San Diego Food Bank Prevents Local Food Waste with Fresh Rescue Program

Millions of pounds of food are diverted away from the landfill every year in San Diego County - thanks to the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank's Fresh Rescue Program.

San Diego Food Bank Fresh Rescue Program
Food Bank staff members, Kayla Thomson and Valery ODerio, connect certified Food Bank nonprofit partners with vendors through the Fresh Rescue Program

Launched in 2014, the Food Bank's Fresh Rescue Program is an edible food recovery program, which helps food vendors (grocery stores, food retailers and restaurants) redirect surplus food to local food banks and pantries. Through this program, the Food Bank connects food retailers with our certified nonprofit partners to feed families in need while preventing food waste locally.

With the recent implementation of legislation enacted by the California legislature, Senate Bill 1383, the program has quickly gained momentum. Due to the vastly changing landscape of food waste initiatives and food recovery efforts, the Food Bank has remained diligent by partnering with agencies including the San Diego Food System Alliance, County of San Diego, and CalRecycle to ensure our organization has the information needed to aid more businesses in the near future.

"The San Diego Food Bank has seen this program grow exponentially over the last few years. It has been a great way for the Food Bank to not only increase the number of meals we are distributing to local families facing food insecurity every year, but to do our part to reduce our carbon footprint when it comes to preventing food waste," shared Kayla Thomson, Procurement Manager for the San Diego Food Bank.

Life Acts Benefits from Fresh Rescue Program
Life Acts in Chula Vista is one of nearly 85 nonprofit partners who benefit from the Fresh Rescue Program.

Currently, the San Diego Food Bank partners with more than 150 grocery stores and retailers countywide and connects each vendor with an existing nonprofit partner, based on their address to help minimize transportation costs, who will then pick up the food on a routine basis.

Last year, the Food Bank, with the support of our nonprofit partner network and grocery store partners, redirected more than 4.4 million pounds of edible food from going to the landfill and instead, nourished those in the community who may have otherwise gone without.The types of food typically received through this program has included fresh fruits and vegetables, prepackaged meals, dairy products, bread, and much more.Of the Food Bank's network of more than 500 nonprofit partners, nearly 85 are enrolled in this program. In order to become a certified Fresh Rescue Program beneficiary, Thomson and her team invite interested partners to an extensive training program first before they are matched with a food vendor."

Our nonprofit partners range from a variety of organizations dedicated to feeding those in need, such as soup kitchens, food pantries, shelters, low-income daycare and senior programs," added Thomson."Partners enrolled in our Fresh Rescue program receive equipment (freezer blankets & scale), food safety training, and specialized food recovery training that empower them to safely and effectively recover food."

Fresh Rescue Program
Last year, the San Diego Food Bank rescued more than 4.4 million pounds of food

Having access to this additional source of food has helped nonprofit partners keep their food supply well-stocked, especially as more families seek food assistance from the Food Bank and our network of nonprofit partners like Life Acts. This nonprofit partner has been benefiting from the Fresh Rescue Program since its inception.

"We are so grateful for the faithful, long-term support of the San Diego Food Bank and their Fresh Rescue Program. With the San Diego Food Bank's help, we have grown to now engage in food rescue seven times a week," reflected Elizabeth Samala Prado, Director of Life Acts.With the implementation of phase two of SB 1383 scheduled to roll out in January 2024, the Food Bank expects more businesses will reach out to establish partnerships and the Food Bank is ready. For more information about this program and for links to information about SB 1383, visit our Fresh Rescue Program webpage.

This article was originally written by Food Bank staff to be featured in the August 2023 issue of Giving Back Magazine.