Rick Nahmias, Founder/Executive Director. Before founding Food Forward in 2009, Rick was an award-winning photographer and writer who focused on the faces and stories of marginalized communities. His formal training as a cook, along with his exploration of California’s agricultural workforce in his body of work entitled “The Migrant Project: Contemporary California Farm Workers” gave him a deep appreciation of and involvement in both the gourmet cooking and the food justice worlds. These varied interests, along with his conviction that access to healthy fresh nutritious food is a human right, culminated in him coming aboard as full-time Executive Director of Food Forward in 2011.

He’s spoken internationally on food justice issues, and his work has been profiled in dozens of publications including The Guardian, Sunset Magazine, and The Los Angles Times. Rick has been named a regional delegate to the Slow Food/Terra Madre Conference in Torino, a Ralph M. Parsons Fellow, a Food Champion by LA City Council, and was a solo presenter at the 2014 SXSW Eco Conference. A 2010 winner of the LA Social Venture Fast Pitch, in 2015 Nahmias was chosen from over 135 past participants to represent Los Angeles in the inaugural National Fast Pitch competition in Austin, TX and was awarded the Innovation and Audience awards. In 2016 he received an inaugural Trailblazer Award by the International Association of Culinary Professionals. Rick serves on the Leadership Board of the LA Food Policy Council, and the Steering Committee for the Los Angeles County Food Recovery Initiative  When he’s not in the kitchen or up a tree, he’s learning steel guitar with his trusty Catahoula Leopard Dog, Rufus, by his side. rick@foodforward.org

 

Operations

 

Amir Zambrano, Operations Director, considers himself a world citizen with Angeleno roots. He was raised in his family’s restaurants in Echo Park, working as soon as he was old enough to stop breaking dishes, and eventually owned his own Latin American Fast Food joint on Hollywood Blvd. He comes to us with 12+ years of accounting and finance experience, most recently with Yahoo! Inc where he led projects in strategic partnerships and acquisitions integration, and system and process enhancements. His passions are traveling, backpacking, surfing and diving, and he recently became a Dive Master in Colombia where he also immersed himself in the Raizal culture, learning traditional farming practices. amir@foodforward.org

 

Zachariah Jobe, Facilities Coordinator, born and raised in the heart of Denver Colorado, his interest in food conservation began in high school where he spent five years volunteering at a local food bank. It was there that he gained an understanding of the positive effects of food justice and the real need for providing access to healthy meals. After graduating from the University of Colorado Denver, Zach moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in comedy. Being from Colorado, Zach has always had a love for all things outdoors. When he isn’t working or performing, he is an avid cook, hiker and beach fanatic. zach@foodforward.org

 

Development

 

Emily Parker, Development Director, hails from the cornfields of Indiana. Following a picturesque childhood of running around the stalks and creeping around a giant old barn, she left the Midwest and moved to NYC for college and urban excitement. After many years of gallivanting through Manhattan, where she produced myriad works of downtown theatre, she decided to move west and, soon thereafter, discovered a new passion. She found her way to Margery Tabankin and Associates and FUNDamental (both philanthropic advising firms), from which she gleaned the knowledge she’s now using to advance Food Forward. When she is not thinking about produce and food justice, she can often be found taking long urban and canyon walks with her husband and small blind dog, Stevie Wonder. emily@foodforward.org 818-764-1022 ext. 7#

 

Dani Lyons, Development Associate, grew up in the Pacific Northwest, and learned to love the delicious food and beautiful outdoors of her hometown, Seattle, WA. Dani made her way down to Los Angeles to attend Occidental College, where she majored in Urban & Environmental Policy and furthered her education in food justice and environmental health. She received her Master’s degree from Chatham University in Food Studies, with an emphasis in United States food policy. Dani’s academic background and research have largely focused on how to make school food more nutritious and just (and more delicious!). Dani is a distance runner and triathlete, and loves that she can train all year round in sunny LA. In her free time, Dani can be found reading, enjoying every flavor of ice cream, and cooking up a storm in her kitchen. dani@foodforward.org 818-764-1022 ext. 7#

 

Food Forward's Wholesale Recovery Truck

 

Backyard Harvest Program

 

