Diving into her passions for food waste & food security
Our Volunteer of the Month for April is Eileen Heinrich, who has been volunteering with us since the beginning! Eileen’s been a Pick Leader with the Backyard Harvesting Program since 2013, and has participated in over 80 gleaning events. We always love seeing Eileen’s smiling face at a harvest, and admire her dedication to fighting food waste and hunger!
So tell me, how did you get started with Food Forward?
I was looking for a volunteer gig and came across Food Forward on volunteer match. I participated in a community pick in Granada Hills in 2009 and immediately knew I had found my people.
What drew you to Food Forward’s work and mission?
Food Forward combines things I am passionate about: food waste and food security. Getting fresh produce into the hands of needy families is huge. I teach in San Fernando and many of our families rely on food banks to supplement their food budget. It’s amazing that fresh fruits and veggies are a staple there now.
What do you do when you’re not volunteering with Food Forward?
I teach Kindergarten and tend to my garden. I have about 30 baby fruit trees in my yard and can’t wait until they are big enough for a pick at my house!
What is your favorite part about volunteering with Food Forward?
I love talking to the homeowners. They are almost without exception the sweetest people. They are so excited to have their fruit help to feed others. I have had homeowners pick with me, teach me how to plant grape cuttings, take a popsicle break with me and share their stories. Wonderful folks.
What was your first volunteer day like?
I participated in a community pick. I was absolutely floored by the number of homeowners who welcomed us to pick and the amount of produce rescued from the green bins. I remember talking to Rick and hearing about the way FF started. I was so impressed. As a CSUN student and an Orcutt Ranch visitor, I always wondered what they did with the citrus, but never inquired. Rick took the initiative and built this amazing organization.
Eileen (front row, left) has been a Pick Leader with Food Forward since 2013!
What have you learned from volunteering?
There are so many good people out there. I also learned from Rick that anything is possible if you live by your values and dive into your passions.
Any words of wisdom you live by?
Do what you can, when you can & when you can’t—be kind to yourself.