Bringing his DIY spirit to the table
Meet our Volunteer of the Month, Eron Rauch! Eron is a unique volunteer—instead of leading gleans, he helps us capture them with his camera. Eron is a photographer and artist who first supported Food Forward by raising money through a pizza-themed draw-a-thon! He also photographs many of our events, from gleans and Produce Pick-Ups to special events like the Spring Melt, Produce Pit Stop opening, and our volunteer appreciation parties. Eron is enormously talented, generous, and a just an all-around great guy! We hope you enjoy learning more about Eron, what motivates him to volunteer, and what it’s like to see our work from behind the lens. To see more of Eron’s work, you can head to his website, www.eronrauch.com.
So tell me, how did you get started with Food Forward?
My friend Shing Yin Khor and I were trying to find a way to help us artists, who often have more energy than money, use our talents to create some tangible good in the world. We’re also both giant nerds about cooking. Which led to Project Pizza: a fake pop-up restaurant that sells food-themed art. We had the artists, we had the infrastructure, we had hundreds of pizza boxes to send the art in, but we were looking for the right organization to send the proceeds. My partner, Callie, knew Food Forward from her job as a vendor at the Santa Monica Farmers Market and when she mentioned it, we know it was a perfect match!
What drew you to Food Forward’s work and mission?
A major part of our desire to work with Food Forward was the core way it supported our local communities without imposing decisions on them. Having enough food—good food—is one of the foundations for having agency in society, and Food Forward is making that more possible for so many people.
From a practical perspective, as fundraisers who have to work with the limited space of social media, the ease of explaining how much impact a gift has helps us reach more people. At one point, we even used baby elephants to count how much food people’s donations redirected.
Left, the Project Pizza draw-a-thon in action; Right, Eron and Shing doing some important research for Project Pizza.
What do you do when you’re not volunteering with Food Forward?
I always have way too many projects going at once! Right now, I’m trying to balance writing for the creative development department of a major video game studio, doing art direction for music festivals and records (including our local Angel City Jazz Festival), and still find time to work on my own art, including collaborating with an archeologist on a photo book about virtual/real depictions of Tokyo and another installation project about digital fan culture. Oh, and cooking as much as I can!
What has been your favorite event to photograph?
The opening of the Produce Pit Stop was the best for me. Sure, it wasn’t as spectacular as Spring Melt at the Jim Henson Lot or as beautiful as a summer morning in a farmers market (and it was certainly harder to make look great in a photo), but we grew Project Pizza almost 10x from the previous year in our attempt to help raise money for the warehouse fund. Infrastructure isn’t always sexy, but seeing pallet after pallet of produce ready to be rerouted into at-need communities was amazing.
Eron has captured momentous occasions like the Produce Pit Stop Grand Opening this June!
How would you describe the volunteer experience as a photographer?
Photographing is always weird because my job almost guarantees I’m running all over to get shots, so I don’t really know what the events feel like for the guests or Food Forward staff/volunteers! Once in a while I grab a market or pick shift just to enjoy getting out there and getting my hands dirty.
What was your first volunteer day like?
Haha, technically my first volunteer day was sitting at this same computer pushing some pixels to make a cool Project Pizza logo! The first time I went out as a volunteer was helping pick an orange orchard, which as I mentioned in the previous question, was really fun but also muddy, which kind of brought me back to all the time I spent helping on our relatives’ farms as a kid. Until I realized I forgot to bring extra shoes and spent two hours out in a muddy orchard and had to figure out how to not slather my car in that mud.
More of Eron’s work: Left, Food Forward staff and volunteers at the Watts Produce Pick-Up; Right, the premiere of LA Foodways, which featured Food Forward.
What have you learned from volunteering?
One aspect of Food Forward that continually amazes me is the diversity of people and skills involved in making the organization as successful as it is. Sometimes it’s easy to not help because you think, “Oh, I couldn’t do that; that isn’t something I know anything about; I don’t have that skill.” But every time I help out at Food Forward, I realize there’s a place for everyone. Whether that’s organizing a maze of pallets, running social media, picking oranges, or even, heaven forbid, being a weird photographer, everyone’s unique skills and personalities come together to make something bigger.
Is there a particularly powerful volunteering moment you’d like to share?
Standing in the massive refrigerator in the Produce Pit Stop was really the highlight for me, seeing how Shing and I’s silly idea for a restaurant that didn’t sell food came together to help support a little corner of such a massive operation.
From Project Pizza, an amazing moment was when we pulled out the last pizza of our 2018 event, threw it on the table for a dozen artists drawing half-asleep after a 16 hour day, said goodbye on the live stream, closed the order form, and looked at our receipts and realized that even though we had drawn over 400 pieces of art, Shing still had to make over 50 more pieces because people had been so generous!
Wonderful moments from the 2019 Spring Melt, captured by Eron.
Any words of wisdom you live by?
Maybe it’s because I spent a lot of my youth in a small-ish town where nothing happened if you didn’t make it yourself, but I’m a big believer in a DIY spirit. Don’t wait around, don’t be fussy, just get out there and make it happen however you can: we started Project Pizza with just a hand-drawn logo and some leftover pizza boxes!