Food Forward Media Alert

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:
Food Forward Media
Nkemdilim Nwosu
Communications Director
media@foodforward.org

How one tangerine from a single tree became a quarter-billion pounds of fresh produce recovered, donated, and distributed for hunger relief.

Illustration of a hand picking fruit from a tree branch.

North Hollywood, CA – In 2009, a small group of volunteers, responding to a Craigslist call to action, gathered together to harvest tangerines from a backyard tree in the San Fernando Valley. That first 85-pound harvest was donated to SOVA, the Jewish Family Service LA’s food pantry in Lake Balboa—and the idea for the nonprofit organization Food Forward (foodforward.org) sprouted.

Now, as the largest urban gleaning nonprofit in the western U.S., Food Forward is celebrating the recovery and donation of 250 MILLION POUNDS of fresh fruits and vegetables, equivalent to ONE BILLION SERVINGS, that would have otherwise gone to waste. Food Forward provides enough produce to meet the recommended five-a-day fruit and vegetable needs of more than 150,000 food insecure people EVERY DAY.

To commemorate this incredible milestone, Food Forward is launching its 250 Million Pounds fundraiser to further aide produce recovery and distribution for hundreds of food insecure communities across the region. Donors of $250 or a $25 monthly contribution will be gifted a special edition bandana through June 30 at:  foodforward.org/250million

In the years since Food Forward’s founding, the organization and its impact have grown exponentially. More than 200,000 pallets or 16,000 truckloads of produce have been recovered through Food Forward’s three produce recovery programs: the Backyard Harvest Program, Farmers Market Recovery, and Wholesale Recovery. The numbers tell the story:

  • The Farmers Market Recovery program gleans from 14 Southern California Farmers Markets every week, led by experienced glean team leaders and additional volunteers, collecting approximately 4.7 million pounds to date.  
  • The Backyard Harvest program has collected 4.2 million pounds of produce from trees and gardens of more than 2,300 private, public and estate properties, harvested by volunteers.
  • The Wholesale Recovery program, which began in 2014, has recovered the greatest number of fresh produce, contributing 241.3 million pounds, with daily donations of pallets and truckloads from the Downtown Wholesale Produce Market in Los Angeles, the largest food distribution hub in the US, its surrounding district, and from growers and shippers across the region. These pallets are delivered to Food Forward’s 16,000 square-foot refrigerated warehouse, called The Produce Pit Stop, located in Bell, CA, where they are then divided up and distributed to hunger relief agencies, which get the food the last mile to hundreds of communities experiencing food insecurity.

Food Forward’s success is not just about the numbers; it’s about preventing perfectly good healthy food from going to waste, and making sure those who need it most receive it free of charge,” said Rick Nahmias, CEO and Founder of Food Forward. “In partnership with several hundred hunger relief organizations, for over 13 years our incredible staff and thousands of dedicated volunteers have shown their commitment both to food justice and reducing the climate-damaging effects of food waste.”

The recovery of 250,000,000 pounds of surplus produce has prevented the equivalent of 70,225 metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. That reduction in pollution is the equivalent of 20,000 cars being taken off the road for one year

By rescuing fresh produce before it’s thrown away, these 250 million pounds have also saved 5 billion gallons of water – the equivalent of 8,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools – an impact that is especially important as California faces extreme drought.

Food Forward’s 100% plant-based and environment-friendly model has been recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Food Recovery Challenge six years in a row – the only nonprofit in the U.S to be so honored. Most recently, it was awarded both the 2020 Leadership and 2021 Innovation categories for preventing food waste and diverting excess wholesome food away from landfills – highlighting the organization’s commitment to health equity and environmental sustainability.  

From a handful of volunteers in 2009, and now a staff of almost 40 with thousands of volunteers, Food Forward has leveraged its modest expense budget of $4.1 million into over $120 million in donated produce and services in 2021 alone.

Food insecurity remains a major source of physical, emotional, and financial stress exacerbated by COVID-19, and continues to have an impact on already-marginalized communities most deeply. In the face of the pandemic, Food Forward refined its workflow to double its food recovery efforts, collecting and distributing a combined 127 million pounds of produce in 2020 and 2021, and in cooperation with the USDA, providing emergency food boxes to the hardest hit communities.

“Getting good food to people is really important if we want to see a world where folks can thrive. Working with Food Forward to ensure this happens has been such an honor and a pleasure! With their help, we are able to create thriving communities where people feel cared for and in turn, care for their community and each other. The Social Justice Learning Institute is so grateful for Food Forward and all that they do,” said Nicole Steele, Health Equity Programs Director, Social Justice Learning Institute.

For every dollar donated, Food Forward recovers more than 16.6 pounds of produce. As Food Forward’s 250 Million Pounds campaign begins, the organization will host a community Fruitland Zoom Chat on Wednesday, June 15 at 11:00 a.m. PDT to raise awareness on how to fight hunger, prevent food waste, and build community – one fruit and vegetable at a time. 

About Food Forward
Food Forward fights hunger and prevents food waste by rescuing fresh surplus produce, connecting this abundance with people experiencing food insecurity, and inspiring others to do the same. For more details about Food Forward’s health equity, environmental impact, and the communities served, visit foodforward.org or contact media@foodforward.org.


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