From Santa Monica to Mid City: A Farm to Table Story

4.4.17 – One of the best parts of our job is being able to support so many amazing hunger-relief agencies. Mirna, our wonderful Farmers Market Recovery Program Assitant from Mount Saint Mary’s University, sums up her recent journey to one of Food Forward’s Receiving Agencies.

Mirna at the Santa Monica Wednesday Farmers Market

“It may not be a complete solution but it definitely is a Band-Aid for food waste.” – Hank Brehman, Food Forward Glean Team Leader

Farmers Market Recovery and Receiving Agencies

The Farmers Market Recovery (FMR) program began in Santa Monica in 2012. The idea was to get fresh produce that farmers had left over and give it to low-income communities. Food Forward now gleans all over Los Angeles and has many different receiving agencies. Receiving agencies are non-profit organizations that use the produce to either make meals or distribute it to low-income communities or anyone in need.

One receiving agency that gets produce from the Santa Monica Farmers Market on Wednesdays is Groceryships. Groceryships helps hungry families that want to eat healthier but do not have the funds to buy fresh produce. Los Angeles is filled with cheap fast food at every corner, but what about cheap healthy food? Groceryships is filling this gap. Groceryships teaches mothers and fathers skills to help their family eat more fruits, vegetables, grains and other healthful, plant-based foods. They offer them nutrition education, healthy cooking classes, on-call nutritionists, and appliances.

At the Santa Monica Wednesday Farmers Market

The Santa Monica Wednesday Farmers Market (at Arizona and 2nd Street) is a huge market that goes on during the day. From noon until 2:30 pm, Food Forward volunteers team up to collect fresh produce from the farmers. These “Glean Teams” are essential parts of Food Forward’s food recovery efforts.

Volunteers at the Santa Monica Market

A Glean Team Leader (GTL) is a “super volunteer” that began as a regular volunteer at the market and now runs the show. The GTL is the one in charge of informing the new volunteers of their roles at the farmers markets. Once the volunteers are ready to go, they walk through the market with empty boxes for the vendors. Depending on how much extra produce each vendor has, the volunteers assemble the boxes and give each vendor the number of boxes they need. At the Santa Monica Wednesday market, nearly all of the vendors participate in the Farmers Market Recovery Program throughout the year; some may donate more in the winter and some may donate more in the summer, depending on the seasonality of the produce they grow.

Towards the end, volunteers go back around and gather the boxes that are now filled with food, and take them to the GTL so they can get weighed and then distributed to the Receiving Agencies. On the day I was there, February 15, 2017, we collected1,256 lbs in total.

Food Forward Boxes Filled with Produce


Groceryships received 321 lbs worth of fresh produce that day: lettuce, cauliflower, carrots, oranges, bread, and much more!

I met with Yolo and Andrea, who are team leaders at Groceryships and who taught the cooking class that day. About 6 mothers came in, and brought their children along with them. Yolo started off by stating Groceryships’ mission, then asked the mothers how their week went and what they made with the produce they had received the previous week. The mothers were thankful for what they had received, and for what they were going to learn that day.

Food Forward's Visit to Groceryships

Yolo took some spinach and made a soup out of it. Step by step, she let the mothers know what she was doing with the produce. She made a delicious soup that I was able to try. After the class was over, the mothers, one by one, got out their grocery bags and lined up to get produce from the boxes that we had collected at the farmers market. Everyone went home happy, and I went home with new information about Groceryships.  

Groceryships is located in Mid-City, where there is little access to healthy food. Groceryships not only gives low-income families fresh produce, but teaches them how to cook it. The mothers only take the produce they know they are going to use and eat by the end of the week. It was heartwarming to know that the produce being collected at the Farmers Markets is going to good use.

Food Forward is putting a band-aid on food waste every week, while fulfilling their mission in giving back to low-income communities.
Food Forward Produce Donation

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