Our response to the economic crisis caused by the pandemic

Second Harvest rapidly expands operations as the need for food doubles

Second Harvest is deemed an essential service provider during the COVID-19 pandemic and must remain fully operational to ensure everyone in our community has access to nutritious food. This means food bank staff and volunteers supporting the pandemic response are considered essential.

As our community responds to the economic crisis caused by the pandemic, Second Harvest of Silicon Valley remains committed to our mission knowing that our most vulnerable community members are deeply and disproportionately impacted by public crises such as this.

We are living in an unprecedented time that requires an unprecedented level of response to support those who are most impacted by COVID-19 and the economic downturn. The members of our community who are affected need our help like never before – job loss, wage loss and a depletion of savings have pushed many families deeper into poverty and forced others to seek food assistance for the very first time.

Even before COVID-19, Second Harvest was responding to a level of food insecurity in Silicon Valley that indicated there was already a crisis, providing groceries to a record number of clients every month (250,000+). After the pandemic hit, that number doubled to 500,000 people on average every month.

Our response by the numbers

130+ drive thrus

We have worked hard to open emergency drive-thru sites as well as help our partners convert distributions.

5,500 deliveries

We launched a home delivery program that is serving more than 5,500 households on average every month.

11 million+ pounds

We are now distributing an average of more than 11 million pounds every month.

2x expenses

Our expenses have doubled since the start of the pandemic. In June we spent $3.5 million more than we did in February.

2x food budget

The increased demand has caused our food budget to double.

How can I help?


If you are able to help, donating online will have an immediate impact!

Make a gift

Corporate donations

Local companies can donate funds to serve our community in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.

Make a corporate gift


We are still reliant on a volunteer workforce to help us pre-box and distribute food to the community.

Sign up for a shift

Start a fundraiser

Signing up for a virtual food drive builds community and raises critical support.

Sign up

Additional resources

Partner resources

Get food

Frequently asked questions

Despite the June 15 economic reopening in California, Second Harvest of Silicon Valley will not be accepting community food donations, including food drives. This policy allows us to continue operating at the highest level of efficiency possible in order to keep up with the demand, which is still double what it was pre-pandemic. You can still help fill this virtual barrel with much needed protein, dairy and more.

Even before the pandemic, Second Harvest was working to connect more people to food, expanding our operations and piloting new ways to reach families with nutritious groceries. We have accelerated our efforts in all areas to respond to the sudden and dramatic increase in need. Our response to the pandemic has forced us to rapidly scale our operations, modify our distributions and open new emergency locations. Because of these efforts, we’ve:

  • Served over 500,000 people each month – double the number of neighbors who were seeking food than before the crisis
  • Launched safety-focused, low-touch drive-thru distributions with pre-boxed food
  • Allowing family/friends to pick up food on behalf of those who are unable to attend because of increased risk factors
  • Drastically ramped up our home delivery program, which is primarily focused on serving homebound seniors
  • Doubled the amount of product we’ve sourced with varied suppliers, allowing us to maintain a nutritious mix of staples and fresh produce in the midst of national supply chain disruptions
  • Secured temporary leases on new warehouses, which support the increased volume and production of pre-boxed groceries
  • Expanded our transportation fleet so we can make additional deliveries every day

Second Harvest is committed to providing free, nutritious food to anyone in need – even if they’ve never needed our services before or only need them temporarily. To find out where the nearest grocery distribution is, our neighbors can:

For free summer meals for kids and teens, click here. To see a list of prepared meal providers, click here.

Health and safety precautions

We are following the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help stop the spread of germs and have posted their guidelines in public areas as a reminder to those coming to the food bank. In addition, we have always done the following to safeguard volunteers at our facilities:

  • Ask that anyone not feeling well please cancel and join us another time
  • Require all volunteers to wash hands and use Second Harvest-provided gloves at all times, in addition to face coverings

Increased cleaning and sanitization processes

Our warehouse locations are cleaned and sanitized daily as part of our regular business practices. In response to this crisis we have increased the frequency and extent of those cleanings, which includes:

  • Maintaining the safe practices we adhere to as a normal course of operations 365 days a year.
  • Increasing the frequency of cleaning of high-touch surfaces, including counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, etc.
  • Installing hand sanitizer dispensers throughout each of our facilities in high-volume areas including breakrooms, conference rooms and lobbies.
  • Posting informational flyers related to COVID-19 risk reduction/awareness in each of our facilities, including in restrooms.

Some of the ways we are addressing safety at our distributions include:

  • Keeping our partners and volunteers informed
  • Reminding everyone of the safe food handling rules we follow 365 days a year
  • Requiring that face coverings and gloves be worn for all tasks
  • Providing informational resources from the CDC and Public Health Department
  • Distributing the CDC’s “Stop the Spread of Germs” posters (in multiple languages) to all of our partners and distribution sites

Social distancing

We have increased our volunteer management floor staff at our facilities to ensure that while sorting and boxing is happening, all participants maintain six feet of distance between each other. We have also worked hard to open emergency drive-thru distributions as well as help our partners convert to low-touch distributions.

Effective June 18, 2020, the California Department of Public Health issued an order that everyone must wear face coverings statewide when leaving their homes. For guidance and exceptions, learn more here.

What does this mean for staff and volunteers?

Staff and volunteers must wear a face covering at all times while working or passing through any shared areas and spaces.

What does this mean for clients?

Clients are required to cover their faces when visiting essential services such as pantries, grocery distributions or meal programs.

Our mission still remains to provide food to anyone who needs it, so we want to avoid having to turn anyone away from getting food for lack of a face covering. In the event that a client can’t cover their face, a volunteer can bring the food to them if they have a car, or provide a face covering for them to use in line, when possible.

What is considered a face covering? 

While masks, scarves or bandanas may be the most ideal, any cloth that covers a person’s nose, mouth and surrounding area can be used; face coverings that are not disposed of after each use should be cleaned frequently.

You can find information the CDC has published about cloth face coverings, including how to make your own, here.

Will Second Harvest provide masks?

We will provide disposable food grade masks when we have supply available. We have a limited supply of masks for Second Harvest staff and volunteers, and will provide disposable food grade masks when we have supply available. In the absence of Second Harvest provided masks, volunteers and clients should provide their own face coverings.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) are not aware of any reports at this time that suggest COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging.