Volunteer with us this Holiday Season!

November 6th, 2019

updated 11.6.19 – Harvesting food to fight hunger feels especially relevant this time of year. As we take time to share food with friends and family this holiday season, we also love to give time to share food with our Southern California family. We have tons of volunteer opportunities coming up this holiday season, and we hope that you join us in the coming months to share a little bit of your holidays with us.

Food Forward's Friendsgiving Lunch

Holiday Volunteer Opportunities with Food Forward!

We just finished the last piece of our Halloween candy, and that means that the rest of the holidays are just around the corner. As an organization devoted to food, we could not be more excited for all of the dinners, pies, and cookies that we will soon get to share with our friends and families.

Because food plays such an important role in making the holidays, well, the holidays, these next two months are also a great time to connect with Food Forward volunteer opportunities. We’d love to have you share a little bit of your holidays with us!

Volunteer this holiday season!

Fighting Hunger this Holiday Season

Here at Food Forward, we like to take extra time during the holidays to think about how our work impacts folks across Southern California. While we’re busy year round working to Harvest Food, Fight Hunger, and Build Community, our mission feels especially important to us as we celebrate (and eat!) food with our own families and friends.

And we’re not alone! Like big meals, school vacation, and visits from relatives, volunteering during the holidays is an important American tradition. According to VolunteerMatch, Americans will volunteer 15-20% more during these next two months than the rest of the year.

Three Food Forward Volunteers at the Larchmont Farmers Market

Our Farmers Market Gleans are a fun way to spend your holidays giving back!

Upcoming Holiday Volunteer Opportunities

Fruits and veggies don’t stop working during the holidays, and neither do we! Our volunteers will still be picking fruit and collecting produce at harvests and Farmers Markets all through the next two months. We love being able to provide fresh and local produce to sit on the table beside the stuffing and gravy.

Here are some of our upcoming volunteer events around Thanksgiving and December holidays:

New Volunteer OrientationSaturday, December 7th from 1 pm – 2 pm

New Volunteer OrientationSaturday, January 11th from 11 am – 12 pm

Go to our Volunteer Calendar

Volunteer Opportunities for Families

November and December are full to the brim with family events, dinners, and celebrations. They’re also the perfect time to give back as a family and share a really special experience volunteering together. Most of our events are perfect for families and small groups, and parents are welcome to bring children along with them (see our events calendar for information about age restrictions).

One of our stellar volunteer families from the Santa Monica Farmers Market wrote that they “are looking forward to volunteering again during the holiday season as a family. We have a lot to be thankful for, and it seems right to show that during Thanksgiving weekend.”

Family Fruit Pick!

Three generations of Persimmon Pickers

Have family or old friends coming into town? Bring them along too! For more fun family volunteer ideas, check out our blog post from one of our own Board of Advisors Sarah Spitz, who threw her own birthday party at several of our Farmers Market Recovery Gleaning events a while back! If you want to sign up to volunteer as a family, email us at volunteer@foodforward.org.

“We have a lot to be thankful for, and it seems right to show that during Thanksgiving weekend.”

– A Food Forward Volunteer Family

Holiday Meals at Food Banks and Pantries

The holiday season can be the busiest time for our Receiving Agencies, who bring in more food and more clients than any other time of year. All the extra effort is worth it to be able to share a food-filled and festive experience with folks who might not be able to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal at home this year.

Most Food Banks and Pantries offer special holiday grocery distributions and cooked meals for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Hanukkah. Many even give turkeys and other traditional foods.

MEND's Thanksgiving Meal

Volunteers cooking Turkey at MEND Poverty

Check out some of these holiday volunteer opportunities at our partner Receiving Agencies! They inspire us year round, and the work they do around this time of year will make you feel warm inside:

The MEND Christmas Basket Program: Our friends over at MEND Poverty are looking for volunteers to help visit families, sort toys, and deliver food to folks throughout the holidays.

Temple Israel of Hollywood’s Christmas Dinner: Join Temple of Israel on or before Christmas Day to help them serve a mighty Christmas Dinner.

Giving Thanks and Giving Back

We hope that you have wonderful holidays this year filled with family, friends, and food. With the abundance of Southern California’s fruit trees and farms all around us, we have a lot to be thankful for. Most especially, we are thankful for the opportunity to share that abundance with others.

