Going where he’s needed

Meet our Volunteer of the Month this November: Neil Newman! Food Forward’s Development Director, Emily Parker, spells out what makes Neil great: “Neil is the best kind of volunteer—one who says yes to whatever we need help with! He’s been a volunteer since 2011. In that time he has harvested oranges, juiced 100’s (1,000’s?) of pieces of citrus for jam and then led the jam making classes, cleaned ladders, been a lead on the Spring Melt Auction Committee, sorted produce at our Pick-Ups, worked tirelessly as a member of our Earned Income Committee, and made many hundreds of holiday candles. And, I’m sure I’m forgetting something! I am eternally grateful for his unflappably positive attitude and all the time he gives to Food Forward. He’s the best!”



So tell me, how did you get started with Food Forward?
A friend told me about them soon after they started and I began volunteering on backyard picks. I’m also a graduate of the “Can It” Academy.

What drew you to Food Forward’s work and mission?
If Rick hadn’t invented it, I might have! It checks a lot of boxes for me: it’s feeding people, it’s agriculture. It’s chefs and food producers. It’s a uniquely Los Angeles organization because of the proximity to the Port of LA, Mexico and the Central Valley. It offers you the chance to see different sides of Los Angeles that you might not otherwise get to see.

What do you do when you’re not volunteering with Food Forward?
I help with my husband’s entertainment marketing agency, Cakewalk Entertainment. And I’ve just started as a botanical volunteer at the Huntington Library Rose Garden.



Neil melting down wax for the making of this year’s Ojai Tangerine candles! 


Could you tell us about the many ways you’re involved with Food Forward?
I go where I’m needed. I’ve made hundreds of our famous Ojai Tangerine scented candles for sale on the website; I help solicit auction items for The Spring Melt; I serve on the Earned Income Committee trying to find fundraising/marketing partnerships with local businesses. I’ve repaired hundreds of fruit pickers and even installed baseboards and lighting fixtures at The Produce Pitstop!

What is your favorite part about volunteering with Food Forward?
I’m always astounded by everyone’s commitment to getting the job done and their professionalism. And their love of all things FOOD!

You’ve been participating in a lot of our Produce Pick-Ups, especially the one in Watts. How about you describe the volunteer experience?
Michele, Pearson, and Christian run the event so professionally. You just can’t believe the volume of food that can be sorted and distributed in such a short amount of time. By touching the food that’s given away, you’re reminded of exactly why Food Forward is so important and necessary in the lives of our hungriest neighbors.



Neil is a frequent volunteer at our Produce Pick-Ups—here he is in Watts showing off a beautiful butternut squash.


What was your first volunteer day like?
As I recall my OCD kicked in and I tried to harvest every last orange on whatever tree we were picking. Teacher’s Pet Wanna Be!

What have you learned from volunteering?
Humility. It’s not about you, it’s about the bigger picture. That and learn to accept “good enough” and not “perfect.”

Is there a particularly powerful volunteering moment you’d like to share?
They’re all powerful, just as long as you show up in the first place.

Any words of wisdom you live by?
Be Kind. Have Fun. Is there chocolate?


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2 thoughts on “Going where he’s needed”

  1. Janice Odell says:

    Neil is my hero. He has “a servant’s heart” and he’s an example to us all.

  2. Janice Odell says:

    Let it not go unsaid that food waste adds to our carbon layer. Stopping food waste is among the acts an individual can do to help eliminate the climate crisis.

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