Highlighting volunteer heroes in Ventura County

While Food Forward has continued to recover large quantities of fruits and vegetables since the COVID-19 crisis began, our community volunteer events are paused for the time being. However, our trained Volunteer Event Leaders and partners are continuing to support our work in safe and impactful ways.

In the past month, Food Forward Pick Leaders have carried on with backyard harvests in a solo capacity, rather than harvesting in groups. Homeowners are encouraged to pick their own fruit to share with neighbors or donate it to Food Forward. The impact of Do-It-Yourself and solo picks have been tremendous: in April alone, over 46,000 pounds of produce were recovered and donated to 53 different hunger relief agencies in Ventura and Los Angeles Counties.

Our trained Glean Team Leaders have also begun gleaning again at some Farmers Markets in Ventura and Los Angeles counties, alone or in small groups. In Ventura County, we are now gleaning at four markets weekly, thanks to our dedicated Volunteer Leaders.

Finally, with the help of our partners, we have been operating two Rapid Response Food Hubs in Ventura County to get produce to 25 partner agencies in our communities. All of this cannot be done without our incredible volunteers and partners. In order to thank them, we’re highlighting some of these individuals below!

Carol Gravelle has been an exceptional volunteer for the past nine years with Food Forward. Besides frequent fruit picking, Carol is an expert with our occasional farm gleans here in Ventura County. She also sewed some face masks using Food Forward bandanas and donated them to staff. Thanks, Carol!


Tom Ward has been volunteering with Food Forward for 4 years. He always works hard, and lately, he has been bringing his family to help pick! Thanks, Tom.

John Parmenter was the Zesty Volunteer of the Year for Food Forward in 2019! John is a unique Pick Leader—instead of harvesting fruit trees, he grows and harvest vegetables in many garden plots at the Cornucopia Community Garden in Ventura on a weekly basis. We always love seeing the bounty of kale, squash, spinach, mint, and more that John is growing. Thanks, John!


Amy Hagins and her family are somewhat new to Food Forward, but they have really jumped in to help pick the last few months. Amy leads a harvest almost every week. Thanks, Amy!


Jodie Francoeur is our partner at Simi at the Garden, the local community garden which helps us put on the Simi Valley Produce Pick-Up. Jodie drives down to our Produce Pit Stop near Downtown LA on a weekly basis with her truck, trailer, and husband, Chris, to pick up an additional 5 pallets of fruits and vegetables that are distributed at this event. Thanks to her support, we’ve gone from serving 100-150 families per month to over 300 families each week! Thank you, Jodie!


Food Forward will always be a volunteer-driven organization. A special thanks to all our volunteers and partners, as we cannot recover the amount of produce that we recover and donate without them. Thank you for your support and dedication!

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