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Santa Clara County Research Project

Food Shift was hired by the County of Santa Clara to research where and why food is being wasted, barriers to donation, and opportunities to improve food recovery. Food Shift conducted numerous interviews and surveys with food service businesses, food assistance groups, policymakers, and waste management to understand reasons for wasted food and what kind of programs can address these gaps. We published a final report, including existing food recovery programs, community-identified barriers, and suggested steps of action for the government to take.  As a result of our report Santa Clara County is implementing our recommendations including launching a food recovery working group and hiring a food recovery coordinator for the County. We are continuing to circulate the findings to broaden the understanding around food recovery and shift the paradigm around solutions. The full final report and a summary can be viewed here.

The food rescue system is dominated by non-profit sector organizations operating on a shoestring (much like the recycling movement was in the 1970s).  In order to maximize recovery of edible food, this activity needs to be brought out of the shadows, legitimized through public education, and elevated through public policy initiatives.  The county has the unique ability to bring together private knowledge and resources that would otherwise be fragmented, facilitate cross sector collaboration, and acknowledge the complexity and interconnection of these systemic issues.


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