Food Forward Blog
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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We Are Hiring: Social Enterprise & Partnerships Manager

POSITION: Social Enterprise & Partnerships Manager
ORGANIZATION: Food Forward (501.c.3 non-profit), foodforward.org
HOURS: 30 hours/week (potentially growing to full-time)
LOCATION: At our North Hollywood, CA office, and remote

ORGANIZATION & POSITION OVERVIEW:

Food Forward recovers produce that would otherwise go to waste and donates it to over 250 agencies serving people in need. An award-winning start-up now in its sixth year, we are the largest volunteer- powered non-profit organization of our type in the Southwestern US, gleaning produce from private homes, public spaces, farmers markets and the wholesale market in downtown Los Angeles, with 100% going to feed the hungry across 5 counties in Southern California.

Food Forward is looking for a Social Enterprise & Partnerships Manager who will be responsible for overseeing and growing a wide array of earned income projects and partnerships directly related to social enterprise.

Working closely with the Executive Director this person will be tasked with growing organizational revenue by expanding among other things: our Private Picks (team building events,) Can It! educational food preservation classes, a line of gourmet jams, sales opportunities for our branded merchandise and other projects. They will also be tasked with engaging and maintaining revenue generating corporate and event sponsorships and partnerships throughout the year.

CORE RESPONSIBILITIES:

The Social Enterprise & Partnerships Manager will report to the Executive Director and will be responsible for the following:

  • Solicit, coordinate and re-up Private Picks for corporate, non-profit, faith-based and other groups, and growing the program’s client base.
  • Forge and manage a growing roster of partnerships with appropriate corporations, LA-area events and organizations, with the aim of raising funds through sponsorships and special events.
  • Maintain and grow relationships and sale opportunities with retail and other sales outlets for our Can It! line of specialty jams and preserved food, while scaling production of these products and developing the marketing of them.
  • Maintain and grow relationships, promotions and sale opportunities with retail and other sales outlets for our line of branded merchandise.
  • Oversee and grow end of year/holiday and seasonal merchandise sales
  • Create, execute and manage an array of revenue generating promotions throughout the year with local restaurants, retailers, bars and food businesses and others.
  • The creative marketing and promotion of all events and projects in this department.

QUALIFICATIONS:

3-5 years of business development, preferably in the non-profit and social enterprise area.

3-5 years experience in food and beverage.

Ideal candidate will have a strong interest/passion in hunger relief, food justice issues and taking Food Forward’s award-winning model to the next level by helping build out robust self-sustaining fundraising opportunities.

Although this is not a grant writing or development position, we are looking for an extremely detail-oriented self-starter who is entrepreneurial, has sales and marketing management experience with leadership in their blood and a love for organizing, innovating and building creative community partnerships.

Candidate should be very proactive, extremely personable and able follow up with their own work, as well as comfortable building on leads and pre-existing relationships that have been built ahead of them.

Other qualifications include:

  • 3-5 years proven effective entrepreneurial and sales experience
  • 3-5 years proven food/beverage promotion and/or marketing, and the scaling of food/beverage lines
  • Knowledge of local and national corporate sponsorship landscape
  • Proven track record building creative mutually beneficial branding or promotional partnerships from the ground up
  • Strong knowledge of the social enterprise world and innovative models currently working for other non-profits organizations
    • Professionalism, confidentiality and enthusiasm for developing strong community relationships deemed beneficial to the organization
    • Ability to write professional business plans
    • Experience in food justice/anti-hunger work desired
    • Excellent multi-tasking skills
    • Strong people skills and proven experience managing volunteers
    • Strong knowledge and comfort with WordPress, Twitter, Facebook and other social media.
    • Flexible, a team player, able to work well under pressure
    • Comfortable working in a fast-paced, open-space environment
    • Comfortable working at a young, start–up style, lean non-profit and strong drive to help build on early successes
    • A valid drivers license, reliable source of transportation and ability to easily navigate Southern California
    • Willingness to work occasional nights or weekend events

    COMPENSATION: $40,000-45,000/D.O.E.  - Approx. 30 hours/week + cell phone allowance (potential to grow to full-time)

    NEXT STEP: To apply, please send a letter of interest in the body of an email. Tell us 1) if you were a fruit, what fruit you would be and why 2) describe what you are able to offer the role of Social Enterprise & Partnerships Manager.

    Please attach your resume in PDF format and send to Rick Nahmias, Executive Director, at info[at]foodforward[dot]org, with the Subject Line reading “Social Enterprise & Partnerships Manager (first and last name)”

Read More: Posted in Job Opportunity
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Fruit of the Month: Buddha’s Hands

Ahhh…the exotic and elusive Buddha’s Hand Citron. Coming face to face with this ancient, mystifying fruit is a special and unusual treat, even for the most seasoned fruit enthusiast, or as we like to call ourselves, zest heads.

