Why Surplus?

Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tons — gets lost or wasted. In the U.S. roughly 40% of food losses happen at retail and consumer levels. This is the surplus we tap into. Our distribution programs are a solution for transforming this vast food waste into nourishment for families.

We believe there's enough to go around

Thousands of pounds of food are thrown away every day. We are ending this waste and putting that food in the right place—into the lives of people who need it.

In 2023 we distributed


Pounds of food


Backpacks with supplies


Thanksgiving turkeys

Distributing surplus inspires abundance

When people experience having more than they need, they share with neighbors and friends and experience first-hand spreading their surplus.

Free the Need works in subtle ways by changing a person’s experience of the world they live in.

As Edith, a long-time Free the Need volunteer, describes in this video, many people have come to Free the Need just wanting to help themselves but when they start to experience having enough, they have more attention for greater aspects of life.

With Free the Need it’s easy to jump in and get involved by simply showing up and seeing what can be done to help. Many times over we have seen people become filled with surplus and start looking for ways to give it away, whether it is extra food from their overflowing box or extra time they have to contribute to bettering the lives of others.

We call it catching the Free the Need spirit.

Meet Celia, a recipient-turned-giver

Celia has been part of Free the Need since 2004 when her and her  husband began receiving food boxes at our giveaway location near Garfield Park in the Mission District of San Francisco. After several months of coming each week to receive a box, they became integral to the giveaway itself as they helped organize the line of recipients and would aid in communication. Eventually, they began to volunteer at 9AM every Friday to help make the boxes. Now, they are key Mission District community members and help Free the Need access and serve many local families. Celia’s enthusiastic volunteerism for the past 14 years is inspiring and exemplifies the sustainability of Free the Need.

“These people do so much good. I’m happy to be a part.”

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