Agency Spotlight: Friends in Deed

Volunteers at the Pasadena Farmers Market pose with 325 pounds of produce, headed to Friends in Deed.

Bringing Community and Food Together

Food is not only a source of nutrition, it connects us to our friends, family, and neighbors. Many of us don’t have to worry about how we will pay for our next week of groceries, but for some of our neighbors (about 1 in 9 people in LA County), food insecurity is a major stressor. To help combat this stress, Friends in Deed provides hunger relief to low-income families in Pasadena, with an emphasis on community building. The amazing work of Food Pantry Program Director Tim Nistler, along with Friends in Deed volunteers, have directed surplus produce that would otherwise go to waste into the homes of many community members.

Friends and Deed has been picking up produce at the Pasadena Farmers Market since we first started recovering produce there in 2015. Every Saturday, volunteers from Food Forward “glean” the market, collecting donations of fruits and vegetables from farmers. They can be spotted in their khaki colored aprons, building boxes for market vendors to fill with surplus produce. At the end of the market, these volunteers collect and weigh the boxes from each vendor and help load them up to be taken to Friends in Deed. Since 2015, we’ve donated over 94,000 pounds from the Pasadena Farmers Market to them!

Friends in Deed also picks up fruit harvested from our Backyard Harvest program! 

Friends in Deed is an interfaith organization dedicated to providing support and relief to people who are homeless or at-risk. They have served the community of Pasadena and the greater San Gabriel Valley for over 120 years through many programs, such as their Food Pantry, Women’s Room, Bad Weather Shelter, Homeless Prevention, and Street Outreach programs. Tim, the Program Director of the Food Pantry, envisions the future of the program to include more waste reduction techniques, like composting, and dreams of the day he’ll have unlimited produce for families to take home.

On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, Friends in Deed operates a food pantry and provides about 300 families with groceries to take home. The walls are lined with shelves of dry and canned goods, breads, meats, and dairy products, while the tables are filled with bags of fruits, vegetables, and desserts. Anyone who comes to the pantry can take home whatever items they want, limited only by their family size and needs. People shopping at the pantry receive a ticket and wait to be called in, and once inside, they are free to browse the shelves and shop in the market-style food pantry for free.

Many of the people shopping around the market were gushing about the amazing work being done by Friends in Deed. One participant named Gloria talked about how this food has impacted her and her family and friends. She said, “Coming here helps me to help other people, while also replacing some of the financial burden.” She uses the food to supplement some of her shopping, and with it cooks meals for her mother-in-law as well as her college-aged children and their friends.

Gloria checks out her finds for the day with a long-time volunteer at Friends in Deed.

Friends in Deed has been a place of solace for many, and continues to spread kindness and a sense of belonging. Friends in Deed not only deals with the issues of food insecurity, but also stands as a reminder to us to care for and connect with our neighbors and community. Gloria also mentioned that the program grants people “the opportunity to be kinder, gentler people, allowing us to care for people other than ourselves.” The team of dedicated volunteers and caring families remind us that we can all be a friend to those in need. We at Food Forward are grateful we can play a role in helping them bring dignity and respect to people in this community.

— By Farmers Market Recovery Intern, Rebecca Luna.