Rescuing Groceries in Silicon Valley


When Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties learned that nearly half of the food in grocery stores in America ends up in the trash, it knew it had to take action.  Food that is close to expiration or cosmetically-challenged may not be suitable for retail shelves; however, the food is still wholesome and nutritious.  The Food Bank’s Grocery Rescue program is saving healthy food destined for the dumpster and sharing it with neighbors in need in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties.

Joe Messina, Store Manager of the Millbrae Lucky store adds, “We are happy we can help out the local community. We enjoy doing whatever we can to help those that need it most. There is no reason wholesome, edible food should go to waste. This is a great program and we are proud to be a part of it.”

The program is a partnership between local grocery retailers, the Food Bank, and partner agencies in the Second Harvest network. While the formal relationship was formed at the national and regional level with Target, Wal-Mart, and Save Mart Supermarkets, we’re seeing the “win-win” here in our community.  Grocery stores get excess product off of their hands while saving on garbage disposal fees and receiving a tax incentive and the food donations help Second Harvest diversify its menu, which also includes non-perishables from community drives and purchased food to ensure balanced offerings for local families.

Mary Watt from CALL Primrose in San Mateo County says, “We are so grateful to Save Mart and Lucky stores for the wonderful meat, dairy and other items that we receive as donations from them twice each week.  Our clients are so grateful to have a wide variety of items.  What a great partnership that keeps food from going to waste and instead gives it to those in need who can really use it.  Thanks, Lucky!”

Dry goods and bakery items form a majority of the rescued food, but recently the Food Bank has also received prized meat and dairy donations.  Meat is actually one of the easiest things to donate because it can be frozen immediately. What would happen to the food if it wasn’t rescued? Most likely it would decompose in landfills instead of being served on the tables of children, seniors, and families who desperately need it.

Joan Sanborn, Food Resources Representative at Second Harvest, says, “It’s our hope in the future for each store to donate to its fullest potential – everyone’s excited to continue expanding.” Volunteers are critical to the success of the program as they pick up the food, make sure it is handled properly, and get it safely stored to be handed out as soon as possible. Thanks to the partnership of local grocers, we look forward to continually growing the Food Rescue program to reduce food waste and increase the amount of high-quality food on the plates of local families.