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Sustainable Management of Food

Links and Resources About Food Recovery in San Diego Area

Food Recovery Hierarchy Triangle in Six Steps. Top (most preferred) to bottom (least preferred): Source Reduction, Feed Hungry People, Feed Animals, Industrial Uses, Composting, and Landfill/Incineration.Learn about some food recovery alternatives in the San Diego Area. EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy prioritizes these food waste strategies from most to least preferable.

On this page:

Source Reduction

Source reduction is the strategy of preventing food from becoming waste in the first place. There are many resources able to tackle source reduction:

San Diego Resources

  • City of San Diego has a Zero Waste resolution, and is working toward diverting more and more waste from the landfill. Learn more Exit. The City offers information Exit on food waste diversion and a commercial food scrap composting program.
  • The County of San Diego provides ways to minimize food waste and maximize source reduction. The County also offers technical assistance to businesses and schools in the unincorporated areas of the county that want to reduce, donate or divert organics, including food waste. Learn more Exit.
  • The City of Chula Vista offers tips for shopping and food storage to help households to minimize food waste. Learn more Exit.
  • The City of Oceanside is on the Road to Zero Waste with a goal is of reaching a 75-90% diversion/recycling rate by 2020.The City also offers technical assistance to businesses within their jurisdiction. Learn more Exit.

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Feed Hungry People (Donations)

Help curb hunger in our region. Businesses and others can help by donating surplus food. See below for organizations that help fight hunger in San Diego.

Ways to Donate

Food Banks - Food banks collect, store, and distribute food to networks of food pantries, homeless shelters, and other charities that rely on donations. Some provide food directly to the hungry. The larger food banks can help donors to find local charities that can accept their food donations.

Gleaning - Gleaning is the act of picking the excess fruit or vegetables that are left on trees or plants after the owners or farmers have harvested what they want to eat, or what they can sell. San Diego gleaning groups organize volunteers to harvest produce from backyards, orchards, and farms. Donors may claim tax deductions. Why let this fresh food go to waste?

Organizations Accepting Food Donations The food banks in San Diego County are listed in the table below, along with other organizations able to accept large donations of food. If you are looking to donate to any of these organizations, please contact them using the information listed on the next page.

Donation Center Location Website/ Contact
Feeding San Diego 

9445 Waples St. Suite 135
San Diego, CA 92121

Website Exit
(619) 296-3192

San Diego Food Bank

9850 Distribution Avenue
San Diego, CA 92121-2320

Website Exit
(858) 527-1419

San Diego Food Bank - North County

680 Rancheros Road Suite 100
San Marcos, CA 92069

Website Exit
(858) 527-1419

Catholic Charities: Food Resource Centers 

FRC- Downtown

FRC – College Area

FRC – El Centro

FRC – Vista

349 Cedar Street, Room 102
San Diego, CA 92101

6360 El Cajon Blvd, Suite B
San Diego, CA 92115

250 West Orange Avenue
El Centro, CA 92243

917 East Vista Way
Vista, CA 92084

Website Exit

Downtown (619) 231-2828 x102

College Area (619) 286-1100

El Centro  (760) 353-6823

Vista  (760) 631-4792

Community Resource Center North County

650 Second Street
Encinitas, CA 92024

Website Exit

(760) 753-2200

Interfaith Services






550 W. Washington Ave.
Escondido, CA 92025

4700 North River Road
Oceanside, CA 92057

1617 Mission Ave.
Oceanside, CA 92058

Website Exit

(760) 489-6380

(760) 721-2117

(760) 529-9979

San Diego Rescue Mission

5150 University Ave.
San Diego, CA 92105

Website Exit


Kitchens for Good

404 Euclid AveSan Diego, CA 92114

Website Exit

(619) 450-4040

United Services Organization (USO) San Diego 3350 E Street
San Diego, CA 92102

Website Exit

(619) 296 3192

Father Joe’s Villages

3350 E Street
San Diego, CA 92102
(619) 446-2100

Website Exit

(619) 446-2100

Got Your Back San Diego

4061 Oceanside Blvd. Ste E
Oceanside, CA 92056

Website Exit

(760) 575-4571

Southwestern College "Jag" Kitchen

Room 554, 900 Otay Lakes Road
Chula Vista, CA 91910

Website Exit

(619) 421-6700

St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, Social Outreach

278 Alvarado Street
Chula Vista, CA, 91910

Website Exit

(619) 427-7637

Life Christian Center (Life Acts)

