Food Waste & Hunger in the Bay Area

November invokes visions of harvest, fields of amber waving grain, and an endless bounty of food. It’s a time of year where we spend a lot of time in the kitchen and around the table, breaking bread with friends and family. It’s also a time of giving thanks and giving back. So as we shop, cook, eat, and celebrate this season, let’s also consider the food that goes uneaten and families in need of their next meal.

The reality is that in the United States, massive amounts of food go uneaten every year. 133 billion pounds, to be exact, or over one-third of the nation’s food supply goes to waste. If that’s not enough to swallow, land, water, and energy resources are also being depleted to grow and transport food that will end up rotting in a landfill, producing methane gas. Oh, and it costs Americans $165 billion dollars a year. All the while, one in six of Americans don’t have enough to eat. In Silicon Valley, one in three children are at risk of hunger. And with the increasing cost of housing in the area, more and more families are struggling to put dinner on the table.

In an attempt to address this serious issue, the USDA and EPA recently announced the nation’s first food waste reduction goal, aiming for a 50% reduction by 2030. You can get started at home today by shopping wisely, cooking only the food you plan to eat, and eating leftovers. Locally, there are several projects, organizations, and campaigns to raise awareness of hunger and food waste.


How to Get Involved

Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties provides food to nearly a quarter million people each month. They have several ways to donate or volunteer.

Feeding Forward is an app that lets businesses with extra food easily connect with and donate to communities in need. Next time you have extra catering at that lunch meeting, use their on demand service to pick up the extra food and deliver it to a nearby shelter. Since they launched in 2013, Feeding Forward has fed over 600,000 people and saved businesses $3.6 million.

Imperfect Produce gives consumers the opportunity to purchase ugly produce that isn’t fit for grocery store shelves because it’s a funny shape or size. Added bonus: It’s also 30% cheaper.

Food Shift works with communities, businesses and government to shift behaviors toward a more sustainable use of food. They have volunteer and donation opportunities or you can sign up for their monthly newsletter for tips on reducing food waste.

Bay Area Recycling Outreach Coalition encourages people to reduce waste through awareness campaigns like #shopyourfridgefirst. They also offer resources for meal planning and waste prevention.

Waste No Food is a registered nonprofit that provides a web-based "marketplace" allowing excess food to be donated from the food service industry to qualified charities that work with the needy. Help them recruit more restaurants to sign up for their program.