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.
Founder/Executive Director, Food Forward
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.