We hope that you share your holidays with us this year. Go to our Volunteer Calendar to see a list of volunteer opportunities or email volunteer@foodforward.org for more information.

Volunteer this holiday season!

Happy giving thanks,

– The Food Forward Team

Lunch at the Fruit Cave!

A view from a Food Forward “Friendsgiving” Lunch in years past

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Connecting the dots between farmers and food agencies

September 19th, 2019

Meet our Volunteer of the Month, Dee Reid! Dee is a Glean Team Leader at the Ventura Farmers Market and a wonderful addition to our team. Dee is very detail-oriented and super dependable as a volunteer leader. She is personable and engaging with the volunteers, and enthusiastic about our work, which makes her a great Food Forward ambassador at the Ventura Farmers Market! Dee is also is very positive and looks on the bright sides of things, which makes volunteering with her that much more enjoyable. 🙂 


So tell me, how did you get started with Food Forward and what drew you to our work and mission?
Before moving to Ojai, I lived in a small town in North Carolina, where I blogged about the amazing sustainable agricultural movement there. I wrote about local organic farmers, food co-ops, and farm-to-table eateries. But I noticed an important gap in our noteworthy food chain: not everyone in our community had access to this bounty. So I began volunteering at one of our farmer’s markets where we collected donations to purchase food directly from farmers, which would then be donated to a weekly free community lunch where everyone was welcome, no questions asked. Bingo! By supporting both the people who grow healthy food and the people who most needed it, we began closing at least part of the gap in our food system.

When my husband and I retired and moved to Ojai last year, I began looking for a volunteer opportunity where I could again connect farmers with people who lack access to fresh food. I found Food Forward online and loved the story of how it all began when a young man noticed unharvested oranges growing in his neighborhood that were going to waste, while the food banks were overwhelmed by people who needed food. The idea of providing hungry households with fresh local food really attracted me. Food Forward immediately responded to my query and informed me that I could quickly be trained as a volunteer gleaner at the Ventura market, not far from where I live.


What was your first volunteer day like? How would you describe the volunteer experience at a glean?
Food Forward made it easy to become a market gleaner. They provided all of the information, materials and training. I was so impressed with how organized they were. My first day, I was volunteering with others who already knew what to do. It was easy to ask the farmers if they wanted to donate to Food Forward; all of them already knew our mission and many were happy to give us fresh food that might otherwise go to waste. By the end of my first day at the Ventura Farmer’s Market when we handed off a large load of fresh food to a local food agency, I knew I would stay involved. Now I love leading the glean team, each time working with an eager crew of volunteers of all ages. It’s both fun and rewarding.


What is your favorite part about volunteering with Food Forward?
I like meeting our generous farmers and glean volunteers, and the amazing people who work at our local food agencies. My favorite part of our two-hour shift is when we have collected and packed up hundreds of pounds of fresh food and we get to hand it directly to the good folks from our local food agencies. They come to pick up what we collect, so they can distribute it the very next day to a throng of people who really need it and will appreciate it.

I can’t think of any other job where I could directly feel that I had accomplished something so much in such a short period of time.  Connecting the dots between farmers and food agencies makes my day every time.

I also love being part of an organization that is building a stronger community of people connected to healthy food and making sure it gets distributed across the wider community. By addressing hunger and food waste, we are also addressing climate change because food left in the field or sent to the landfill emits greenhouse gas emissions. That’s important to me.


Dee with her trusty (carbon free) electric bike! 


What do you do when you’re not volunteering with Food Forward?
I volunteer at student food gardens at two elementary schools in Ojai, where the kids learn all about growing, harvesting, and enjoying healthy food.  When the garden dries out, they save the seeds and store them in personally decorated packets for the school’s seed bank and next year’s garden.

I am also an avid hiker and bicyclist, enthralled by the local trails and mountains. In fact cycling is my primary means of transportation (we use our one car mostly for long-distance trips). I often ride my electric bike from Ojai to the Ventura Market, a scenic 30-mile round-trip made easier by battery support. I co-chair a local bike-to-school program, where we encourage kids to walk or bike to school, and we provide safe group rides to escort them.  This year we worked with more than 200 students and had a throng of students and adults of all ages cycling together with us in the Ojai Fourth of July Parade. Recently we collected about 20 gently used bikes donated by the community, which we will tune-up and distribute to kids who need them in time for Bike to School Week Sept. 30-Oct. 4.

