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Gleaned, Foraged, and Recovered: Food at the Zero Food Waste Forum


A breakfast of recovered food at the Zero Food Waste Forum.

A breakfast of recovered food at the Zero Food Waste Forum.

Food Shift recently co-hosted the Zero Food Waste Forum on October 16 and 17 in Berkeley, CA – an event that brought together government agencies, business leaders, industry experts and organizations from across the country to discuss solutions to wasted food. In order to fully immerse the attendees in our country’s food waste problem, Food Shift recovered over 1,000 pounds of high quality food that would have otherwise gone uneaten and served it to attendees for breakfast, lunch and snacks.

Boxed lunches with veggie wraps, BBQ pork wraps, turkey pesto sandwiches, and chicken caesar salad recovered from The Palace Hotel in San Francisco.

The items ranged from fresh persimmons and apples picked from unharvested neighborhood trees to surplus bagels and muffins from bakeries to extra boxed lunches of vegetarian and BBQ pork wraps from a large-scale catered event and more. Even the cards labeling the foods on the display table were crafted from wedding invitations found in the dumpster! Coordinating and preparing this unique display took over 250 hours involving outreach to over 75 different businesses, and logistical assistance from nearly fifty volunteers! While this display was deemed a delicious success by all who enjoyed it, there were several challenges that arose while soliciting and coordinating donations for this event. These challenges mirrored challenges that food recovery and food assistance organizations face every day, including:

1) Lengthy donation request and follow up processes

Surplus muffins recovered for the event.

Surplus muffins recovered for the event.

From writing official donation request letters and completing online forms to getting in touch with and following up with managers about the donation request status, receiving donations from food establishments often takes many months.

2) Proper storage and refrigeration for donations

Many food assistance organizations do not have adequate refrigeration space and are therefore limited by type and quantity of donations they are able to accept.

3) Transportation logistics (vehicles/personnel)

Several food recovery and assistance groups have reported being limited by their ability to transport donations from the source to their site.

4) Uncertainty surrounding type, quality and quantity of donations

Food surplus is inherently unpredictable and inconsistent making it difficult to plan meals and grocery giveaways.


Prickly pear cacti foraged by Falling Fruit.

Check out photos from the event here, credited to CapstreamX.

We are thrilled to have worked closely with the Northern California Recycling Association (NCRA) and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to make this event a success. We truly are building a national movement to keep food out of the waste stream.

We would like to extend a warm thank you to our food donors for supporting efforts to redistribute surplus food to feed people, and without which our recovered food display at the Forum would not be possible:

Gleaned persimmons.

Gleaned persimmons

Andronico’s Community Markets – Arizmendi Bakery – Bancroft Hotel – The Cheese Board Collective – Chipotle – City Slicker Farms – Gordo Taqueria – Kuli Kuli Foods – Lanesplitter Pizza – Mariposa Baking Company – The Natural Grocery Company – Noah’s Bagels – The Palace Hotel – Revive Foods – Safeway – St. Vincent de Paul of Alameda County – Strauss Family Creamery – Sweet Adeline Bakeshop – Trader Joe’s – Urban Adamah

Food Shift volunteers gleaning persimmons to serve at the Forum.

Food Shift volunteers gleaning persimmons to serve at the Forum.

We would also like to express our sincere gratitude to the Berkeley Student Cooperative for offering their refrigeration space for storing food donations, North Berkeley Harvest for lending fruit pickers for gleaning, Food Runners for coordinating the pick up of extra boxed lunches, the Hilton San Francisco Union Square Hotel and East Bay Express for providing food serving equipment, Falling Fruit for foraging delicious fruit, and CapstreamX for photographing the event. Last but not least, let’s give a huge thank you to our team of nearly 50 rockstar volunteers! From outreaching to donors to picking up leftover food from bakeries at closing time to preparing recovered food at the event, this unique event experience would not have happened without your eagerness to help.

See more photos from the event here.

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Posted in Blog, Events