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SF Market Achieves Climate Benefits Through Produce Recovery, Distribution

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Carolyn Lasar, food recovery project manager at The SF Market

Seven million pounds of fresh produce donated since 2016

The SF Market, San Francisco’s original wholesale produce market, home to 26 independent merchant businesses, has reached a milestone in recovering and donating seven million pounds of surplus produce since the program began in 2016.

The SF Market’s Food Recovery Program works with market merchants each weekday to recover surplus produce that they can’t sell for cosmetic or other reasons. The program recovers an average of 4,000 pounds of fruit, vegetables and other food every day, ensuring this food stays out of the landfill and is distributed to food-insecure Bay Area residents via a network of community partners. 

“We are deeply grateful to our community partners, merchants and funders who support our work. None of what we do would be possible without them,” said Carolyn Lasar, food recovery project manager at The SF Market.

Lasar has been instrumental in the success of the Food Recovery Program, helping to launch it in 2016 and continuing to spearhead the market’s food recovery efforts since then. SF Market

The program is part of a larger, regional and national effort aimed at ensuring a reduction of food waste. With the implementation of California’s SB 1383 last year – which mandates that food businesses donate surplus edible food rather than send it to compost or landfills – the Food Recovery Program was well-positioned to implement the policy at The SF Market and serve as a model for others statewide.  

“We have been proud to support The SF Market’s food recovery program,” said Alexa Kielty, residential zero waste senior coordinator at the San Francisco Environment Department. “We are especially pleased to continue our partnership as we implement SB 1383 across the city. The Market’s food recovery program is a wonderful example and critical component of reaching San Francisco’s zero waste goals. The SF Market’s food recovery program has prevented an estimated equivalent of nearly 9,000 tons of CO2 emissions since its launch in 2016. By keeping food from being disposed of in landfills, we can eliminate additional methane emissions.”

In addition to achieving significant impact at the local level, The SF Market has been nationally recognized for its efforts by being named a U.S. Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champion by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It is the first wholesale market to be involved in this arena.

Core to the program’s success is the partnerships with a diverse network of community organizations that receive donations and distribute them to food-insecure clients across the Bay Area.

The SF Market’s Food Recovery Program plans to build a permanent home for the program as part of the market’s broader reinvestment plan. The program is also piloting an initiative to recover non-produce items such as grains, beans and other shelf-stable products from nearby businesses, and include these as part of their donations. 

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