Food that is close to its expiration date or is cosmetically challenged may not be suitable for retail shelves, but it is still fresh and nutritious. The Grocery Rescue program saves food that is destined for the dumpster so it can be used to feed hungry people.
The partnership was formed at the national level between Feeding America and Target, Walmart, and Save Mart (Save Mart, Lucky, and Food Maxx). Second Harvest Food Bank, one of 202 food banks in the Feeding America network, established the program locally in 2011. Second Harvest provides extensive training for agency partners that includes safe food-handling practices and then connects them with nearby grocery stores.
“The program is part of Second Harvest’s effort to supplement our highly efficient physical distribution of food by connecting people to other food resources,” said Kathy Jackson, CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties. “The Grocery Rescue program allows Second Harvest to get a significant amount of food into the community using a minimal amount of resources. Most of the rescued food is picked up by our partner agencies, saving us from having to pick it up, inventory it, and deliver it back out to our partners. It also means the food gets into the hands of those who need it much faster.”
The increased need for food in our community, combined with rising food costs, has required the Food Bank to do more with less. Second Harvest provides food to nearly 250,000 people every month – a staggering one in 10 people in the two-county region.
Last year, the Grocery Rescue program brought in more than 1 million pounds of food that was distributed to families and individuals in need. Locally, 58 stores participate in Second Harvest’s Grocery Rescue program.
"West Valley Community Services relies on the Grocery Rescue program to provide our food pantry with produce, dairy, meat, bakery and dry items from local grocery retailers,” said Naomi Nakano-Matsumoto, executive director of West Valley Community Services, which rescues food from nearby Target and Lucky stores. “Programs such as this help rescue thousands of pounds of groceries that would have gone to landfills and instead go to help feed the thousands of families who experience hunger."
The majority of rescued food items include dry goods and bakery items, although donations of meat and dairy products have increased in recent months. Meat is actually the easiest item for stores to donate because it can be frozen on the “sell by” date and held until someone from Second Harvest or one of its partner agencies can pick it up.
“We have been so blessed here at CALL Primrose to be receiving donations twice a week from our local Lucky Store,” said Mary Watt, executive director of CALL Primrose. “We receive between 400 and 600 pounds of food each week, primarily meat, bread, and dairy. This partnership has significantly impacted what we can give to our clients – especially in the meat category. Individuals and families coming to our pantry are so excited to receive the nutritious food that is provided through this program."
To ensure that everyone has access to the nutritious food they need to thrive right in their own neighborhood, Second Harvest Food Bank partners with more than 300 nonprofit agencies to provide food at more than 740 sites throughout Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, including pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and after-school programs. Second Harvest is one of only a few food banks that doesn’t charge its partners for the food it provides. Last year, the Food Bank provided the equivalent of 41 million meals. More than 50 percent of the food Second Harvest distributes is fresh produce.
Anyone who is struggling to put food on the table should call Second Harvest Food Bank’s Food Connection hotline at 800-984-3663 to learn about food-assistance programs, including CalFresh (food stamps). Those who want to support Second Harvest can call 866-234-3663 or visit www.SHFB.org.
Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties is the trusted leader dedicated to ending local hunger. Since its inception in 1974, Second Harvest has become one of the largest food banks in the nation, providing food to an average of nearly one quarter of a million people each month. The Food Bank mobilizes individuals, companies and community partners to connect people to the nutritious food they need. More than half of the food distributed is fresh produce. Second Harvest also plays a leading role in promoting federal nutrition programs and educating families on how to make healthier food choices. Visit www.SHFB.org to get involved.