Loaves & Fishes Story
Loaves and Fishes
1500 Berger Drive San Jose, CA 95112
Our Mission: Our mission is to provide complete, nutritious meals that are prepared, packaged, and delivered to hungry and homeless families, children, low-income seniors, veterans, students, and disabled individuals, as well as anyone, housed or unhoused, employed or unemployed, regardless of their circumstances, who finds themselves in the position of not knowing where their next meal will come from, or finds themselves facing a choice between buying food and paying for other basic needs. Our vision is to create as many avenues as possible to ensure that anyone in our community in need of a meal has access to the nutritious food they require. There are no eligibility criteria, nor are there restrictions or limitations on receiving our services. All are welcome, no questions asked. There is no cost. We are the “last line of defense” for the most vulnerable among us.
From our humble beginnings, not only has Loaves & Fishes grown into the largest prepared-meals distribution program in the Bay Area, but we also have the broadest geographic reach, with a service area that utilizes 135 distribution sites extending from Gilroy at the southern-most boundary of Santa Clara County to San Francisco on the west and Fremont on the east. Our distribution sites include homeless shelters for families, homeless shelters for individuals, encampments, transitional housing for families and individuals, low and extremely low-income senior centers, community centers, schools, and after-school programs.
Who We Are: 42 years ago, Loaves and Fishes served our first meal to 11 adults and 15 children. Since that first evening meal, we have been providing hot and prepared nutritious meals to hungry and homeless families, children, seniors, veterans, and disabled persons throughout Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.
For the first 35 years, Loaves and Fishes was a classic soup kitchen. We prepared meals at any kitchen we could borrow, and served them to ~125,000 guests per year. In 2015, we redesigned our model — obtaining temperature-controlled trucks, and developing partnerships with non-profit and community organizations serving our shared population. We would prepare hot meals at our commercial kitchen in Morgan Hill. In addition to our two meal service sites, we were now also delivering and distributing meals to 35 locations throughout our two counties. Using this hybrid service delivery model, our services increased to 547,000 meals per year and the number of partner organizations grew to 60 sites by FY2018.
In FY2019, we integrated our A La Carte food recovery program into our portfolio of services — receiving prepared food from corporate, airport, restaurant, and academic institutions, and redistributing meals at designated school, community, shelter, and transitional housing locations.
FY2020 was already shaping up to be our largest service year ever. Then COVID-19 struck, and we knew within weeks that the explosive increase in requests for our services would make it an unprecedented year of growth. Requests for our assistance have tripled since March 2020 – growing from 2,500 meals to over 7,500 meals – a day. Now serving 135 locations (a 130% increase over the prior year), the impact of COVID-19 is only starting to be felt. By the end of June 2021, we provided over 1,500,000 meals to our most vulnerable neighbors in need; and by June 2022, this number reached 1,800,000 meals. We are the “last line of defense,” for the most vulnerable among us.
In a region as wealthy as Silicon Valley, it’s a distressing fact that over 1,000,000 households “do not earn enough money to meet their basic needs without public or private, informal assistance.” These households throughout Santa Clara and San Mateo counties are homeless or live below the poverty line and are food insecure, with support services unable to meet the growing need. (Joint Venture Silicon Valley 2022 Index)
More people than ever before who do not have access to refrigeration or food storage are coming to Loaves & Fishes. Our unique ability to provide daily meals has become especially important as the number of hungry and homeless continues to grow, where now more than 1 in 4 go to bed hungry every night, not knowing where they will find their next meal. We strive to meet 100% of the dietary and nutritional needs of our guests. This is central to our preparations, as, for the majority of the people we serve, the meal they receive from us is the only one they will receive that day. The guests we serve encompass the entire breadth of the residents throughout Santa Clara and San Mateo counties – including families, children, veterans, and individuals living in encampments, cars, and RVs, congregate shelters, residences, or temporary shelters; seniors who are unhoused or living in low-income senior living facilities; and individuals and families disproportionately impacted by unemployment and other economic, physical and mental health hardships. Thirty-four percent (34%) of the guests we serve are children, twenty-five percent (25%) are veterans, and thirty-six percent (36%) are seniors.
Loaves & Fishes currently provides its services through two meal service programs: our Hot Meals Program and A La Carte Food Recovery Program.
- Our Hot Meals Program provides individually packaged meals that are distributed at our meal service sites in downtown San Jose that provide free hot meals 5 days/week to all, and to individual and family homeless shelters, transitional and low-income senior centers, community centers, schools, and after-school programs from Gilroy to San Francisco.
- The food we provide through A La Carte is a mix of prepared and packaged food donated by corporations, academic institutions, hospitals, San Jose International Airport, and restaurants that are saved from the landfill or composting, and distributed throughout the communities we serve – with a particular focus on schools and community centers. The meals are cooled, packaged, and then distributed via our A La Carte temperature-controlled food trucks; the first delivery service model of its kind in the U.S. Last year A La Carte diverted over 700,000 meals from landfills/composting utilizing our food truck service delivery model- a first of its kind in the United States.
Additionally, Loaves & Fishes offers a variety of programs and activities, all supporting meals for families, children, seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities community-wide. They include:
- Bag lunches: 48,000 bag lunches are provided annually, prepared by volunteers, and distributed throughout Santa Clara and San Mateo counties
- Hygiene kits: 50,000 kits are provided annually, assembled by volunteers, and distributed weekly along with our meal distributions
- Community Garden: growing fresh vegetables year-round for use in our hot meals