Samantha Teslik, Harvest & Education Manager, is a Los Angeles native who moved back to California after a 6 year stint living in NYC. While she enjoyed her time living in the big apple earning a Masters Degree in Food Studies from NYU, operating a youth education program at farmers markets by day and crafting cocktails behind the bar by night, she always knew (particularly during the winter months) Southern California would eventually be where she called home again. She is thrilled to bring her experience educating students about the importance of eating fresh, local produce to Food Forward to help Southern Californian’s further appreciate and engage with the bounty of regional fruit trees we are blessed to live among. When she isn’t advocating others to harvest fresh fruit, Samantha enjoys camping and hiking, eating mexican food, petting her 5 cats, and finding new ways to enjoy the beautiful outdoors afforded to her here in California. samantha@foodforward.org 818-764-1022 ext. 3#

 

Gunther Schulz, San Gabriel Valley Harvest Coordinator, grew up in Southern Brazil where most summers were spent at his grandparents’ farm in the town of Paraiso do Sul (try finding that on a map!). Here he developed a rudimentary understanding of where food comes from and how hard those working to produce it really work. In 1998 he moved to Newark, NJ where the natural setting was a considerably different, and the understanding of where food comes from, more foreign than himself. He worked in the food industry for those first years in both coasts before attending the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign where he majored in Earth, Society, and Environmental Sustainability. Gunther lives in the San Gabriel Valley with his wife,  daughter, and boxer, Charlie.  When he is not leading a pick or assisting at the farmers’ markets, he enjoys gardening and quail farming, and is passing his passion for sustainability on to his daughter, who can be found by his side in the backyard at all times. He is proud to be able to apply his knowledge to the great work and philosophy at Food Forward. gunther@foodforward.org 818-764-1022 ext. 0#

 

Jason Landers, Los Angeles Harvest Coordinator, is a San Fernando Valley native who grew up in his family’s vegetable and fruit garden. In 2011 he received a certificate in Permaculture Design and later, in 2013 he moved to Humboldt County to study Environmental Planning at Humboldt State University. While living in the small town of Arcata he worked to raise awareness of energy use and implement projects to decrease energy consumption on campus and in the surrounding community. After graduating he moved back to Los Angeles and soon after traveled the Pacific Coast on his bike, but now he is thrilled to help fight hunger with the Food Forward team. He is a passionate urban gardener and healthy food advocate. When he isn’t working you can find him cooking delicious vegan food, hiking in the mountains, or riding one of his bikes. jlanders@foodforward.org 818-764-1022 ext. 0#

 

Farmers Market Recovery Program

 

Leah Boyer, Farmers Market Recovery Program Manager, grew up by the Mississippi River in southeast Minnesota in the “Barn House” (a 100-year-old remodeled dairy barn) with a backyard that would make most naturalists green with envy. She developed her love of nature in this yard, catching water bugs in the creek, chasing butterflies in the prairie, and creating imaginary worlds in the woods. She went to UW-Madison to study conservation biology and cultural anthropology and then transplanted to SoCal and studied urban planning at UC-Irvine. She practiced environmental planning at a firm in Orange County, where she got to know the ins-and-outs of city and regional government. Here, she also realized she was more interested in healthy food access instead of writing environmental impact reports. When she isn’t working, she’s traveling the world, being crafty, cooking delicious food, and enjoying the vibrant neighborhoods of Long Beach, where she lives with her husband and cat, Zonker. leah@foodforward.org 818-764-1022 ext. 6#

 

Jason Reedy, Farmers Market Recovery Program Coordinator, was born in Newport News, VA, but grew up around the world in countries like Bolivia, Morocco, Thailand, and Pakistan. It was in these places that he saw how important it was to lend a helping hand to those in need and through his parents’ constant selflessness, he decided that giving back was his career path. He went to the University of Central Florida and graduated with a degree in Political Science. Shortly after graduating, he moved to Los Angeles and started working at the Ace of Hearts Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to rescuing dogs that would otherwise be euthanized. He later joined SOVA’s Community Food & Resource Program, where he was the Pantry Manager at their West location. When he isn’t working, he’s running the streets of Los Angeles, walking the hallways of museums, and enjoying the delicacies of Roy Choi with his girlfriend, Jessica and handsome pup, Samson. jason@foodforward.org 818-764-1022 ext 6#

 

Outreach & Volunteer Program

 

