Food Forward Blog
Volunteer of the Month: Ralph Peschek!

Meet our April Volunteer of the Month, Glean Team Leader all-star Ralph Peschek! Ralph started leading at the Hollywood Farmers Market in spring of 2014 and was instrumental in the launch of our Farmers Market Recovery Program at the Pasadena Farmers Market. As an employee of a local school district, Ralph works to ensure food insecure students have access to healthy food, which is what brought him to Food Forward. Now, as a Farmers Market Glean Team Leader, Ralph inspires other volunteers by being an amazing ambassador of produce recovery! He is incredibly welcoming to the many volunteers that help out at the markets, and explains the gleaning process and work of Food Forward like a complete pro. Ralph has also become such a staple at the markets that he has cultivated wonderful relationships with the vendors, who are always happy to donate their lovely produce when they see him. Thanks, Ralph – you are a HUGE part of our Food Forward family!

So tell me, how did you get started with Food Forward?

I was looking for an opportunity to volunteer  with an organization that worked with getting resources to those who needed them. We have such an abundance of food that goes to waste each day in the United States. I had instituted a food donation program in my local school district to assure leftovers were shared with community feeding organizations to reduce food waste. When I heard about Food Forward and its mission, I knew that it was a great fit for me.

What are some other projects you’re working on that you’d like to share?

Currently, my team is working with our community partners  to increase visibility and outreach to children at risk during summer months when they are out of school. Many families in CA live at or below the poverty level. Their children rely on school meals (Breakfast, Lunch, Snack, and Supper) as their primary source of nutritious food. In summer months, when school is out, those meals go away. There are options in the community in the summer, and we are working hard to encourage more families and children to access free meal programs when school is out by developing outreach and social media campaigns that target these at risk students.

What is your favorite memory working with Food Forward?

I’m not sure I have one. I’ve had the great opportunity to work with some amazing volunteers over the past two years. They all come to Food Forward for different reasons.  But, as you talk with each new volunteer, you learn that at some level they all come with a passion to serve.

Any wisdom you’d like to share with the world about life?

Mame Dennis – “Live! Live! Live!  Life’s a banquet! And most poor suckers are starving to death.”

Ralph (far right) with a team of volunteers at the Pasadena Farmers Market
Read More: Posted in Community Action, Farmers Market, Farmers Market Recovery, Food, Los Angeles Volunteer, Uncategorized, Urban Hunger, Vegetable, Volunteer Organization
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Faces of Food Forward: Triangle Square

When you walk into this unique senior community in the heart of Hollywood, you are greeted by people in vigorous debate, sounds of vintage disco and residents tossing lines back at the TV, which is playing latest episodes of ‘Girls.’

Welcome to Triangle Square, a facility offering 104 on-site apartments, and one of the nation’s first communities catering to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender low-income elders. At first glance, the eye-catching, architecturally-significant building fits in perfectly amongst Hollywood’s newest developments. However, its residents are just getting by on a combination of pensions, government assistance, disability, and donations of goods such as weekly fresh produce from Food Forward.

Triangle Square is one of Food Forward’s earliest produce recipients. Residents have received nearly 25,000 lbs, or 100,000 servings, of healthy locally grown produce since 2012, when our Farmers Market Recovery Program started.

Just steps from our collection and sorting area at the Sunday Hollywood Farmers Market on Selma and Ivar Avenues, Triangle Square houses a variety of seniors who have built a community after living hard-scrabbled lives, in many instances, as the first wave of publically “out” LGBT individuals. It has given them stories, scars, and a sense of camaraderie one rarely sees in urban settings.

According to Kathleen Sullivan, Ph.D., Director of Senior Services for the Los Angeles LGBT Center, which operates Triangle Square, “California is the only state in the nation that forbids its most vulnerable and poorest seniors from receiving food stamps. Once a Californian is age 65, if they are receiving Supplemental Security Income, they can no longer receive food stamps. At Triangle Square, close to 75% of our residents live at the poverty level and Food Forward’s donations are really a difference between eating healthy food or not eating at all, especially towards the end of the month.”

