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Santa Barbara County Food Rescue : a CEC program


During COVID-19, we have scaled up to support county-wide charitable food distribution efforts

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, we rapidly expanded our efforts (read more about this expansion in our blog, this article from the Santa Barbara Independent, and press releases here).

Through June 30, 2020 all donations will be DOUBLED by the Community Environmental Council’s Leadership Match Fund so we can continue to help those most in need. DONATE NOW.


About 40% of food produced in the US is never eaten. Instead, it is lost somewhere along the food chain as it is grown, processed, transported, stored, or prepared. When this food is sent to the landfill, it decomposes and produces methane – a greenhouse gas that is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide. In light of this – and the fact that nearly 50% of low-income households in Santa Barbara County deal with issues of  food insecurity – it is unconscionable that we are throwing away good, healthy food.

When excess, nutritious food is redirected from restaurants, hotels, and supermarkets to charitable organizations serving food insecure populations, the natural resources used to produce that food are not wasted, more people have access to food, and less methane is produced in the landfill. This win-win-win opportunity helps food donors to be more connected to the local community, provides meals for those in need, and reduces the negative environmental impacts of our regional food system.


Community Environmental Council is coordinating SBC Food Rescue, a collaborative food recovery network for Santa Barbara County with support from private, public, and nonprofit sectors. SBC Food Rescue builds relationships between donors with excess food and charitable organizations throughout the County to help address food insecurity and keep good food out of the landfill.



It is hard to find the right words to describe this wonderful thing you are doing, not just for Sarah House, but for so many others that are receiving a meal. I am certain that the giver is just as fulfilled as the receiver, if not perhaps even more.

You have found a way to protect those that have always wanted to give, but were concerned with finding themselves in a problem for just doing something good – feeding someone. Thank you for this great service. You are planting some amazing seeds, and touching many more people than you perhaps ever thought you would.

With gratitude,
Paloma Espino, Sarah House Manager



CEC is compiling and managing a centralized database that identifies all the players in charitable food distribution, as well as gaps in service. Among other purposes, this hub is being used to help match donors who have excess food with agencies who can get it to those in need.

Through this county-wide database, any organization supporting charitable food donation, delivery, or distribution during this time is encouraged to share their activities and where they need help. The collected information is available for any organization to view and can be filtered to focus on an agency’s area of interest.

BECOME A FOOD DONOR: Donate Prepared Foods

If you have excess food and are a permitted food service facility, we want you! Register using the form above. SBC Food Rescue and the Public Health Department will work with you to determine which of your prepared food items are eligible for donation.

You not only help feed neighbors in need, but also save money from hauling away food waste, and receive a federal enhanced tax deduction.  You are allowed to deduct the smaller of the following two: (a) twice the basis value of the donated food or (b) the basis value of the donated food plus one-half of the food’s expected profit margin.

BECOME A FOOD DONOR: Donate Unprepared Grocery & Produce

If you operate a grocery store, you can donate baked goods, dairy products, deli meats, and produce. Contact [email protected]; to discuss joining the Grocery Rescue Program at the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County.

BECOME A FOOD DONOR: Donate Your Harvest

If you have trees or plants with excess fruit or vegetables on your property, contact [email protected] or visit to join the Backyard Bounty Program at the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County. The Foodbank will either send volunteers to pick and transport the produce or pick up already harvested produce to feed the needy.


CEC is working to scale SBC Food Rescue out of its initial pilot into a robust match-making network of food donors and agencies that serve those in need throughout Santa Barbara County. Your support will help coordinate the many good efforts in our region, and connect them with quality rescued food that would otherwise be sent to the landfill. Donations made by June 30, 2020 will be DOUBLED by CEC’s Leadership Match Fund.


Nonprofit organizations that provide food to community members in need are eligible to receive food donations through SBC Food Rescue.


Veggie Rescue currently provides transportation and delivery services for SBC Food Rescue. If you are interested in joining to support food transportation needs, contact our SBC Food Rescue coordinator at [email protected].


You can help SBC Food Rescue feed our community members in need by spreading the word about this program to your favorite local restaurants, grocery stores, and other entities with excess food to give.


If the excess food is wholesome and fit for human consumption, and is donated to a nonprofit that is feeding needy individuals, the donor is not liable.

For more info here: or contact our local partner agency, County Department of Public Health, at (805) 681-4938.

Watch this video from a similar program in Orange County that details the state laws, and echoes the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department’s desire to support food recovery efforts. Click here to read the applicable laws.


In 1988, California passed its first law to limit the liability of food donors to nonprofit charitable organizations and food banks.[1] In October 2017, the Legislature passed a bill known as the California Good Samaritan Food Donation Act (the “Act”)[2] to further encourage food donations and to clarify and expand the existing protections for food donors. The Act is effective as of January 1, 2018.

The Act provides limitations on liability for food donations made by any person, gleaner or food facility.[3] Under the Act, a person, gleaner, or food facility that donates food that is fit for human consumption is not liable for any injury resulting from the consumption of donated food. Liability results only if the injury is the result of the gross negligence or intentional misconduct of the donor in the preparation or handling of the donated food.[4] Gross negligence, the more lenient of these two standards, requires a lack of even scant care or an extreme departure from the ordinary standard of conduct.[5] Thus, if a person, gleaner, or food facility exercises even scant care, there is immunity from liability under the Act.

The immunity provided by the Act applies regardless of compliance with any other laws, regulations, or ordinances regulating the packaging or labeling of food, and regardless of compliance with any laws, regulations, or ordinances regulating the storage or handling of the food by the donee after the donation of the food.[6] The protections under the Act also apply even if the food has exceeded the labeled shelf life date recommended by the manufacturer; however, the Act distinguishes between non-perishable and perishable food.[7] If the food is non-perishable, immunity under the Act applies.[8] If the food is perishable, immunity attaches so long as the person that distributes the food to the end recipient makes a good faith evaluation that the food is wholesome.[9]


[1] See 1988 Cal. Legis. Serv. Ch. 735 (S.B. 2427) (adding Section 1714.25 to the California Civil Code and adding Article 18 (commencing with Section 27900) to Chapter 4 of Division 22 of the California Health and Safety Code).
[2] See 2017 Cal. Legis. Serv. Ch. 619 (A.B. 1219).
[3] Cal. Civ. Code § 1714.25. A “person” includes individuals, manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, restaurants, caterers, hotels, schools, hospitals, corporations and other business entities, among others. Id. § 1714.25(d)(5). A “gleaner” is a person who harvests an agricultural crop for free distribution. Id. § 1714.25(d)(3). A “food facility” is an operation that stores, prepares, packages, serves, vends, or otherwise provides food for human consumption at the retail level. Id. § 1714.25(d)(2); Cal. Health & Safety Code § 113789(a).
[4] Cal. Civ. Code § 1714.25(a).
[5] City of Santa Barbara v. Super. Ct., 41 Cal.4th 747, 754 (2007). [6] Cal. Civ. Code § 1714.25(a); Cal. Health & Safety Code § 114433.

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