A common thread among all of these interests, is my love of the great outdoors and my concern about climate change.  Growing and eating local food is good for our health, the environment, and the climate. And biking has cut my transportation carbon footprint in half. Just for fun, I have started a Twitter news feed (@ClimateMovers) to track best practices for addressing climate change in communities across the world.


Any words of wisdom you live by?
A self-centered life is no life at all. My secret for a good life has always been to reach beyond my own little bubble to work with others to strengthen the wider community. I have learned that by doing this you might just make a difference and you will probably make some new friends.

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Bringing his DIY spirit to the table

August 16th, 2019

Meet our Volunteer of the Month, Eron Rauch! Eron is a unique volunteer—instead of leading gleans, he helps us capture them with his camera. Eron is a photographer and artist who first supported Food Forward by raising money through a pizza-themed draw-a-thon! He also photographs many of our events, from gleans and Produce Pick-Ups to special events like the Spring Melt, Produce Pit Stop opening, and our volunteer appreciation parties. Eron is enormously talented, generous, and a just an all-around great guy! We hope you enjoy learning more about Eron, what motivates him to volunteer, and what it’s like to see our work from behind the lens. To see more of Eron’s work, you can head to his website, www.eronrauch.com.


So tell me, how did you get started with Food Forward?
My friend Shing Yin Khor and I were trying to find a way to help us artists, who often have more energy than money, use our talents to create some tangible good in the world. We’re also both giant nerds about cooking. Which led to Project Pizza: a fake pop-up restaurant that sells food-themed art. We had the artists, we had the infrastructure, we had hundreds of pizza boxes to send the art in, but we were looking for the right organization to send the proceeds. My partner, Callie, knew Food Forward from her job as a vendor at the Santa Monica Farmers Market and when she mentioned it, we know it was a perfect match!

What drew you to Food Forward’s work and mission?
A major part of our desire to work with Food Forward was the core way it supported our local communities without imposing decisions on them. Having enough food—good food—is one of the foundations for having agency in society, and Food Forward is making that more possible for so many people.

From a practical perspective, as fundraisers who have to work with the limited space of social media, the ease of explaining how much impact a gift has helps us reach more people. At one point, we even used baby elephants to count how much food people’s donations redirected.


Left, the Project Pizza draw-a-thon in action; Right, Eron and Shing doing some important research for Project Pizza.


What do you do when you’re not volunteering with Food Forward?
I always have way too many projects going at once! Right now, I’m trying to balance writing for the creative development department of a major video game studio, doing art direction for music festivals and records (including our local Angel City Jazz Festival), and still find time to work on my own art, including collaborating with an archeologist on a photo book about virtual/real depictions of Tokyo and another installation project about digital fan culture. Oh, and cooking as much as I can!

What has been your favorite event to photograph? 
The opening of the Produce Pit Stop was the best for me. Sure, it wasn’t as spectacular as Spring Melt at the Jim Henson Lot or as beautiful as a summer morning in a farmers market (and it was certainly harder to make look great in a photo), but we grew Project Pizza almost 10x from the previous year in our attempt to help raise money for the warehouse fund. Infrastructure isn’t always sexy, but seeing pallet after pallet of produce ready to be rerouted into at-need communities was amazing.


Eron has captured momentous occasions like the Produce Pit Stop Grand Opening this June! 


How would you describe the volunteer experience as a photographer?
Photographing is always weird because my job almost guarantees I’m running all over to get shots, so I don’t really know what the events feel like for the guests or Food Forward staff/volunteers! Once in a while I grab a market or pick shift just to enjoy getting out there and getting my hands dirty.

What was your first volunteer day like?
Haha, technically my first volunteer day was sitting at this same computer pushing some pixels to make a cool Project Pizza logo! The first time I went out as a volunteer was helping pick an orange orchard, which as I mentioned in the previous question, was really fun but also muddy, which kind of brought me back to all the time I spent helping on our relatives’ farms as a kid.  Until I realized I forgot to bring extra shoes and spent two hours out in a muddy orchard and had to figure out how to not slather my car in that mud.


More of Eron’s work: Left, Food Forward staff and volunteers at the Watts Produce Pick-Up; Right, the premiere of LA Foodways, which featured Food Forward.