As the Food Forward boxes of produce arrive each Sunday, residents jockey for a place in front of the tables in the community room. The fruits and veggies will be set up here and residents will soon serve themselves based on a choice model: taking the produce that appeals to them.

Erica Kletzin, a retired RN who lives at Triangle Square, says, “Our residents are getting healthier – they have more energy and are going to more groups here. This program has improved the quality of their lives.”

The Hollywood Farmers Market is a chef’s paradise and is ground zero for dozens of high-end restaurants in the area. Many farmers selling here cultivate exotic or highly sought-after specialty produce. The result is that some of what Food Forward volunteers glean here is unfamiliar to people who were raised during an era when peas-and-carrots were staples, decades before sunchokes and arugula ruled anyone’s menu.

Food Forward is now furnishing simple recipes to help Triangle Square residents use unfamiliar yet healthy produce like kale and Swiss chard. They are up for the challenge and excited to experiment, preparing dishes in their efficiency apartments.

One of our volunteer Glean Team Leaders, Alicia Magallanes, who is a registered social worker notes, “The older adults look forward to receiving the nutritious fruits and vegetables we collect each week. Every older adult should have access to healthy food, and I really enjoy sorting through fresh produce that I know they will equally enjoy preparing in their kitchens.”

Dan Shupe, a resident of Triangle Square and weekly recipient of Food Forward Farmers Market Recovery produce, explains, “The money starts getting very tight at the end of the month because we’re not working like we used to. So before this, I’d go to the drugstore to buy [processed] food.” When asked about how he likes the weekly produce donations, he said, “It’s shocking how good it is.”

Read More: Posted in Uncategorized
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We are looking for a West LA summer intern!

POSITION: West Los Angeles* Outreach Ambassador
COMMITMENT: 10+ weeks, 20 hrs/week out of our North Hollywood office and in the field
Start Date: First week of June, 2015
ORGANIZATION: Food Forward (501c3 non-profit)

ORGANIZATION OVERVIEW: Food Forward rescues fresh, local produce that would otherwise go to waste, connecting this abundance with people in need, and inspiring others to do the same. This food helps feed Southern California’s most vulnerable: be they children, homeless individuals, veterans, those with HIV/AIDS, women, low­‐income families, immigrants, or anyone who does not access to a sufficient quantity of food. We also aim to tap into an awareness and consciousness of sustainability and community building, and to become a bright voice on Southern California’s edible landscape around food security and food justice issues.

POSITION OVERVIEW: We are looking for a West Los Angeles Outreach Ambassador to assist with expanding Food Forward’s presence in Los Angeles’s Westside. This person will work directly with the Backyard Harvest Program Manager and Volunteer Manager. This position provides an opportunity to become deeply involved in the urban food justice community, while working for a prominent and growing nonprofit. The West LA Outreach Ambassador will work with volunteer groups, fruit tree owners, schools, food distribution agencies and local press. Tasks include researching potential volunteer groups and food distribution agencies, community outreach, writing press articles, speaking at events, and leading harvests and farmers’ market gleans.

What you will learn:

  • Research and outreach methods within unique neighborhoods

  • The in’s and out’s of working at a growing non-profit

  • How to engage community members and groups

  • Communication and presentation skills

  • Strategic planning

  • How an organization expands to new geographic locations

  • First hand experience with food security work in Southern California

  • Seasonality of locally grown produce and fruit trees

  • Writing and pitching promotional articles

  • Event coordination

CORE RESPONSIBILITIES:

  • Researching and developing different methods of recruitment and registration of properties with fruit trees

  • Writing and pitching articles for local press

  • Researching and recruiting potential volunteers and community partners

  • Representing Food Forward at tabling events and presentations

  • Identifying strong volunteers to train as event leaders

  • Frequent written communication in emails, postings and documents

  • Leading fruit picks and farmers market recovery events in West LA

QUALIFICATIONS: Ideal candidate will have a strong interest in hunger and food justice issues. We are looking for an extremely detail-oriented person who enjoys organizing and collecting data and information.  He/she is comfortable with public speaking and  should be personable and able to communicate with various personalities and temperaments. The candidate should be highly versed in West LA geography.

