Food Assistance Program

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Since 1974, Second Harvest Food Bank's Food Assistance program has been feeding residents of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties by providing food and technical assistance to non-profit partner organizations who distribute food to their clients.

"The Food Bank has been an incredible supporter for our mission of trying to provide food security and advocacy for the families that need proper nutrition and balanced diets. We could not do what we do without Second Harvest Food Bank."

-David Cox, St. Joseph's Family Center in Gilroy

Program Description

Second Harvest Food Bank is the single largest non-profit food provider to low-income households in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties and the second largest food bank in the country based on pounds distributed per person in poverty. The Food Assistance Program collaborates with 300 local community-based organizations to provide critical food assistance at 905 different locations, including soup kitchens, pantries, rehabilitation centers, shelters, senior centers, and children's recreational and tutoring programs.

Donations to the Food Bank come from growers, processors, manufacturers, retailers, food drives, and United Stated Department of Agriculture (USDA) allocations. We also purchase additional items to ensure a variety of nutritious foods. After food arrives at our San Jose and San Carlos warehouses, agencies place orders online for required food items. Food is either picked up by the agencies who may also "shop" at the warehouse, or it is delivered by our fleet of trucks and drivers. To further strengthen the community safety net, the Food Bank does not charge these agencies a fee to receive food, allowing them to concentrate their resources where it's needed most — providing food for those in need. In addition to distributing food, the Food Assistance program co-locates several Food Bank designed programs at partners' sites.

  • Kids NOW (Nutrition on Weekends) addresses the weekend food needs of families by engaging after-school programs in identified low-income areas to distribute nutritious, kid-friendly foods.
  • Produce Mobile provides fresh fruits and vegetables year-round.

Comprehensive Partnership

Second Harvest staff also provides a number of technical assistance opportunities, including:

  • Semi-monthly orientation sessions; monthly food safety trainings
  • Nutrition education classes and materials for clients and agency personnel
  • Annual Agency Relations Conferences in each county, with workshops including volunteer management, fundraising, marketing, federal food assistance programs, and nutrition education
  • Annual Hunger Issues Forums in each county, providing opportunities to network and learn about pending legislation and public policy initiatives
  • Bi-annual site visits to each site to encourage food distribution best practices, collaborative partnerships, and improved access to safety net services for low-income households
  • Infrastructure support such as cold storage units, shelving, and other resources that allow agencies to serve more food to more people in their neighborhoods

Population and Region Served

Our hunger relief services stretch from Daly City to Gilroy and from the ocean to the bay. Additional resources are provided to areas where residents have higher levels of food insecurity and greater barriers to accessing food programs, such as Daly City, South San Francisco, Pescadero, La Honda, East San Jose, and Gilroy. As unemployment and foreclosure rates have climbed, the numbers of individuals seeking food assistance for the first time in their lives has significantly increased its pace.

Safety net organizations which receive food through the Food Assistance program must demonstrate that at least 70% of the clients they serve live at or below 200% of the federal poverty line (FPL). For a family of four, that income threshold is $49,200 a year. Food recipients are ethnically diverse and reflect the cultural richness of our region. Many have completed some college or have college degrees — only a small percentage is homeless. More than half the people we serve are children and seniors.


From July 2016 through June 2017, the Food Assistance program distributed more than 66 million pounds of food — the equivalent of 55.5 million meals — which fed an average of more than 257,000 people each month.

For More Information

For more information about the Food Assistance Program, please call Susan Takalo at 650.610.0800 ext.412 or email