“Al Huber, one of our oldest volunteers who recently passed away. He was so committed to the work that we did. He started with Peninsula Food Runners when he was 86 years old and continued until he reached 89 years old then he had to stop due to health reasons. It was his weekly outing with his daughter.”
Grocery stores and other businesses provided the equivalent of nearly 4 million meals in the first half of 2022 under SB 1383 to combat climate change and reduce food insecurity.
December 8, 2022 - Businesses in Santa Clara County donated nearly five million pounds of surplus food to local food recovery organizations during the first half of 2022, showing major progress in implementing a new state law designed to combat climate change and reduce food insecurity by diverting food from landfills.
The total amount of food recovered jumped to more than nine million pounds when counting donations that Santa Clara County food recovery organizations gathered from businesses outside the county.
Grocery stores and other businesses are required to donate the maximum possible amount of their surplus food under SB 1383, which took effect on Jan. 1, 2022. Decreasing the amount of edible food that is thrown into landfills, where it generates methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, not only reduces carbon emissions but also helps ensure that all residents have enough to eat.
The implementation of the state’s new food recovery requirements in Santa Clara County is managed by nonprofit Joint Venture Silicon Valley’s Food Recovery Initiative, which administers the program on behalf of the County of Santa Clara and all 15 cities in the county. It is a unique collaboration that reflects a shared commitment to protecting the environment and ensuring access to healthful food.
“I am grateful that we are helping thousands of members of our community by increasing the amount of nutritious food that is available to residents in need,” said Supervisor Otto Lee, who represents the Board of Supervisors on the County’s Recycling and Waste Reduction Commission, a 10-member advisory body regarding countywide solid waste issues. “This program enables us to combat food insecurity and climate change at the same time, helping current and future residents of Santa Clara County.”
The roughly 4.9 million pounds of food recovered from local businesses prevented the release of approximately 336 metric tons of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, the equivalent of more than 833,600 miles driven by gas-powered vehicles.
The recovered food generated the equivalent of more than four million free meals to people in need in a region where roughly 20% or more of households experience food insecurity, according to an analysis by the Silicon Valley Institute for Regional Studies, the research arm of Joint Venture.
Grocery stores, food service providers, distributors, and wholesale food vendors must currently comply with the new regulations regarding food recovery. Restaurants, schools, health facilities, large event venues, and hotels must comply starting in 2024.
The Food Recovery Program was created in 2021 by the Recycling and Waste Reduction Commission to provide countywide implementation of food recovery efforts. Since then, it has provided technical assistance to more than 50 food recovery organizations and 2,000 local businesses. The program has created an online matching tool that helps the two groups to connect and develop other tailored tools to efficiently collect data from food generators and distribution agencies.
“We are incredibly thankful for the food recovery organizations in our county doing the hard work of recovering surplus food and feeding those in need,” said Robin Franz Martin, Executive Director of Joint Venture’s Food Recovery Initiative. “The Santa Clara County Food Recovery Program represents a huge step forward for both the environment and our neighbors in need. The development and implementation of coordinated ordinances across jurisdictions in Santa Clara County shows just how committed our local governments are to the success of this crucial program.”
Besides managing the Santa Clara County Food Recover Program, the Food Recovery Initiative administers a variety of other programs to strengthen the food recovery network in Silicon Valley and the broader Bay Area.
“I’m so proud of this incredible collaboration between the County, our partner cities, Joint Venture Silicon Valley, and countless businesses and food recovery organizations,” said Supervisor Cindy Chavez. “This is just the start of an effective public-private partnership that will ease hunger in Silicon Valley and make our region more equitable and sustainable for decades to come.”
Hundreds of local businesses and dozens of food recovery organizations have collaborated effectively in 2022 to gather and redistribute surplus food to people in need. In addition, more than 80% of local businesses reported using one or more strategies to reduce the amount of surplus food they generate. They cited the optimization of inventory management and improvements in the way they store, package, and display food as two of the most effective strategies.
The Food Recovery Program has accomplished deep and effective engagement through its outreach efforts to county businesses, with more than 86% of businesses and 100% of food recovery organizations having completed their required reporting for the first half of 2022.
“We are pleased with the great response we have seen in this first round of reporting,” said Ciara Low, Program Manager at Joint Venture. “Not only did a majority of businesses complete their food recovery reports, but many have developed new food recovery programs and are using a variety of strategies to prevent food waste.”
In addition to implementing the requirements of SB 1383, the Food Recovery Program has published a three-year plan for optimizing the recovery and distribution of surplus food in Santa Clara County, which Joint Venture is beginning to move forward along with agency partners.
“Santa Clara County is once again showing its leadership by partnering with a diverse group of stakeholders to innovate in the area of food recovery,” said Joint Venture Associate Director Susan Miller-Davis.
About the County of Santa Clara, California
The County of Santa Clara government serves a diverse, multicultural population of 1.9 million residents in Santa Clara County, Calif., making it more populous than 14 states in the U.S. The County provides essential services to its residents, including public health protection, environmental stewardship, medical services through the County of Santa Clara Health System, child and adult protection services, homelessness prevention and solutions, roads, park services, libraries, emergency response to disasters, protection of minority communities and those under threat, access to a fair criminal justice system, and many other public benefits.
Visit the County of Santa Clara at: www.sccgov.org
About Joint Venture Silicon Valley
Established in 1993, Joint Venture provides analysis and action on issues affecting the Silicon Valley economy and quality of life. The organization brings together established and emerging leaders—from business, government, academia, labor and the broader community—to spotlight issues, launch projects and work toward innovative solutions. For more information, visit www.jointventure.org.