1664 Industrial Boulevard
Chula Vista, CA 91911

Website Exit

(619) 585-3638

Tools for Finding Food Charities

  • 2-1-1 San Diego: Serving San Diego County, 2-1-1 San Diego Exit connects you with community, health and disaster services through a free, 24/7 stigma-free phone service and searchable database. Simply dial 2-1-1 or search their online database.
  • San Diego Food Bank – Food Pantry Zip Code Search: The Food Bank Exit offers a ‘zip code finder’ search for residents to use to find nonprofit partners who offer food assistance. Residents can also call at (866) 350-FOOD (3663).
  • Feeding San Diego – Food Distribution Partner Search: Feeding San Diego Exit connects residents in need with their local partners or mobile pantry locations through a searchable map.  Residents can also call (858) 452-3663 or email Exit.
  • I Love A Clean San Diego: ILACSD’s Exit recycling database and call center is a one-stop resource which offers information on donating perishable and non- perishable food--as well as how to divert household items, recyclables, and household hazardous waste from our landfills. Easy access information connects to local resources that reduce waste. 
  • Ample Harvest “Find a Pantry”: This national site Exit provides a map tool for finding local food banks and pantries.
  • County of San Diego - Soup Kitchens List: The County of San Diego’s Health and Human Services Exit website provides a list of soup kitchens as a resource for veterans, military service members, and their families.
  • ReFed Innovator Databasewebsite EXIT; The Database is a living compilation of commercial and nonprofit entities turning the food waste problem into an opportunity for economic, social, and environmental impacts. This growing database is broken down by food waste solution type, organizational status, and geographic reach. Categories include secondary marketplaces that connect surplus food (food that would otherwise be wasted) to buyers. Food product creation organizations convert edible food that is currently considered waste (e.g., surplus/cosmetically challenged produce, brewery waste, vegetable trimmings) into value-added consumer food products (e.g., juices, fruit snacks, energy bars). The Database also list variety of food recovery organizations that capture edible food that would otherwise go to waste on farms, within the supply chain, or in consumer-facing businesses, and redistributes it to food insecure populations.

Gleaning Organizations

  • Feeding San Diego - Feeding San Diego Exit sends requests for gleaning to local organizations (like the ones below) who can come out to farms, orchards, or backyards to pick the remaining crop for distribution to the hungry. Residents can also call 1-866-350-FOOD (3663) to access this information.
  • Joint Gleaning Website - San Diego Gleaners Exit provides a single site from which to access information about active gleaning groups in San Diego County. The site provides descriptions of each group, contact information, and the geographic area that each group serves.
  • ProduceGood - ProduceGood Exit operates the CropSwap gleaning program, which organizes teams of volunteers to pick fruit from private groves and orchards throughout San Diego County. Its Market Share program recovers unsold produce from San Diego Farmers' Markets. Gleaned fruit is donated to food banks for distribution to the hungry.
  • Harvest CROPS -  Harvest CROPS Exit organizes teams of volunteers to pick fruit from backyards and orchards throughout San Diego County. The gleaned fruit is donated to local charities for distribution to the hungry.
  • Senior Gleaners - These volunteer gleaners Exit, aged 55+, harvest from backyards and farms throughout San Diego County, and collect unsold food from grocery stores and restaurants. Gleaned food is distributed at no charge to agencies feeding low income residents.
  • Harvesting San Diego  -  San Diego Roots Sustainable Food Project EXIT organizes volunteers to glean excess fruit from private trees to rescue and donate fresh, healthy food to families who rely on the food assistance system. Harvesting San Diego is a program of San Diego Roots Sustainable Food Project, a non-profit educational organization.

Working Towards a Fuller Future

These organizations coordinate efforts to reduce food waste and end hunger in San Diego County.

  • San Diego Hunger Coalition - The San Diego Hunger Coalition Exit leads coordinated action to end hunger in San Diego County through research, education and advocacy.
  • San Diego Food System Alliance - The Alliance Exit is a collaborative whose mission is to develop and maintain an equitable, healthy and sustainable food system in San Diego County. The Alliance is focused on a number of issues, including supporting local farmers and fishermen, addressing food waste, catalyzing urban agriculture, and ensuring that healthy, quality food is available for all San Diegans.
  • North County Food Policy Alliance - The purpose of the North County Food Policy Council Exit is to find solutions to address the unmet food security needs of the residents of North County and to increase access to a secure and nutritionally quality food supply and food shed.