What have you learned from volunteering?
One aspect of Food Forward that continually amazes me is the diversity of people and skills involved in making the organization as successful as it is. Sometimes it’s easy to not help because you think, “Oh, I couldn’t do that; that isn’t something I know anything about; I don’t have that skill.” But every time I help out at Food Forward, I realize there’s a place for everyone. Whether that’s organizing a maze of pallets, running social media, picking oranges, or even, heaven forbid, being a weird photographer, everyone’s unique skills and personalities come together to make something bigger.

Is there a particularly powerful volunteering moment you’d like to share?
Standing in the massive refrigerator in the Produce Pit Stop was really the highlight for me, seeing how Shing and I’s silly idea for a restaurant that didn’t sell food came together to help support a little corner of such a massive operation.

From Project Pizza, an amazing moment was when we pulled out the last pizza of our 2018 event, threw it on the table for a dozen artists drawing half-asleep after a 16 hour day, said goodbye on the live stream, closed the order form, and looked at our receipts and realized that even though we had drawn over 400 pieces of art, Shing still had to make over 50 more pieces because people had been so generous!


Wonderful moments from the 2019 Spring Melt, captured by Eron.


Any words of wisdom you live by?
Maybe it’s because I spent a lot of my youth in a small-ish town where nothing happened if you didn’t make it yourself, but I’m a big believer in a DIY spirit. Don’t wait around, don’t be fussy, just get out there and make it happen however you can: we started Project Pizza with just a hand-drawn logo and some leftover pizza boxes!

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Donating her time to make a difference

July 19th, 2019

Introducing our Volunteer of the Month, Michaela! Michaela has been volunteering with Food Forward since 2016 and in that time she has volunteered at over 40 gleaning events! Michaela finished her Pick Leader training in April of 2019 and she’s led multiple harvest events each month. She brings her passion and dedication to each harvest event and we’re grateful for her support, hard work, and advocacy. Michaela has been a wonderful addition to our fruity family and we hope you get the chance to volunteer with her!


So tell me, how did you get started with Food Forward?
I was the HR leader at my Target store for the past 3 years and one of my responsibilities was community involvement. We have a goal for volunteer hours for the year so I started looking for opportunities locally that my team would enjoy. I found Food Forward and had a couple of team members join me for some backyard harvests. I loved it so I just kept coming back!

What drew you to Food Forward’s work and mission?
I really enjoy being outside, connecting with nature, and knowing that what I am doing has a direct impact on the community. I love that Food Forward is trying to solve both food waste and food insecurities at the same time.

What do you do when you’re not volunteering with Food Forward?
I tend to make a lot of goals for myself and am constantly trying to be a better me every day. Volunteering is a big part of my identity, but also I’m really into fitness, reading, and writing. I work at Target full-time as a Closing Team Leader and I love to travel. I’ve been to 45 out of the 50 states and several countries. I included a photo of me in Greece from last year.



What is your favorite part about volunteering with Food Forward?
I love that I have the chance to meet so many amazing individuals. Sometimes working in retail can be frustrating, or social media can be full of negative posts or argumentative comments, but when I am volunteering with Food Forward everyone has such a positive attitude. The homeowners have donated their fruit and opened their backyards to us and the other volunteers are giving some of their free time; it’s truly a lovely experience and reminds me of all the good in the world.

How would you describe the volunteer experience at a harvest?
I think the volunteer experience is an easy one! They get to pick what area they would like to harvest in, based on how far they want to drive (which is really important in LA) and they don’t have to bring anything! Volunteers just show up and we provide all of the equipment. It’s always 1-2 hours so it fits into the day easily and everyone is so nice and friendly!

What was your first volunteer day like?
I think it was back in 2016 so I don’t really remember my first harvest, but I have had a lot of great ones since!


What have you learned from volunteering?

I’ve learned how many amazing people are in the world and how something that seems so small can make such a huge difference. I used to think that because I didn’t have a lot of money I couldn’t make a difference. But donating your time is just as powerful! Time is something we can never get back and is never guaranteed.

Is there a particularly powerful volunteering moment you’d like to share?
All of the big harvests feel powerful: CSUN, Orcutt Ranch, etc. When you have a big group of people coming together for the same mission you can really see the effect. The amount of fruit we are able to save, the amount of boxes we’re able to fill, and ultimately the amount of people that we can feed is astonishing. I love seeing the results of a big pick!

