Efficiency Tour of the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank

In 2015, the San Diego Green Building Council's Green Assistance Program (GAP) helped certify the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank as LEED Gold for Operations+Maintenance. Volunteers for the GAP program conducted a feasibility study and recommended sustainability measures that have been incorporated into the building, including installing skylights for natural light, solar panels, and a new roof.

Our December 2023 tour with CEO Casey Castillo provided a close-up view of the many efficiency measures and practices, including an anaerobic digester, battery system and thermal storage.  

"The insulated roof is working. Instead of being too warm, floor staff started requesting hoodies."

Food Storage

On a regular day in San Diego, the food bank manages a fleet of 30 vehicles, including a crew of electric forklifts that charge at night to take advantage of non-peak energy hours. The vertical racking system doubled the food bank’s capacity in its 2,800 square foot building, providing space to store and move 20 million pounds of dry food and fresh produce donated from grocery store partners, food drives, and the farm to family program, a partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to redistribute farm fresh food not selected for store shelves. 


The food is then distributed through nonprofit partners in the community like Father Joe’s Villages, the Armed Services, Jewish Family Services, and many others and the food bank’s own distribution that includes backpacks for 3,500 school children each week through 60 schools and direct food bank distribution from 200 locations in the County. In addition to youth and families, the food bank distributes food boxes to qualified seniors and provides emergency food assistance to nearly 100 sites. All in, they're feeding 400,000 San Diegans a month.


Energy Use in Cooling

The food bank’s goal is to provide at least 50% fresh, quality produce to consumers - which requires refrigeration. We toured the cooler and freezer, whose Viking Cold systems are energized with solar power during the day, removing this process from the energy grid, and reduced energy to compressors at night, for up to 12 hours, so long as the temperature is sustained to keep produce cool. The food bank’s LEED status is significant, drawing attention from food companies around the globe who have visited to see the storage space and technology utilized.

Little Food Goes to Waste

Though only about 1.5% of the donated food is unusable, about 100,000 pounds, the food bank has taken steps to reduce waste even further, implementing an anaerobic digester and composter to break down, decompose, and regenerate food waste into soil in about 7 days. The facility is clean, fast and maintained by an onsite staff person. During the pandemic, the food bank also invested in an automated food packer to improve efficiencies in packaging dry foods such as pasta, oats, and rice for timely redistribution.

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