Reflecting on our first decade and looking towards the next

The first pick happened 10 years ago on January 17, 2009 and was led by Food Forward Founder/Executive Director Rick Nahmias (far left)

 

Dear Fruit Family,

Ten years is a heady milestone for any organization, especially one started with a simple desire to solve a local problem through grassroots efforts. We are somewhat baffled and very proud to announce that we turn ten today!

In early 2009 I noticed fruit rotting in my neighbor’s yards, while also hearing of growing lines at food pantries due to the cratering economy. I recruited a single volunteer (remember Craig’s List?!) and decided to harvest my neighbor Heather’s ridiculously abundant tangerine and navel orange trees to do some good. The result: 3 weekends of tree climbing cloaked in the perfume of California citrus, and a yield of 800 pounds of fruit. That soon grew into 100,000 pounds of hand-harvested fruit by the end of our first year.

Flash forward to 2019, when Food Forward recovers an average of 100,000 pounds of fresh produce every day. 100% of these fruits and vegetables go completely free of charge to food insecure folks across the region. What a long, strange, and wonderful journey it’s been! 

The “now and then” is a bit mind-spinning, but here are some highlights.

 

In 2009:

· 4 co-founders and a few dozen volunteers
· Produce only came from backyard harvests
· 5 agencies received our almost exclusively-citrus donations
· There was no staff, vehicles, or office
· For much of the year we had no website, ways to raise funds, or even a name

 

And today:

· 4,000+ volunteers engaged in 2018 

· 5 thriving programs: Backyard Harvest, Farmers Market Recovery, Wholesale Recovery, kNOw Waste, and our newest, Produce Pick-Ups

· 22.5 million pounds of produce recovered in 2018

· 1,800 agencies served across 8 SoCal counties and beyond

· 30 staff and a fleet of 7 vehicles

· Produce recovered for an average of $.09/pound

· Our environmental impact was the equivalent of taking 2,012 cars off the road in 2018

· An estimated 2 million people will receive fruits and vegetables recovered by Food Forward’s programs in 2019

Explore our brand new 10-year timeline to take a look at our journey!

 

In many ways, it feels like we’re just beginning. But as is our namesake – it’s about looking forward.  

This past weekend we gathered to launch a formal strategic planning process to create the vision for our next five years in Fruitland.  And while it’s too early to tell exactly where we will go, I can say our first and foremost priority is to grow deeper roots to bring food insecure communities and individuals more free, healthy produce.

To accomplish this, we’ll harvest more backyard trees in Fruitland, plant Glean Teams at more farmers markets, distribute more fruits and vegetables via Produce Pick-Ups in underserved neighborhoods, and grow our Wholesale Produce Recovery program with the aid of a new Produce Depot.

This work couldn’t have happened without an incredibly receptive and participatory community supporting us. As we blow out our birthday candles, we have you all to thank for inspiring us to keep dreaming and actualizing what a healthy, food waste-free Southern California can look like.

To show the gratitude we feel for you, the community from which we sprouted, we gift this brand new video (below) produced with Serena Creative to be shown in Laemmle Theatres throughout February. We hope it reflects even a tiny bit of what makes this anniversary such a beautiful and humbling milestone to have reached.   

Thank you, and here’s to another decade of sharing abundance!

Rick Nahmias
Founder/Executive Director

 

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