Other qualifications include:

  • Completed or pursuing a degree in a related field

  • Proven effective data management skills

  • Taking initiative on projects

  • Strong people and public speaking skills

  • A flexible team player who is able to work well under pressure and time constraints

  • Experience working in a fast paced environment

  • Strong knowledge of Westside geography, neighborhoods, and streets

  • Ability to effectively report results

  • Strong knowledge and comfort with WordPress, Powerpoint, and Social Media

  • Comfortable with lifting 40 pound boxes of fruit/vegetables

  • Valid drivers license and access to a vehicle

  • Willingness and availability to work some weekends

Compensation: Unpaid. All non-commuter miles will be reimbursed.

For current students: please inquire about credit based internship opportunities.

How to Apply: Send a cover letter in the body of the email and attach your resume in a PDF version to volunteer@foodforward.org. The subject line should read: West Los Angeles Outreach Ambassador – (Your Name). No phone calls please. Please follow these instructions to ensure that we process your application.

*West Los Angeles includes neighborhoods south of Malibu, west of the 405 and north of the 105 freeways.

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Volunteer of the Month for March: Robin Wolfe!

Meet our March Volunteer of the Month: Robin Wolfe! Robin began volunteering with Food Forward back in 2011, and officially trained as a Pick Leader in the summer of 2014. If you want to see someone who truly LOVES being in the trees, join Robin on a fruit harvest in East LA. She is a picking machine and harvested half of the figs we used for our Food Forward Balsamic Thyme California Fig jam, which is no small amount of figs. Robin also keeps us stocked on those magical Buddha’s Hands and is a star Property Scout who works on innovative new harvesting techniques. Behold, the Fruit Chute! Pictured below is Robin’s solution for the solo fruit picker who wants to stay in a tree, while transporting picked fruit safely to the ground. We are always blown away by the great ideas and awesome attitude that Robin brings to Food Forward, and are thrilled to have her on the fruit crew. Read more about her below!

So tell me, how did you get started with Food Forward?

I read a small piece about it in a free parent magazine about five years ago and went on some picks over the years. My mom was a fruit tree enthusiast, and I grew up in Silverlake with an abundance of great trees that actually served as food because my mom was not the greatest cook. Plus, she grew up in the depression and really instilled a not-waste mentality in me and a true appreciation of fresh fruit. As a kid, I always loved climbing trees and picking fruit, and FF was a perfect fit as I could do both for a good cause. Not getting in trouble for picking the neighborhood fruit is an obvious plus. When more free time became available as I got older and the kids grew up, it worked out to be able to do more for such a truly wonderful organization so I became a leader and scout. Fresh food that would have gone to waste instead of canned food and processed cheese available to people in need?  No brainer.

What are some other projects you’re working on that you’d like to share?

No projects other than trying to keep happy thoughts and do good where I can.

What is your favorite memory working with Food Forward?

Every event is always special and unique.

Any wisdom you’d like to share with the world about life?

Try to keep focused on the good because it is out there, just never on the news!  It’s a cliche, but even small, seemingly insignificant, kindness and help that you can contribute does make a difference. Just take the steps one at a time and don’t worry about the whole journey.

Read More: Posted in Backyard Harvest, Community Action, Los Angeles Volunteer, Urban Fruit Gleaning, Volunteer Organization
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Faces of Food Forward: Family Rescue Center

As the Founder and Executive Director of Food Forward, I try to keep a close ear to the ground about ways to improve what we do and how we do it. Over the last two years as the Farmers Market Recovery Program, and more recently the Wholesale Recovery Program, have come into being (quadrupling the number of agencies who receive our donated produce), I keep hearing one question repeatedly: Who are the people receiving the produce Food Forward collects, and can we learn more about them?

