Spreading the ‘gospel’ of fighting food waste and hunger
Meet our Volunteer of the Month, Miriam Cantor! Miriam has been involved with Food Forward for a long time and is one of our fantastic Community Ambassadors. She enthusiastically represents Food Forward at community service fairs, food events, and more! Miriam has a love of fruits and vegetables and a wonderful energy, both qualities that make her a perfect ambassador for our work. We’re so grateful for all of Miriam’s hard work and support over the years, and hope you enjoy learning more about her!
So tell me, how did you get started with Food Forward?
I heard about Food Forward from my synagogue’s Green Team. I was very concerned about the food waste that I saw at my synagogue and at my husband’s office. One of the first things I did when I retired from teaching special needs children was volunteer with Food Forward.
What drew you to Food Forward’s work and mission?
I did a workshop for educators in the Central Valley and saw food literally falling off the trees because there were not enough resources to pick it all—just like in John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. I was overwhelmed and saddened at the challenge of addressing the disconnect between available food and those who desperately needed it. When I learned about Food Forward, I saw an answer to that challenge.
Love of produce runs in my family as much as reading newspapers—my grandfather was in the produce business. My mother told me how much pride he took in the beauty of what he sold, and how much joy she and her siblings took in putting whatever they wanted in the “basket” once a week. My mother didn’t just say “Eat your vegetables” but “Eat your nice fresh green beans.” My aunt said “Everyone loves produce; it’s vibrant and exciting!” I went to college in the cornfields of Illinois. I loved watching the growing cycles.
What was your first volunteer day like?
When I first volunteered the organization was approximately 5 years old, occupying 2 rooms in an office in the industrial part of the San Fernando Valley. There were maybe no more than a few staff people. In my initial interview to decide how I could best participate, it was suggested that I become a Community Ambassador. It’s a perfect fit for me!
How would you describe the volunteer experience at a tabling event?
I call it “Preach & Teach”—I feel that I am “spreading the gospel” of what Food Forward does – reducing food waste and increasing available food for those who need it. I’m also a bit “shameless” in my Community Ambassador work, calling out to people, making eye contact to bring them “into the fold” of what can easily be done to feed people, with what would otherwise mess up the sidewalk and go to waste. I also explain how Food Forward operates, describing the different ways food is gathered and distributed.
What is your favorite part about volunteering with Food Forward?
I love being part of Food Forward! It is incredibly rewarding and exciting to see Food Forward continually growing and expanding in ways to provide available food to those who need it . I proudly like to describe how Food Forward has grown bigger, more complex, and extensive in addressing food waste over the years, from simply picking up a neighbor’s fruit and bringing it to a nearby food bank to getting into the Wholesale produce market, one of the biggest sources of food in the nation, perhaps the world. I was excited by the first van Food forward got, and then by the trucks to carry more. I saw the number of rooms within the Food Forward offices to expand, a great room for parties added, a warehouse, as well as community partnerships with schools and various other organizations. I tremendously admire Director Rick’s vision and creativity; I love how the staff continues to expand with people who come, stay and contribute their vision to Food Forward. On top of that, they are all fun to be with!
What do you do when you’re not volunteering with Food Forward?/
Personally, my favorite sport is reading—all kinds of things. I save book reviews, and have acquired many more books than I have yet read. I am a third-generation obsessive newspaper reader. I also like to garden but I am lazy at it. I have friends who are good gardeners, they give me clippings and I stick them in the ground, give them mostly recycled water, and watch them grow. My neighbors walking by tell me they think my garden is pretty; I tell them about the friends who gave me the clippings!