San Diego Food Bank Programs Reduce Food Waste

The San Diego Food Bank is raising awareness about food waste in the US by highlighting our food recovery efforts. While 40% of edible food goes to waste in the U.S., 1 in 8 adults and 1 in 5 children in the San Diego region are food insecure*. The Food Bank is doing our part to reduce food waste through our food recovery initiatives, including our Fresh Rescue program, Recycling & Composting Center, and our partnership with local farmers and ranchers.

What is Food Recovery?

Food Recovery is a 6-tiered hierarchal system that starts with source reduction and ends with landfill disposal as a final resort. Similar to the traditional food pyramid, the larger tiers in the inverted pyramid are the most preferred food reduction strategies. The San Diego Food Bank currently uses three of the most beneficial food waste reduction methods, which are Feeding Hungry People, Feeding Animals and Composting.





Feeding Hungry People Through our Fresh Rescue Program

One of the most influential ways that the San Diego Food Bank contributes to food waste reduction is through feeding hungry people. Through our food recovery program, Fresh Rescue, we have diverted over 20 million pounds of edible food from entering landfills and donated it to those who are in need of food assistance.

What is Fresh Rescue?

Fresh Rescue is a food recovery program that reduces food waste at the retail level, by salvaging food from grocery stores, cafeterias, restaurants, and resorts that would otherwise be thrown away, such as products past their stamp dates, items with cosmetic imperfections, and food surplus.

How does the program work?

The San Diego Food Bank trains local businesses and nonprofits on proper food safety guidelines, handling, and transportation. Food vendors set aside products that they cannot sell, but are still safe for consumption, for our nonprofit partners to pick up directly on a set schedule. From there, our non-profit partners safely transport food donations to their local food pantry or food distribution to share with community members who need food assistance.

Feeding Animals

At the San Diego Food Bank, we strive to provide our community members with fresh, high-quality food. Therefore, when we have items that do not meet our standards but are not yet ready for composting, we offer them to local farmers and ranchers. Fortunately, the animals do not seem to mind a few bruises on their apples or slightly wilted greens. Donating food to local farms has saved us from composting over 700,000 pounds of food in recent years.


Due to the nature of donations, not everything we receive is fit for human, or even animal, consumption. Therefore, when we encounter spoiled or rotten food, we send it to our 3,600-square-foot Recycling & Composting Center to be reborn as nutrient-rich soil. This food, along with corrugated wood chips, is shredded and mixed together to create a rich compost that is loved by gardeners and plants alike. Last year, the Food Bank produced 160,000 pounds of compost. The compost is donated to local community gardens, schools and our nonprofit partners to grow not only fresh food, but sustainable, long lasting communities, as well.

The Food Bank is Committed to Reduce Food Waste 

Whereas it might be difficult to eliminate food waste entirely, the positive impacts of reducing food waste even slightly are huge. By recovering just 15% of wasted edible food in the U.S., it could feed up to 25 million Americans every year**. Therefore, the San Diego Food Bank will continue to fight food waste through its food recovery initiatives and feed hungry families and individuals throughout San Diego.

The Food Bank’s Fresh Rescue Program currently partners with 88 donors and 68 nonprofit agencies throughout San Diego. If you are a food industry organization or a nonprofit and would like to partner with the San Diego Food Bank’s Fresh Rescue Program, CLICK HERE.

*San Diego Hunger Coalition: 2017 Food Insecurity Data Release
** Don’t Waste, Donate: Enhancing Food Donations Through Federal Guidelines