Click here to read our response to COVID-19.

Health and Safety

//Health and Safety
Health and Safety2020-05-07T22:23:09+00:00

Our response to COVID-19

The safety and well-being of our clients, volunteers and staff is our top priority.

As our community responds to the COVID-19 outbreak, 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 in ongoing communication with our partners, staff and volunteers to maintain safe practices that will ensure nutritious food continues to flow into the community.

On Monday, March 16, 2020 food banks were officially named by the California Department of Public Health as an essential service provider. Because of this important inclusion in the CDPH’s guidelines, we expect to remain fully operational so we can continue serving our community.

As the crisis continues, we expect to see an increase in need as community members are furloughed, losing hourly wages and forced to deplete savings while still providing for their family. At Second Harvest, we are fortunate to have a community of supporters who are asking, “How can I help right now?”


If you are able to provide support financially, donations can be made online.

Make a gift

Corporate donations

Marvell is challenging local companies to innovate with them and donate creatively to serve the community.

Make a corporate gift


We are still reliant on a volunteer workforce to help us pre-box and distribute food to the community. If you are in good health and you have time, you can sign up for a shift here. You can also find a list of partner agencies that we work with who also need help at their distributions.

Sign up to volunteer

Thank you for supporting us now and always. We couldn’t do this important work without you.

Read COVID-19 stories

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 gloves at all times, which we provide

Increased cleaning and sanitization processes

The health, safety and well-being of our employees, volunteers and clients is a top priority. Our three warehouse locations are cleaned and sanitized daily as part of our regular business practices, and 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 gloves be worn for all tasks, and changed if a volunteer or staff member touches their face or uses their phone
  • 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

One of the best ways to protect our volunteers and staff is by enforcing social distancing practices. 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.

Given health concerns and public gathering regulations, we are providing resources for partner agencies. In addition to social distancing (keeping six feet in between all people at the distribution), we have also adapted our distributions by:

  • Pre-boxing food in our warehouse to reduce the amount of touches between volunteers and clients on site, and to move the line more quickly.
  • Allowing family/friends to pick up food on behalf of those who are unable to attend because of increased risk factors.
  • Encouraging partners to consider moving their distribution outdoors and/or establishing a drive-through system.

As this situation continues to evolve, we are prepared to adapt our approach and shift our operations to maintain a safe environment for everyone.


As the situation continually develops, we are moving quickly to identify and implement changes to our food distributions that are measured, safe and scalable so we can better serve our community during this crisis. We will continue to hold distributions with our partner network, closely monitoring recommendations from the health department and making any necessary adjustments. If a distribution is canceled, clients can call our Food Connection hotline at 1-800-984-3663 to find out the closest location to them that is operating.

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:

To see a list of meal providers, click here.

For a list of local schools that are still providing meals to the community during the COVID-19 closures, click here.

At this time we do not recommend that seniors (65+) or anyone with a chronic health condition volunteer. If you belong to one of these groups and would still like to help the food bank during this time, you can donate online.

At this time we have made the decision to no longer accept walk-in food donations at our three warehouse locations. In an effort to enforce social distancing standards, we cannot manage additional foot traffic in our lobbies and warehouses. Please consider making a financial donation instead.

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.

Effective April 17, 2020, San Mateo County issued an order that everyone must wear face coverings when visiting or working at essential businesses. It is also Santa Clara County’s strong recommendation to adopt this policy.

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/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. Clients picking up food in their car when attending a drive-thru distribution are not required to wear a mask.

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; children who are 12 and under are not required to wear face coverings. 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.

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