Skip to main content

Santa Clara County Food Recovery Program

Inside a grocery store

Prevention is the best practice

Reducing the amount of surplus food you produce, or eliminating it entirely, is the best way to minimize the environmental impacts of your food operations. However, prevention measures may not eliminate all surplus. Any time you have surplus edible food that would otherwise go to waste, you are required to recover that food for redistribution to people who need it. Even If you don’t regularly have surplus food, it’s important to develop a plan in case you end up with surplus unexpectedly, like in the case of a broken refrigerator or canceled order.

Steps to get started

First make sure this regulation applies to you by consulting the chart below.

You should be contacted by the Santa Clara County Food Recovery Program if your business or organization falls under the Tier One or Tier Two classification. If you believe you have been wrongly classified - either included on the list but believe this law does not apply to you or believe the law applies to you and have not been contacted, please contact us.


Tier One businesses are required to recover as much surplus edible food as possible starting January 1, 2022. 

  • Supermarkets with revenue ≥ $2 million. 
  • Grocery Stores with Facilities ≥ 10,000 sq. ft. 
  • Food Service Providers 
  • Food Distributors 
  • Wholesale Food Vendors 


Tier Two businesses are required to recover as much surplus edible food as possible starting January 1, 2024 

  • Restaurants with Facilities ≥ 5,000 sq. ft. or 250+ seats 
  • Hotels with an On-Site Food Facility and 200+ Rooms 
  • Health Facilities with an On-Site Food Facility and 100+ Beds 
  • Large Venues and Events 
  • State Agency Cafeterias with Facilities ≥ 5,000 sq. ft. or 250+ seats 
  • Local Education Agency with an On-Site Food Facility 

SB 1383 sets goals to reduce disposal of organic waste in landfills, including edible food. The bill’s purpose is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as methane, and address food insecurity in California. The Santa Clara County Food Recovery Program manages the edible food recovery requirements of SB 1383. Visit your city’s website to learn more about SB 1383’s separate organic waste recycling requirements. 

We are seeing the effects of climate change in California with more severe and lengthy droughts, an increasing number of wildfires, bigger storms, and coastal erosion due to rising sea levels. Preventing food waste, donating edible surplus, and composting anything that cannot be safely consumed (in that order), are the best ways to reduce the environmental impacts of wasted food (see the graphic below). 

This Letter to Regulated Entities briefly explains the new law and the ways in which it might apply to your business.

This Food Recovery for Regulated Entities Flyer is a great way to share information about the new regulation with your partners and staff members.

Please remember that the best way to handle surplus food is to prevent it in the first place! If that is not possible, and if your business has surplus edible food that would otherwise go to waste, you are required to contract with a food recovery organization that can redistribute that surplus food to people who need it. 

Use this list to find an organization to recover your surplus food:

List of Food Recovery Organizations

Be Ready to Connect

Most food recovery partners will want to know the following information:

  • Your company name, address, site contact, and phone number
  • Description of what food you expect to have and the storage requirements (dry, refrigerated, frozen, fresh)
  • How your food will be packaged (case and package size)
  • Estimated number of units, pounds, cases, and/or pallets for donation
  • Frequency of pick-ups/deliveries you anticipate

Questions you may want to ask to of potential partners:

  • Does the organization accept the types of food that you have to donate? 
  • Can they accept the amount of food that you have to donate?
  • How frequently can they accept donations?
  • Can they pick up the surplus food or does it need to be delivered?
  • What do they charge for their services?
  • What are their requirements for packaging and storing donations prior to pick up / drop off? 
  • What terms do they cover in their contract and does it fit your needs? 

Businesses and organizations with surplus food must sign a contract with each food recovery organization that will be accepting their food. Your food recovery organization may already have an agreement or contract template they prefer to use. If not, you may use this sample contract as a starting point from which to build a contract that meets your specific circumstance and needs. If needed, coordinate with your corporate office for guidance. 

Even if you typically have no surplus food, it’s important to develop a plan in case of unexpected situations, like a broken refrigerator or canceled orders. Have a plan in place for which food recovery organization you will contact. You may choose to sign a contract, but the Program does not require it in situations where there is no surplus. By law, you are required to recover surplus food anytime you have it, even if that occurs only occasionally or unexpectedly. 

Ongoing tasks

To comply with SB 1383 you must recover, in a timely manner, all surplus food that is safe to eat that would otherwise be wasted. 

Donating, receiving, and distributing surplus edible food must be done in a way that minimizes food safety risks, in accordance with CalCode. This Food Safety Protocols​​ page describes safe handling techniques and which foods are safe to recover.  You may also reference industry-specific one-sheets about food waste prevention, safe food recovery, and SB 1383 compliance. The Good Samaritan Food Donation Act protects donors and food recovery partners from criminal and civil liability related to food donation.

Donors may also be eligible for tax deductions related to food donation. 

Tips to keep in mind

Date labels and expired product: In California, there is no restriction on the sale or donation of food items past the date on any date label except for infant formula, baby food, and Reduced Oxygen Packaging (ROP) products. Food recovery organizations will have their own policies about date labels and expired product. Most date labels seen on food products, such as “sell by,” “use by”, or “best if used by” do not indicate food safety, but instead indicate freshness or quality. Regardless of the date on the label, it is important that the donated food is apparently wholesome. Businesses are responsible for providing food within appropriate timeframes so that recipient organizations have time to safely distribute it.

Staff training: To make sure your food recovery program stays a priority, regular staff training is a must.

Packaging: You may need to acquire packaging materials for food donations, especially for prepared foods. Check with your recovery organization to see what kind of packaging they prefer or require. Consider reusable containers whenever possible, in conjunction with your food recovery partner. The same metal containers used to store food in your kitchen can often be transported to a nonprofit for distribution, washed, and returned to use again. The benefits of reusables include: 

  • Significant cost savings by eliminating the purchase of single-use alternatives
  • Avoiding the environmental burden of more packaging waste
  • Ease of packaging food into known, reusable formats.

Safe Food Donation: Safe Surplus Food Donation Toolkit educates food facilities about safe surplus food donation.

Tier One and Tier Two businesses and organizations are required to keep records of their food recovery program. 

Recordkeeping requirements

The following records are required to be kept onsite for each food recovery organization that receives food from any of your business or organization: 

  • A copy of a contract or written agreement with the food recovery organization.
  • The organization's name, address and contact information.
  • The types of food that will be collected by or self-hauled to the food recovery organization.
  • The established frequency or schedule that food will be collected or self-hauled.
  • The quantity (in pounds) of food recovered per month.

Here is a Sample SB 1383 Compliance Record that can be used as a starting point to meet the record keeping requirements listed above. Or, for a more detailed excel tool, download CalRecycle’s model recordkeeping tool (shown below) from their webpage for Food Donors.

The Santa Clara County Food Recovery Program inspects regulated businesses and organizations on behalf of all the jurisdictions in Santa Clara County to ensure compliance with the edible food recovery requirements in SB 1383 and local ordinances. The inspections are conducted by Joint Venture Silicon Valley staff, the contractor in charge of the Santa Clara County Food Recovery Program.

The inspection involves reviewing your food recovery program, including the records required to be kept onsite (see record keeping requirements in the “Track” section above) and the physical setup you have in place. If you have a food recovery program in place, please ensure that these records are available at the time of the inspection. The inspector will visit the location and ensure that you:

  • Have arranged to recover the maximum amount of edible food that would otherwise go to waste.  
  • Have arranged for food to be donated before it spoils, and ensured that their program does not intentionally spoil surplus edible food.

We recommend the person responsible for your business’s food recovery program is available to meet with the Inspector, as we also provide education and technical assistance during the inspection. 

If your business/organization does not generate any surplus food and you do not have a food recovery program in place, be prepared to explain your business model and/or the strategies you are using to prevent having any surplus food to donate.

The Program has the right to inspect at any time, however inspections will typically be scheduled in advance so that the appropriate person is available to share the necessary information with the inspector. An inspection report, containing a compliance determination, will be sent by email after the inspection. 

If, during an inspection, the inspector determines that compliance with state and local requirements has not been met, a warning notice outlining a brief period to remedy will be issued. If compliance is still not met after the period to remedy, the business will be referred to the jurisdiction in which it is located for potential Notice of Violation and citation based on jurisdiction discretion. Cities set their own citation amounts and timelines, and those will be communicated in the Notice of Violation. 


Tier One and Tier Two Businesses and Organizations must file an annual Food Generator Report with the Santa Clara County Food Recovery Program, on the following schedule:

  • Tier One: each year by May 1 beginning May 1, 2023, covering the prior calendar year
  • Tier Two: each year by May 1 beginning May 1, 2025, covering the prior calendar year.

Annual Food Generator Reports contain questions to ensure that food recovery is being conducted properly, that recordkeeping is being maintained, and to collect data on the number of pounds recovered.  If you do not have surplus food, be prepared to explain your business model and/or the strategies you are using to prevent having any surplus food. 

The Program will send unique links via email to complete your report online in March of each year. Please keep your email address current by using the contact us form. If you do not have an email address on file, a letter will be sent to your mailing address with a request to complete the report using the link above. Please contact us with any questions or if you need any assistance completing the report. 

The Santa Clara County Food Recovery Program is managed by the Food Recovery Initiative at Joint Venture Silicon Valley under a contract with the Recycling and Waste Reduction Commission of Santa Clara County, through its Implementation Committee, with representation from all the cities and unincorporated county areas of Santa Clara County. The Program is funded by Santa Clara County and the named entities. The monitoring and inspecting of surplus food generators, food recovery organizations and their services is carried out independently by Joint Venture's Food Recovery Initiative and is subject to oversight by Santa Clara County and its jurisdictions alone. Though the Initiative was launched under the direction of the Joint Venture board, the County Program is not subject to any form of consultation, direction or oversight by the Joint Venture board. Communications with regulated entities, and any proprietary information, remains the purview of the Program and the jurisdiction within which the regulated entity is located. The Program also exercises fully independent discretion and decision-making pertaining to record-keeping, monitoring, and inspections