Any words of wisdom you live by?
“You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress simultaneously.” – Sophia Bush

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All in this together

June 26th, 2019

June’s Volunteer of the Month is Ventura’s own David Lawless! David is not only a Community Ambassador who helps us spread the word about Food Forward at events across Ventura County, he also volunteers regularly at fruit picks. At a recent grapefruit harvest in Somis, David went above and beyond and offered to help count boxes and wrap the pallet of boxes in our Food Forward van. This is a challenging task and not easy to do by oneself, so we really appreciated his help and willingness to jump in. Thanks, David! 

David poses with a box of fruit at our recent Fruit Drive with Betty Belts.


So tell me, how did you get started with Food Forward?
I was looking for volunteer opportunities and saw that one of the food banks had listed Food Forward as a partner, so I checked it out.

What drew you to Food Forward’s work and mission?
Feeding the hungry with nutritious food hits all the right notes to me. When I became a vegetarian years ago, I did so after learning about how whole, plant-based foods are so good for health and wellness. So what better way to help those that lack sufficient food than providing them the best food there is?
Also for avoiding food waste–I remember being in NYC eating at a restaurant in Little Italy years ago, and seeing a European couple making sure to eat every crumb on their plate, and I thought: “Wow, they must appreciate food more over there than we as Americans do.” Now, Food Forward’s awareness on the topic, and just coming to the point of having gratitude for the plants that created this food and the people that raise them, has me trying to avoid wasting food as much as possible.

What do you do when you’re not volunteering with Food Forward?
I am the Marketing Manager for EQ2–which does asset management software for hospitals. I get to use both the creative and analytical sides of my brain to lead all marketing functions including strategy, product marketing, market research, communications, and tactics.
I am also just finishing up my second term as Vice President of Collegiate Relations and Membership for Young Professionals at American Marketing Association Los Angeles. It has been great working with young people as they transition from college into the professional world!
I also love hiking, kayaking, traveling, and just being outside.


David, pictured third from left in the baseball cap, at a big Meyer Lemon harvest in Santa Rosa Valley.


What is your favorite part about volunteering with Food Forward?
In addition to what I mentioned above, I really like seeing how food grows and the beautiful properties that we often pick from. Also, the people–staff, other volunteers, and receiving agencies—are always friendly. You get to be outdoors and it’s just a fun way to spend two hours!

How would you describe the volunteer experience at a tabling event?
At a tabling event, so many people know us or have heard about what we do and they always say great things about what we are doing. That positive energy makes it easy to connect and makes the experience enjoyable.

What was your first volunteer day like?
We picked persimmons in Moorpark. Ally Gialketsis was leading the pick and was very welcoming and made everything easy. I met others who were also first-timers and some that had done it several times before. The pick was fun and I thought–“I need to do this often!”



What have you learned from volunteering?
How many people really care about others. That isn’t generally what gets reported in the media, but it is absolutely the case.

Is there a particularly powerful volunteering moment you’d like to share?
Sometimes when the pick is over and the receiving agency has arrived to pick up the fruit donation, their representative will talk to us as a group and tell us about the people that the food is going to help. This can be very powerful because you hear about how the food is making a difference for individuals and for families that have found themselves in challenging circumstances. These are fellow members of our community and so you realize we are all in this together.

Any words of wisdom you live by?
No particular words or sayings; I am just always focused on growing and finding balance in life.

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Update: The Produce Pit Stop opens June 20!

June 13th, 2019

Rick Nahmias shares his reflections on the road to the Produce Pit Stop, from receiving our first government grant to fund the project, to signing a lease after a long search for the right space, to the opening next week!

The Produce Pit Stop’s colorful entryway, with signpainting by the talented Remy Chwae (@sign_gal)

It’s amazing what a few months of juice, sweat, and elbow grease can do for a beautiful but dusty 1920’s warehouse…

In March of 2018, we got word that Food Forward had been awarded a major grant from CalRecycle to supply the anchor funding needed to open a cross-docking warehouse with large-scale refrigeration, which would enable us to build out the capacity of our Wholesale Recovery Program. From nearly day one, the “baby” of Food Forward’s three produce recovery programs had been struggling under the weight of its own success, sadly turning away many pallets of beautiful fresh produce donations every month. With our trucks already full of donations, and without a refrigerated space to temporarily store them while we coordinated hand-offs with the hundreds of agencies that we serve, these pallets were destined for the dumpster.


