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+). We are now serving 450,000 people every month, an 80% increase over pre-pandemic levels.

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.

4,000+ deliveries

We launched a home delivery program that is serving more than 4,000 households on average every month.

12 million pounds

Last year we distributed an average of 12 million pounds every month.

2x expenses

To keep up with the demand we are now responding to, our budget has doubled.

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

Second Harvest of Silicon Valley is not accepting walk-in, community food donations at this time, including food drives. This policy allows us to continue operating at the highest level of efficiency possible in order to keep up with demand. 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 an average of 450,000 people each month – an 80% increase over pre-pandemic levels
  • 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 information on 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
  • Require all volunteers, staff, clients and visitors to wear masks indoors. In addition, masks are recommended, though not required, at Second Harvest’s outdoor distribution sites. Note that sites run by our partner organizations may have stricter requirements, and those rules take precedence.

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 masks be worn indoors at all times, and recommending that they be worn at outdoor sites
  • 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

What is the mask policy for staff and volunteers?

As of June 28, 2021, Second Harvest no longer requires social distancing among staff and volunteers at any of our locations. Masks are encouraged but no longer required at outdoor distribution sites. However, masks will continue to be required to sort food in our warehouses, regardless of an individual’s vaccination status.

Partner sites may have site rules that are stricter than those of Second Harvest, and those will take precedence.

What is the mask policy for clients?

Clients are required to follow the posted rules of the distribution site they are visiting. Second Harvest requires masks indoors, and recommends them but does not require them outdoors.

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 mask. 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 mask for them to use in line, when possible.

What is considered an acceptable mask? 

For staff and volunteers, masks must be two layers and cannot be a bandana, gaiter or scarf. For clients, 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.

Will Second Harvest provide masks?

Clients should come to the programs with a mask, although we will provide disposable food grade masks to clients when we have supply available. We have a supply of masks for Second Harvest staff and volunteers. Staff and volunteers are encouraged to provide their own masks if they have them. Second Harvest must provide masks to staff and volunteers when requested.

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.