Laura Jellum, Outreach & Communications Manager  Laura’s roots are in small-town Michigan where her taste for fruit began with the apple and pear trees in her backyard. After eating a lifetime’s worth of homemade applesauce, she headed off to college in Kalamazoo, MI only to find a budding career in music marketing, which brought her out to Los Angeles for five years. She spent another five years in Chicago coordinating special events and nurturing her zeal for cooking before the allure of sunshine and citrus all year long called her back to Los Angeles. Her growing passion for combatting food waste and meeting like-minded individuals led her to volunteer with Food Forward and the rest is history. She is Vice President of Membership for Directors of Volunteers in Agencies – Los Angeles (DOVIA-LA) and has served on Occidental College’s Community Partner Advisory group. The rest of her time is spent hiking in her neighborhood of Altadena, traveling to places near & far, and eating her way across the greater Los Angeles area. laura@foodforward.org 818-764-1022 ext. 2#

 

Joe Bobman, Volunteer Coordinator, comes to Los Angeles by way of Central Connecticut and Western Massachusetts. He spent five years working with food and environmental justice programs up and down the Connecticut River Valley, including farmers markets, community and school gardens, and a bike advocacy program. Shortly after moving to Los Angeles, he began working at SOVA’s Community Food & Resource Program, where he developed an incredible appreciation for Southern California’s abundance of fresh produce and passionate volunteers. He is also a professional baker and has worked at bakeries, food trucks, and one of L.A.’s top restaurants. When he’s not working, he is cooking at home, riding around on his bike, or reading anything written by Ursula K. LeGuin. joe@foodforward.org 818-764-1022 ext. 2#

 

Ventura County Team

 

Jill Santos, Ventura County Branch Manager, comes to us from the City of Ventura where she led community and school outreach programs promoting water conservation, food waste composting and recycling. Jill has worked for over 20 years in the environmental field, and was instrumental in starting a water conservation rebate program and a food waste composting program for the City of Ventura. Prior to working for the City, Jill managed place-based education programs, enhanced business and residential recycling services and was appointed to the Lake Tahoe Federal Advisory Committee for communities in Lake Tahoe. She graduated from West Virginia University with a degree in Parks and Recreation and is currently working on her master’s degree from Green Mountain College in Resilient and Sustainable Communities. Growing up in rural north central Pennsylvania on 3 acres gave her lots of wild woods to explore, along with vegetable gardens to cultivate and chickens to raise. She loves to mountain bike, hike and backpack for fun and currently lives in Ventura with her son, Ziggy and her dog, Chulo. jill@foodforward.org 805-630-2728

 

Ally Gialketsis, Ventura County Branch Coordinator, grew up in the small farm town of Santa Paula gardening with her mom and at her agricultural magnet elementary school. Ally’s passion for the environment, food systems and activism blossomed during her tenure at UC Santa Barbara where she double majored in environmental studies and history.  Working tirelessly on campus sustainability, food system projects, zero waste efforts, and environmental issues while at UC Santa Barbara she was the recipient of UCSB’s Environmental Studies (ES) Program Outstanding Service Award.  Since graduation, she has continued her active involvement in the environmental community, developed advanced training in permaculture, co-founded the Ventura Food Co-op, and served as a board member or active participant in many other local Ventura County organizations. She spends her free time in the outdoors – climbing and gardening any chance she gets. ally@foodforward.org 805.630.2728

 

Wholesale Recovery Program

 

Luis Yepiz, Wholesale Recovery Program Manager, has early memories of the Sonoran Desert, Yaqui Valley. Tumbling through “mountains” of wheat, sorghum, soy and millet — juxtaposed against the harsh realities of food politics, artificial shortages, and price fixing — is where he learned first hand how fresh grown produce is such a vital commodity and so precious. Growing up Angeleno, he split his time between the family diesel mechanic business and volunteering in public radio. His family’s prolific garden in the San Gabriel Valley made overcoming food insecurity, sharing abundance, and working with those fighting hunger a natural fit. Luis brings to Food Forward his business management background as well as years working with wholesale market recovery, food banks, farmers markets, and charities throughout Southern California. He is also an award-winning poet and operatic tenor. luis@foodforward.org

 

Felipe Maldonado, Wholesale Recovery Program Driver felipe@foodforward.org

 

Francisco Hernandez, Wholesale Recovery Program Driver francisco@foodforward.org

Our Board

 

Neil Haltrecht, Chairman, worked at Decurion Corporation for nineteen years ending in 2010. In his roles as chief operating officer and then chief strategy and finance officer, Neil oversaw all business operations and led business planning, strategy development, and value creation processes for Decurion and its businesses: Robertson Properties Group (RPG), Arc Light Cinemas, and Pacific Theatres. He was the president of RPG where he oversaw all activities including the development, acquisition and management of real estate, primarily in California, Seattle and Hawaii. Since leaving Decurion Neil has pursued a variety of philanthropic and personal interests. Since 2010 he has been an active member of Home for Good, an initiative to end chronic and veteran homelessness in Los Angeles County. Neil obtained his master’s degree in business administration from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. A James McGill Scholar, he received his Bachelor of Commerce degree with distinction from McGill University.

