campuses and distributing it directly to people in need.

What are we doing?

Joint Venture’s Silicon Valley Food Rescue is actively engaged in solutions for the efficient delivery of nutritious prepared food directly to those who need it most. With the Food Shift case study as a road map, Silicon Valley Food Rescue 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 neighborhoods with high-density populations of people in need. A La Carte offers a no-cost, convenient, and dignified experience for recipients. Drivers are food-safety trained and trucks are refrigerated. The prepared food goes directly into the community.

Sobrato Philanthropies logo CA Climate Investments logo CalRecycle logo

A La Carte’s first truck was underwritten by John A. Sobrato and Sobrato Philanthropies for $150,000 in September 2018. The Recycling and Waste Reduction Commission of Santa Clara County has been a funder of Silicon Valley Food Rescue since its inception in 2016.

The initiative is also funded in part by CalRecycle’s Food Waste Prevention and Rescue Grant Program, a subset of California Climate Investments, that puts Cap-and-Trade dollars to work in low income and disadvantaged communities. California Climate Investments fund project to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, strengthen the economy and improve public health and the environment

Stanford University pilot project

The pilot project for A La Carte launched in September 2018 at Stanford University. The custom vehicle, staffed by two food delivery ambassadors, “harvests” prepared food from Stanford’s campus and delivers to those in need. Stanford has provided a “living laboratory” for jointly creating recovery protocols and best practices with their Residential and Dining Enterprises, along with student support through Stanford Food Recovery.

New partnerships

A La Carte is now sourcing prepared food from several corporations and universities and is increasing its fleet. We deliver food to people in East Palo Alto, East Menlo Park, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, San Jose, Cupertino, and are continuing to add to the list.

Additional universities and corporations will come on line as food providers in the near future. The A La Carte team briefs potential partners on the project 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 A La Carte plans to provide a framework to help meet the objective.

Since inception in September 2018, A La Carte has recovered 172,00 pounds and over 140,000 meals for the food insecure population of Silicon Valley.

As of June 17th, 2019, Loaves & Fishes will be managing the operational aspects of the program. This new partnership will allow the initiative to grow. Loaves & Fishes has experience feeding the food insecure population of Silicon Valley, as well as the operational experience necessary to own and manage a fleet of trucks picking up and delivering food.

A regional approach

Joint Venture Silicon Valley has established partnerships with Silicon Valley corporations, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations. This framework provides visibility and a broad network focused on a regional problem-solving approach. Businesses benefit with tax-deductible donations and community recognition.

Why are we doing it?

A La Carte bridges the gap between those who are hungry and an abundance of surplus food. 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.”

More than 125 million additional meals are needed annually for people living with daily food insecurity in Santa Clara county alone. Yet, 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.

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 Rescue Initiative. Robin is an experienced nonprofit leader with a passion for food rescue.

Next steps

  1. Silicon Valley Food Rescue will form working groups to tackle some of the challenges around food recovery. How can we bring grocery recovery to scale? How can we make access to our clients more seamless? How can food recovery organizations coordinate and communicate better? How can we best respond to 1383 as municipal, nonprofit, and corporate partners? A scope of work for 2020 is being created with input from all stakeholders.
  2. Given the requirements laid out by SB 1383, expansion of Second Harvest’s Grocery Rescue will be important to the food recovery movement, and to Silicon Valley’s response to the new law. Most edible food thrown into landfills comes from wholesale and retail food outlets, dairies, meat packers, food manufacturers, and farms. Second Harvest is currently recovering about 13 million pounds per year, with plans to expand the program. Silicon Valley Food Rescue plans to work with Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties to amplify the work of Second Harvest Food Bank that serves both counties.

Where do I find out more?

To learn more about the Silicon Valley Food Rescue 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 to A La Carte. We are eager to begin a conversation about A La Carte with those looking to focus their corporate social-action efforts on hunger relief and waste reduction.

Thank you for your partnership with Silicon Valley Food Rescue. You are an important part of the solution. We help because we can!

Silicon Valley Food Recovery Council

As the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have dramatically worsened, Joint Venture has implemented a multi-faceted response to support the community including convening the Silicon Valley Food Recovery Council.

Learn more

A La Carte logo

Joint Venture’s A La Carte is a community-based project that “harvests” the abundance of prepared food from university and corporate campuses and delivers it directly to underserved members of the community via food trucks.

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.


Whether you have skills to share or just want to pitch in, we welcome your help. As the first A La Carte truck hits the road, volunteers are needed to package and label food, and accompany drivers on food deliveries.

Please sign up here

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