These wondrous fruits, whose appearance can be likened to a golden squid or perhaps a dog-pile of slithering banana slugs, date back the fourth century when Buddhist monks would carry this graceful oddity from India to China, where it came to symbolize happiness, wealth and longevity. To this day, Buddha’s Hands are celebrated offerings during Chinese and Japanese New Year’s festivities, as they are believed to bestow good fortune on a household.

Those of us at the Food Forward headquarters recently have been blessed with the presence of these incredible, unearthly creatures where they’ve often served as the center of conversation around the ever-brewing Food Forward coffee pot: “Where did that come from?”, “How do they grow?”, “What do you do with it???”

So get ready, now is the time to enlighten you with our ponderous findings!

The origin of our Buddha’s Hands is a residential property in Shadow Hills, a small area in Northern Los Angeles. Yes! You can have your very own Buddha’s Hand tree, which is really more like a bush.

These fruits, which are actually the oldest known citrus in cultivation, are noted as a great indoor plant variety since they stay rather small and have no tolerance for frost temperatures. If you’re able to satisfy these warm temp lovers, Buddha’s bushes are ripe for harvesting during the winter months. Then, if fortunate enough to grow (or procure) one of these majestic creatures, you are left with the timeless question, WHAT DO I DO WITH IT?!

Well, the truth is you need to get creative. Buddha’s Hands typically have no pulp, so their fingers could be seen to some as ample surface area for zesting. But for most of us, turning this beautiful freak of a fruit into miniscule shreds just seems like a waste. If you’re the confectionist type, then candying them is a great way to go. I’ve also heard these conversation starters make incredible room fresheners, so you really needn’t do much at with them at all if you don’t want to.

Personally, I have found them to be wonderful additions to homemade concoctions. Buddha’s fingers shined in a steeped batch of wellness tea I made last week when it seemed like everyone I came into contact with had the plague… I mean, the flu. And if that wasn’t going to steer off the sickness, then by golly the Buddha’s Hand infused vodka I made would surely do the trick!

Regardless of what use you think is best, during this week leading up to Chinese New Year on the 19th, all of us at Food Forward would like to bestow the good tidings of the Buddha’s Hand upon you and wish you a very fruitful year to come!

Read More: Posted in Backyard Harvest, Food Education
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February’s Volunteer of the Month: Heidi Johnson

Meet Heidi Johnson, the one and only Farmers Market Glean Team Leader at the Larchmont Farmers Market. Heidi is truly someone special in the Food Forward family. She single-handedly began our produce recovery at the Larchmont Farmers Market in March of 2014 to ensure that food insecure Los Angeles City College students receive fresh fruits and veggies, and she and her team of equally dedicated volunteers have been handling all elements of the glean every Sunday since. Heidi has a real passion for helping those in need and dedicates herself to service not only through her work with Food Forward but also as the Resource Center Manager at LACC. She does it all with such style (check out that Halloween outfit!), positivity and commitment that she has become an integral part of the Food Forward team. Read more about the amazing Heidi below!

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

I got started with Food Forward when I was President of the Associated Student Government at Los Angeles City College last Spring 2014. The director of the LACC Foundation, Robert Schwartz, informed us about this wonderful opportunity to provide a service to the large homeless population here on campus, many of whom are veterans and former foster youth. I jumped at the chance to be the change I wanted to see in the community.

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

Now I am the Resource Center Manager at LACC. The Resource Center is like a thrift store but it’s free to LACC students. As manager of the Resource Center, I am responsible for getting donations from faculty, staff, students and the community to offer to the students that are in need. We accept clean, gently used clothing items, toiletries, bedding, and non-perishable food items. The Food Forward program compliments this service nicely. Many of the clients that utilize the Resource Center also receive produce from our super Sunday gleans.

What is your favorite memory working with Food Forward?

My favorite memory working with Food Forward is the family community we have built between the team of volunteers and the people who come and get the food. We exchange recipes and look out for one another. The volunteers make it happen. Without the awesome team that supports me, I wouldn’t be able to serve so many people. I love my Food Forward volunteer family.

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

“Be impeccable with your word. Don’t take things personally. Don’t make assumptions. Always do your best!” The Four Agreements By Don Miguel Ruiz

Heidi with her Larchmont Farmers Market Glean Team!

Read More: Posted in Community Action, Farmers Market, Farmers Market Recovery, Los Angeles Volunteer, Uncategorized, Urban Fruit Gleaning
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lbs. of fruit picked to date

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