Food Forward’s expanded capacity due to the Pit Stop will enable us to rescue more perfectly good food from the Wholesale Market. 

We toasted the CalRecycle award (which was also our biggest single gift ever), then took a deep collective breath and buckled down to an ambitious work plan, while simultaneously raising the remaining funds needed to make the warehouse a reality. The first step was setting off on a massive real estate hunt. How hard could it be to find a 5-10,000 square foot warehouse in or near the Produce District of DTLA? VERY hard, it’d turn out. Eight months and almost 80 properties later, we found and kissed the frog that became Food Forward’s Produce Pit Stop: a massive, mothballed 1920’s Air Force storage facility with 30-foot wooden bow & truss ceilings. The Produce Pit Stop is located on The Salvation Army’s Bell Shelter campus, an oasis of state-of-the-art dignified social services in an otherwise nondescript industrial stretch of South East LA (straddling the Bell/Huntington Park/Vernon area.) We signed the lease on January 17 of this year—our tenth anniversary—and renovations began.

Learn more about the Produce Pit Stop here.


A panorama shows the scale of the 6,000 square foot warehouse, complete with new offices for the Wholesale team.

We traded proximity to the produce market (though it’s still only 15 minutes away) for proximity to a number of our high-impact receiving agencies and communities of need. The Pit Stop is within the center of the Salvation Army’s SoCal hub of activity—the Bell Shelter is the largest homeless shelter west of the Mississippi and feeds 500+ people daily. Paired with neighbors Grow Good Farm, a regenerative urban farm that provides produce and employment training for Bell Shelter residents, we saw an immediate synergy.

From February until this week, just days before cutting the ribbon to the facility, walls have been moved, electrical systems upgraded, loading docks updated, work flows re-architected, and a refrigerator bigger than my home was installed. And while the Produce Pit Stop is indeed a cross-docking depot with the modern conveniences we’ve existed without for our entire first decade, we will not be abandoning the “just-in-time” rescue operations we have become nationally known for. The refrigerator will allow us to store over 80 pallets (or approximately 125,000 pounds) of produce at any given time, which will impact our logistics operations while still allowing us to remain nimble and serve small, medium and large agencies across the entire region—and beyond. No matter how you look at it, Food Forward’s Produce Pit Stop represents a whole new chapter for us, for healthy food recovery in Southern California, and for the two million food insecure individuals who have come to rely on our free, fresh produce.


Food Forward’s Technology & Engagement Manager, Joe, stands in the vast refrigerator!

After five months of renovations, we are now ready to roll out full-scale operations at the Pit Stop and expect the facility to boost our Wholesale Recovery Program’s overall donations by 50% over the next two years. Hundreds of thousands of pounds of produce have already already flown through the space in tests and dry runs, and there are still a few loose ends to tie up. More details and blog posts will follow as the beast gets up to speed, but our next set of tasks is getting ready for the big unveiling on June 20th, when community partners and civic leaders join us for a ribbon cutting. As usual, all hands are on deck—but we wouldn’t have it any other way!


Rick Nahmias
Founder/Executive Director

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Spreading kindness through food

May 14th, 2019

Introducing our Volunteer of the Month for May, Hank Brehman! Hank has been volunteering with Food Forward since 2014, and quickly got more involved and became a Glean Team Leader. Hank has lead at 7 farmers markets throughout Los Angeles, including Santa Monica Wednesday, Culver City, Mar Vista, and Hollywood! He also regularly volunteers at fruit picks and always brings a can-do attitude. Thanks, Hank, for your hard work & dedication to food justice!


Hank, pictured far right, leading a glean team at the Santa Monica Wednesday farmers market! 


So tell me, how did you get started with Food Forward?  
I heard about Food Forward from an Earth Week presentation at Santa Monica college.


What drew you to Food Forward’s work and mission?
I realized that I’ll have a relationship with food as long as I’m living and that I can do something every day to combat food injustices and better my understanding of food. I’ve become a mindful locavore in part because of my experiences withFood Forward.


What do you do when you’re not volunteering with Food Forward?
I work as a butcher for Wolfgang Puck. I like to read about honey bees. I’m in the process of being matched with a little brother or sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles. I’ve always been the youngest in my family so I’m really looking forward to helping someone else grow.





