Rick Nahmias, Founder/Executive Director, before founding Food Forward in 2009, Rick was an award-winning professional photographer, writer and filmmaker whose work focused on the faces and stories of marginalized communities. His formal training as a cook, along with his exploration of California’s agricultural workforce in his body of work entitled “The Migrant Project: Contemporary California Farm Workers,” gave him a deep appreciation and understanding of high-end cooking and the food justice worlds. These varied interests, along with his conviction that access to healthy fresh nutritious food is a human right, culminated in him growing Food Forward and coming aboard as full-time Executive Director in 2011. Since then, in addition to having his photography published internationally, shown at over four dozen museums and cultural centers across the US, and having prints included in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, he has been a winner at the LA Social Venture Fast Pitch, named a delegate to the Slow Food/Terra Madre Conference in Torino in 2012, named a Ralph M. Parsons Fellow in 2013 and invited to the Shannon Leadership Institute for 2014.
Amir Zambrano, Operations Director, considers himself a world citizen with Angeleno roots. He was raised in his family’s restaurants in Echo Park, working as soon as he was old enough to stop breaking dishes, and eventually owned his own Latin American Fast Food joint on Hollywood Blvd. He comes to us with 12+ years of accounting and finance experience, most recently with Yahoo! Inc where he lead projects in strategic partnerships and acquisitions integration, and system and process enhancements. His passions are traveling, backpacking, surfing and diving, and he recently became a Dive Master in Colombia where he also immersed himself in the Raizal culture, learning traditional farming practices.
Erica Gaetano, Projects and Partnerships Manager, Before she found herself up a Food Forward tree, Erica worked with many innovative start-ups in both the for- and non-profit sectors, including Kiva, Charity: Water, Sweetriot Chocolate and Glaceau Vitaminwater. She loves building brands, creating change and fruit, making Food Forward a natural fit! In her spare time, she manages a group of 30 volunteer editors as a Kiva Team Leader and tutors with Reading Partners. An east coast transplant, Erica lives in Santa Monica with her husband, and has become addicted to year-round farmers markets. She would not be able to survive without coffee, red wine, power yoga and cruising the beach on Jenny, her teal beach cruiser.
Emily Parker, Development Associate, hails from the cornfields of Indiana. Following a picturesque childhood of running around the stalks and creeping around a giant old barn, she left the Midwest and moved to NYC for college and urban excitement. After many years of gallivanting through Manhattan, where she produced myriad works of downtown theatre, she decided to move west and, soon thereafter, discovered a new passion. She found her way to Margery Tabankin and Associates and FUNDamental (both philanthropic advising firms), from which she gleaned the knowledge she’s now using to advance Food Forward. When she is not thinking about produce and food justice, she can often be found taking long urban and canyon walks with her husband and small blind dog, Stevie Wonder.
Laura Jellum, Volunteer Manager, Laura’s roots are in small-town Michigan where her taste for fruit began with the apple and pear trees in her backyard. After eating a lifetime’s worth of homemade applesauce, she headed off to college in Kalamazoo, MI only to find a budding career in music marketing, which brought her out to Los Angeles for five years. She spent another five years in Chicago DJ’ing parties and nurturing her zeal for cooking before the allure of sunshine and citrus all year long called her back to Los Angeles. Her growing passion for combatting food waste and meeting like-minded individuals led her to volunteer with Food Forward and the rest is history. She also enjoys roaming her Northeast LA neighborhood, spending time in the desert and eating her way across the city.
Brenna Lyons, Harvest Manager,is a native Angeleno, growing up in West Los Angeles and currently residing in the San Fernando Valley. Her childhood was spent climbing the large avocado tree in her backyard and eating the fruits like butter. Brenna has always been interested in the connection between people and food. Her interest led to greater experiences in urban agriculture throughout Los Angeles. She is a LA Master Gardener and has been a garden educator for elementary schools for the past three years. Brenna has a Master’s in Urban and Regional Planning from Cal Poly Pomona where she focused on environmental planning and food system planning.
Luis Yepiz, Wholesale Produce Market Recovery Program Manager, has early memories of the Sonoran Desert, Yaqui Valley. Tumbling through “mountains” of wheat, sorghum, soy and millet — juxtaposed against the harsh realities of food politics, artificial shortages, and price fixing — is where he learned first hand how fresh grown produce is such a vital commodity and so precious. Growing up Angeleno, he split his time between the family diesel mechanic business and volunteering in public radio. His family’s prolific garden in the San Gabriel Valley made overcoming food insecurity, sharing abundance, and working with those fighting hunger a natural fit. Luis brings to Food Forward his business management background as well as years working with wholesale market recovery, food banks, farmers markets, and charities throughout Southern California. He is also an award-winning poet and operatic tenor.
Martha Penhall, Ventura County Director, grew up in Hawaii and began her lifelong community activism teaching kids how to swim at the ripe old age of 11. Her “whatever it takes” attitude coupled with her excellent interpersonal and organizational skills has led her up the ladder to the top in her field of marketing. She is the recipient of the 2011 Halo Award given by the Deutsch Foundation for outstanding volunteerism. She is a successful author, artist and animal advocate. Any daylight left in her 24 hours is spent swinging a club on the golf course.
Leah Boyer, Farmers Market Recovery Program Manager, grew up by the Mississippi River in southeast Minnesota in the “Barn House” (a 100-year-old remodeled dairy barn) with a backyard that would make most naturalists green with envy. She developed her love of nature in this yard, catching water bugs in the creek, chasing butterflies in the prairie, and creating imaginary worlds in the woods. She went to UW-Madison to study conservation biology and cultural anthropology and then transplanted to SoCal and studied urban planning at UC-Irvine. She practiced environmental planning at a firm in Orange County, where she got to know the ins-and-outs of city and regional government. Here, she also realized she was more interested in getting rid of food deserts than writing environmental impact reports. When she isn’t working, she’s traveling the world, learning new recipes, or enjoying the vibrant neighborhoods of her current home, Long Beach, with her husband.
Rachael Maysels, Harvest Coordinator, spent her childhood in upstate New York amongst dairy farms, apple orchards, and temperate forests. She relocated to Southern California and found her love for agriculture and environmental activism in Santa Barbara. Acting on her “up for anything” philosophy she’s done many quirky projects such as producing biodiesel in the sticks of Colorado and delivering 11 piglets in Thailand. Rachael combined her passion for travel and agriculture through WWOOFing in the far east and studied permaculture, earth building, seed saving, and biodynamic farming. Before joining the Food Forward clan she spent six months managing farmers’ markets throughout L.A. She is always looking for adventures and kind hearted people to enjoy them with.