Though our staff has regular interactions with agencies who benefit from our produce, that’s not often the case with volunteers and donors. As we now recover and distribute an average of over 100,000 pounds of produce a week, it’s not surprising people want to know more about who they are feeding and how the food is being used. To be honest – so do we!

This is just the beginning of our efforts to document these faces and stories. We hope to give you greater insight into the incredible receiving agencies we supply with produce, while also introducing you to some of the people who benefit from our donations. We’ll include only first names in these profiles, and sometimes just faces, all with respect to the anonymity some folks request at these delicate junctures in their lives.

We hope you’ll send us feedback on how you enjoy these profiles and they offer you a more humanistic lens into what we do with the amazing produce, funding and most of all – energy – you give Food Forward in abundance.

-Rick Nahmias
Founder/Executive Director, Food Forward

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Family Rescue Center (FRC) began serving low-income families in the West San Fernando Valley in 1998 under the umbrella of the Canoga Park Presbyterian Church. This service began after a young Hispanic man, while crossing Vanowen Street in front of the church, was hit by an automobile. Members of the church were the first to reach him, as he lay badly injured on the street. From that point on, many members of the church became dedicated to helping the injured man and his family to get through a very traumatic time in their lives.

While working closely with the injured man and his family, members of the Canoga Park Presbyterian Church soon learned that there were many low-income people in the West Valley that needed help in a variety of ways.

After figuring out how best to help families in the area of the church, it was decided that this group at the Canoga Park Presbyterian Church, called Rescate, could more effectively help low-income families as a standalone 501(c)3. FRC presently has a client base of over 600 low-income families who urgently need help in providing basic support for their families.

FRC provides food, clothing, medical screening and educational services to these families once a month, with the aim of helping them become more independent. FRC also conducts special events throughout the year that provide much needed help to their client families, especially the children. These events include a summer camp, school supply distribution through backpacks for grades K-12, Thanksgiving food boxes for upwards of 300 families and Christmas assistance.

Food Forward has been donating produce to FRC since 2011 and, in that time, has donated more than 15,000 pounds. At first it was exclusively citrus. But, with the addition of the Calabasas Farmers Market last season, FRC became a recipient of the wonderful selection of literally dozens of types of veggies and fruits that come our way each week.

Maria, (pictured in red) who receives assistance from FRC to help feed and clothe herself and two children aged 9 and 11 says, “The fresh produce you provide is healthy food. I am so happy you are helping us to care for our family’s health. Buying fresh produce at the farmers market is just too expensive for us.”

FRC also has acted as a re-distribution partner for Food Forward, getting boxes with our produce to smaller West Valley pantries on a regular basis.

FRC Founder, Dick Shively (pictured here with two Mormon sisters, Jensen and Denk, who currently work at FRC as part of their religious mission) told me FRC would not have much, if any, produce to give away to their 600+ families if it was not for Food Forward. “Until Food Forward began helping us by providing fresh produce, we did need, on occasion, to use our cash resources to buy fresh produce items for the low-income families that we serve.”

All one has to do is look around the converted trailer that serves as FRC home and see the truth in that – our bright orange and blue boxes containing nutrient-rich produce are surrounded with shelf after shelf of canned and dried food.

It’s important to note that our work with FRC is not a one-way street either. They have referred us to the largest pomegranate property we have yet to harvest, with over 16 trees.

Allison Keith, Chair of the FRC Board, told us, “The Food Forward partnership is almost the only source of fresh fruits and vegetables for distribution to the FRC families AND the only consistent one at this time. This is a great benefit to the families because it not only allows for MORE food to supplement the 3 meals a day for 3 days that is our standard distribution for each family member, it also provides BETTER nutrition by supplying a more well-rounded variety of foods.”

Lili, from the Phillipines, has an aging mother and two teenage children she helps feed with donations from Food Forward.

Read More: Posted in Backyard Harvest, Community Action, Farmers Market Recovery, Food, Los Angeles Volunteer, Urban Hunger, Vegetable, Volunteer Organization
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lbs. of fruit picked to date

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