 

Carl Buratti, Treasurer, is an essential part of our team and even served as Food Forward’s first volunteer coordinator when the organization started. Food Forward is a perfect reflection of Carl’s beliefs and values, and his passion for helping those in underserved communities. He is a native of the San Fernando Valley who owns and operates a consulting electrical engineering firm in Encino, California.

 

Scott Jarus, Secretary, is Chief Executive Officer of EV Connect, a provider of electric vehicle (EV) charging station solutions and developer of the most robust and feature-rich platform for managing the EV charging eco-system, which includes the charging stations, the drivers who use them and the electric utilities that feed them. Previously, he was Chairman and CEO of Ironclad Performance Wear, CEO of Cognition, CEO of j2 Global Communications (eFax), President and Chief Operating Officer for OnSite Access.  He is a member of the Tech Coast Angels, a partner at Social Venture Partners, and a Sr. Fellow in the Graziadio School of Business and Management at Pepperdine University.  In 2005, Mr. Jarus was named National Entrepreneur of the Year for Media/Entertainment/Communications by Ernst & Young.

 

Carol Goldstein is an urban planner involved in program design and strategic planning for cultural and community infrastructure. A consultant to non-profits, funders, designers and the public sector, she collaborates on new initiatives, from formulation through implementation and evaluation. Her work includes concept design, policy planning, project management, feasibility analysis, and organizational development and assessment. Carol is a practice faculty member of the Department of Urban Planning at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

 

Carla Heer grew up in Newport Beach and has lived in Arcadia for the past 20 years. After graduating from UCLA, she developed a career as an event planner for the Bradbury Building in Downtown Los Angeles and later at various venues in the San Gabriel Valley. She has used this talent to successfully fundraise for local non-profits. Her passion for fruit harvesting began when she joined her friends, the Selby Family, at Fruit For All – a San Gabriel Valley-based youth engagement and fruit harvesting non-profit that is now a part of Food Forward. Carla is excited about growing Food Forward in the San Gabriel Valley.

 

Pam Kaizer, has 30 years of experience in charitable foundation and nonprofit management. She currently provides on-going foundation management services to the Maurice Amado Foundation, the Plum Foundation, The Opportunity Fund, the Consumer Education Foundation and the Batonga Foundation. Additionally, she advises the Philip and Muriel Berman Foundation and the Vladimir and Araxia Buckhantz Charitable Trust. She has led nonprofit foundations in developing mission statements, determining program focus, and creating program guidelines and procedures with the goal to creating a plan, and a structure, to enable these organizations to accomplish their goals.

 

Erica Kenner Kopmar is a native Angeleno and has a special talent for creating a sense of community in our sprawling metropolis. A graduate of the Stern School of Business at New York University, she is an intrepid entrepreneur, creator and owner of her own web-based business. Erica sees Food Forward as a unique opportunity to connect neighbors while helping to feed those in need.

 

Rick Nahmias, Founder/Executive Director (See Our Team for Rick’s Bio)

 

Nancy Volpert is the Director of Public Policy for Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles, advocating on behalf of JFS clients and programs at the local, state and federal level. She works to protect seniors, empower survivors of domestic violence and ensure dignity for those of all ages facing poverty. She frequently presents at local and national conferences about advocacy and civic engagement on behalf of vulnerable populations. Before joining JFS, Nancy worked in programs, marketing, operations and development at political policy, civil rights, and health care non-profit organizations in the Los Angeles area.  As a staff person for a recipient organization, Nancy knows firsthand the impact Food Forward picks, gleans and harvests can have on community members in need.

 

Council of Advisors

 

Laura Avery – Farmers Market Supervisor, Santa Monica

Jim Churchill and Lisa Brenneis – Churchill Orchard, Ojai

Juanita Gaglio – Produce Advisor

Anthony E. Ghosn – Information Technology Expert

Courtney Gross – Natural Resources Defense Council

Nike Irvin – California Community Foundation

Robin Kramer – Chief of Staff to both Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Richard Riordan

Maxine Pollack – Retired CFO & Business Executive

Lee Smith – Attorney

Sarah Spitz – Former Publicity Director KCRW, Master Gardner, & Master Food Preserver

Al Vangelos – Wholesale Produce Veteran