What is your favorite part about volunteering with Food Forward?
Having a consistent positive impact in other people’s lives and being able to share that rewarding experience with new volunteers. If a utopia exists, most inhabitants regularly volunteer with Food Forward.


How would you describe the volunteer experience at a market?
Rewarding and enriching. Many volunteers are out of their comfort zone at first but get more involved.


What was your first volunteer day like?
Busy—just me and the glean team leader at Brentwood. I later met her again as a pick leader and we caught up with each other while picking kumquats.


What have you learned from volunteering?
Being selfless is contagious and loving kindness spreads easily through food.





Is there a particularly powerful volunteering moment you’d like to share?
The Wednesday Santa Monica Market always gets a lot of donations and I remember a day several years ago when none of the volunteers showed up and I got a call from the volunteer coordinator—who drove from the North Hollywood HQ for the glean—asking for help. I showed up when I could and helped with the weight distribution. We collected around 2000 pounds that day and one farm donated 400 pounds of avocados!


Any words of wisdom you live by?
Emulate babies—stay inquisitive and seek more developed mindsets.


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Agency Spotlight: Friends of Fieldworkers

May 10th, 2019

Fieldworkers harvesting. Photo credit: Diana Robinson, provided by the Creative Commons license

Food Forward works like a bridge, connecting fresh produce to local organizations that provide food assistance and other services to their communities. These organizations are an essential piece of what we do, and they are on the ground every day working to improve the lives of their neighbors. Today we’d like to tell you about one of our partner agencies in Ventura—Friends of Fieldworkers!


Founded in October 2013 in response to the Oxnard fire, Friends of Fieldworkers initially functioned as a disaster relief organization—providing clothing, household items, furniture, toys, and medical supplies to displaced families throughout the area. After seeing the devastating degree to which families of fieldworkers were impacted by the fires, Friends of Fieldworkers shifted its focus to support families of fieldworkers in all aspects of their lives. Now, the organization offers a number of direct service programs including housing assistance, scholarships for higher education, and direct food distribution.



A young community member served by Friends of Fieldworkers enjoys a fresh piece of fruit. Photo credit: Friends of Fieldworkers

Agriculture is a big part of Ventura County’s economy, with the estimated value of crops grown equalling 2.2 billion dollars in 2015. Fieldworkers are a huge part of this economic sector, but many struggle to afford the cost of living in Ventura. Ironically, our food system depends on the labor of fieldworkers, yet more than 50% of California fieldworkers experience food insecurity. In addition, many fieldworkers are undocumented immigrants, which can make accessing government services a challenge.


According to Judy Lucas, Founder and President of Friends of Fieldworkers, Food Forward has been “a god-send… It’s wonderful to be able to share Food Forward fresh produce with these families who often have only limited and expensive choices.” Since partnering with Food Forward in October 2018, Friends of Fieldworkers has received over 6,400 pounds of citrus and avocados from Backyard Harvest events throughout Ventura County!


Food Forward volunteers pose with mandarins, ready to be donated to Friends of Fieldworkers! 

We hope you enjoyed learning about this amazing organization and our partnership with them. You can learn more about Friends of Fieldworkers here, and get involved in a Food Forward pick or glean here!

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Simple tips to reduce your food waste

April 27th, 2019

Earth Day was last week, so we’re thinking about ways we can take action to live more sustainably, especially when it comes to food waste. According to a recent study, the average American throws out nearly a pound of food per day. All of this wasted food ends up in landfills where it contributes to climate change (read more about food waste & the environment here ). But there are lots of ways we can reduce that amount—read on to hear how you can be a food waste warrior!

Anne Cusack/LA Times

Shop smarter

Reducing how much food you end up throwing out starts with how much, and what, you buy. Before you head to the grocery store or farmers market, make a list of what you plan to cook and eat for the week. Always check your fridge and pantry as you write your list, to make sure you’re not buying an ingredient you already have. Take a peek at this guide to meal prep to get some ideas for how to plan and shop for healthy meals. Another great way to reduce food waste (and packaging waste!) at the store is to buy in bulk. Bring your own bags or containers and stock up on pulses, grains, nuts, and more at your local grocery. Here’s a list of bulk food shops by state, and a handy guide to shopping in bulk.