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Feed Animals

Food that is not suitable for donation to hungry people may be valuable for farmers with animals to feed. For instance, many breweries in San Diego donate their spent grain to farms and dairies in the region as well as out of state. The Ramona Unified School District uses food scraps from schools to feed animals in the agricultural program.

  • For information on which farms are in need of spent grain or other food donations, please contact the San Diego County Farm Bureau Exit - or call (760) 745-3023.

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Industrial Uses

Fats, Oils and Grease, also known as FOG, can be converted into fuel and has various industrial uses. There is increasing interest in finding effective means to obtain biofuel and bio-products from wasted food. San Diego regional options include:

  • New Leaf Biofuel - The New Leaf Biofuel Exit collects grease from restaurants, schools, hotels and other businesses to convert the cooking oil that would otherwise be discarded into biodiesel fuel.
  • Buster Biofuels - The Buster Biofuels Exit partners with different businesses and corporations to collect and repurpose their used kitchen oils and grease to convert it into biofuel.
  • EDCO Disposal Recycling Buy Back Centers - Edco Disposal Exit accepts clean residential and commercial fat, oil and grease at no charge. 

Food Scraps Composting

Composting turn food scraps into a nutrient-rich soil amendments and can be done on site in smaller amounts or on a larger scale at a municipal or commercial level.

Composting Facilities

The San Diego region has facilities that accept food scraps for composting.

  • Miramar Greenery – City of San Diego - The Miramar Greenery Exit accepts commercial food scraps from pre-approved businesses to be taken to the Greenery and turned into compost. San Diego residents are allowed to take up to two cubic yards of compost for free. The Miramar Greenery website also lists the uses for compost.
  • El Corazon Compost Facility - City of Oceanside - The City of Oceanside’s green waste program takes all green waste collected curbside to the El Corazon Compost Facility Exit to be composted. The El Corazon Compost Facility is also currently accepting vegetative food scraps from pre-approved businesses in Oceanside. Oceanside residents are allowed to pick up compost for free with proof of residency at the Oceanside Solid Waste & Recycling Services. Exit
  • City of Chula Vista - Chula Vista Exit is currently operating a pilot program where vegetative food waste is being collected from homes and businesses, and taken to the Otay Mesa Landfill Compost Facility.

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Food Recovery Successes

The San Diego region has some notable successes in food recovery.

Petco Park - This large public venue Exit and home to the San Diego Padres donates large amounts of food to Feeding America for distribution to those in need. All concession stands and restaurants within Petco Park participate in a food waste diversion program. That includes the composting of food scraps at the conclusion of any game or major event. Petco Park’s food waste is then taken to the Miramar Greenery where it's turned into compost. The compost is periodically returned on site for use in the ballpark landscaping.

San Diego Airport Authority -  The San Diego Airport Authority Exit started a food waste diversion program in 2013, composting food scraps generated by the on-site food prep in all 40 of the airport’s restaurants, three prep kitchens, and the USO Airport Center at the Miramar Greenery. They also have a food donation program from their sites directed to their USO Sport Center.

San Diego Zoo and Safari Park - The San Diego Zoo and Safari Park Exit donates food to feed people and composts animal food prep waste at their Children’s Zoo facility and all food waste from all their restaurants at the Miramar Greenery. 

The Ramona Unified School District - The district's innovative program Exit finds the highest and best uses for unserved food and food scraps. Unserved food is collected by a local pantry and donated to feed people; vegetative and bakery food scraps suitable for animal feed are delivered to the district’s agricultural program; and high school students compost other food scraps in an onsite Earth Tub composting unit. Landscape trimmings help provide the “brown” carbon materials needed in the composting process, and the finished compost is used in school landscapes and gardens.

Sharp Memorial Hospital - Sharp Memorial Hospital Exit has been composting all their food waste at the Miramar Greenery since 2012, and in 2016 started donating their edible food to local charities.

The San Diego Unified School District (858-637-6268) partners with Feeding San Diego on a food rescue program EXITthat began in September 2016. Through their Love Food Not Waste pilot program, the district recovered leftover prepared food from over 170 school kitchens. The food is consolidated at 19 production kitchens where local hunger relief organizations, coordinated through Feeding San Diego, pick up the school food on a daily basis. These organizations are then able to extend a meal to those facing food insecurity in and around the school communities.

In addition to those examples, many grocery stores, restaurants, hotels and caterers donate leftover or unsold food to hunger relief organizations.

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