Be a food storage genius

Ok, you don’t have to be a genius. But, there are lots of common mistakes people make when they are storing food, especially fresh fruits and vegetables. Each variety of produce has its own preferences for temperature, light, and moisture that will determine how long it will stay fresh and tasty. Check out this helpful set of graphics to see where to put your produce! Another commonly wasted food is fresh herbs—ever notice that the bundle of cilantro you brought home to make guacamole goes bad in only a few days? Turns out there are some super simple methods for making your fresh herbs last for weeks—read up on these techniques here. There are also a lot of myths floating around about when food goes bad, thanks in part to expiration dates on most packaged foods. These dates are not regulated by federal laws, and are more an indicator for grocery stores than a measure of food safety. Here is more information about sell-by dates.



Get your hands dirty!

Despite your best efforts, some food is going to be inedible—whether it’s vegetable peels and scraps, or some leftovers that you forgot about before going out of town. But that doesn’t mean it has to end up in a landfill and create lots of nasty methane gas! Those food scraps can be repurposed as compost, and create healthier soil for more food to be grown. If you have outdoor space, you can create a compost bin, but composting in a city apartment is also totally doable and easy (tip: keep your compost in the freezer to avoid odor)! Here’s a beginner’s guide to composting, both inside and outside, and here’s a map of dropoff locations in Los Angeles.



Keep learning & get involved

Like all habits, reducing your food waste is a learning process. Stay open to learning about new ways to live more sustainably, and pay attention to what’s going on around you. Food waste occurs all around us, but many of us don’t see the massive amount of perfectly edible food that gets wasted. Whether it’s fruit falling off the trees in our backyards, or truckloads of fresh produce at the Wholesale Market that doesn’t meet cosmetic standards, food waste happens all the time, all around us. It’s built into the fabric of our food system, and it takes a lot of individual and systemic change to make an impact on this problem. But that hard work is well worth it, because reducing food waste is one of the simplest, most impactful ways to change on the future of our planet. Our numbers reflect this: over the last 10 years, Food Forward’s produce recovery programs have offset 26,734 metric tons of CO2. That’s equivalent to taking 5,629 cars off the road.

So keep learning, ask questions, and get involved! Come out to a Food Forward volunteer event, and be on the frontlines of reducing food waste in your community. Donate to support our work and help get food that would otherwise go to waste into the hands of food insecure individuals. Vote in local and national elections for officials and policies that support a sustainable world. If we all pitch in, we’ll create the change we want to see!


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Diving into her passions for food waste & food security

April 19th, 2019

Our Volunteer of the Month for April is Eileen Heinrich, who has been volunteering with us since the beginning! Eileen’s been a Pick Leader with the Backyard Harvesting Program since 2013, and has participated in over 80 gleaning events. We always love seeing Eileen’s smiling face at a harvest, and admire her dedication to fighting food waste and hunger! 

So tell me, how did you get started with Food Forward?
I was looking for a volunteer gig and came across Food Forward on volunteer match. I participated in a community pick in Granada Hills in 2009 and immediately knew I had found my people.


What drew you to Food Forward’s work and mission?
Food Forward combines things I am passionate about: food waste and food security. Getting fresh produce into the hands of needy families is huge. I teach in San Fernando and many of our families rely on food banks to supplement their food budget. It’s amazing that fresh fruits and veggies are a staple there now.





What do you do when you’re not volunteering with Food Forward?
I teach Kindergarten and tend to my garden. I have about 30 baby fruit trees in my yard and can’t wait until they are big enough for a pick at my house!


What is your favorite part about volunteering with Food Forward? 
I love talking to the homeowners. They are almost without exception the sweetest people. They are so excited to have their fruit help to feed others. I have had homeowners pick with me, teach me how to plant grape cuttings, take a popsicle break with me and share their stories. Wonderful folks.


What was your first volunteer day like?
I participated in a community pick. I was absolutely floored by the number of homeowners who welcomed us to pick and the amount of produce rescued from the green bins. I remember talking to Rick and hearing about the way FF started. I was so impressed. As a CSUN student and an Orcutt Ranch visitor, I always wondered what they did with the citrus, but never inquired. Rick took the initiative and built this amazing organization.



Eileen (front row, left) has been a Pick Leader with Food Forward since 2013!


What have you learned from volunteering?
There are so many good people out there. I also learned from Rick that anything is possible if you live by your values and dive into your passions.


Any words of wisdom you live by?
Do what you can, when you can & when you can’t—be kind to yourself.


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