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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Summer Fruit Tree Care Tips

June 25th, 2019

Summer is here, which means your fruit trees are in the active growing season. Days are longer and the temperatures are warmer, so trees are photosynthesizing more, growing quicker and are hungrier. We reached out to fruit tree expert Joanna Glovinsky of Fruitstitute to find out what fruit tree owners should be doing right now to ensure a productive harvest this season. Read on to hear her tips, and you can learn even more from her on July 14th at our free Summer Pruning and Fruit Tree Care 101 workshop.

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1) Feed your soil with compost & wood chip mulch

Apply compost in the root zone (the area under the canopy) of your fruit trees. Compost adds biology to the soil and makes more nutrients available for root absorption (like probiotics for digestion). Top the compost with wood chip mulch. Woody mulch reduces water evaporation, regulates soil temperature, promotes robust soil ecology, and assists in nutrient absorption (like bone broth for your gut). 

 

2) Deep water

Deep watering is watering the root zone of the tree on a slow flow for a long period of time. Every backyard is different but most trees need at least 30 min of drip irrigation 2 – 3 times a week in summer. You should also provide supplemental irrigation on any day at or over 100 degrees.

Watering on a slow flow for a long period of time allows water to penetrate deeper into the soil, which is essential for deep rooters like trees. Deeper water penetration promotes root growth and with more roots, trees can access more water and soil nutrients. In turn, trees are better able to cool themselves down on hot days and overall tree health, as well as fruit flavor, is improved. 

 

3) Thin fruit on stone fruit, persimmon, apple and pear trees

Thin fruit to 1 fruit every 4″ per branch. Stone fruit, persimmons, apples, and pears will often produce more fruit than the tree can bear, especially if the trees were not properly pruned in the winter. Too many fruits on a branch compete with each other for carbohydrates, which stunt the development and flavor of all the fruit if not thinned. Moreover, this carbohydrate drain can weaken the tree and stunt fruit development for years to follow. 

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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!

 

Best,
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 pick strawberries in Oxnard, California. Photo credit: Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images

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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Thank you, volunteers!

April 11th, 2019

It’s Volunteer Appreciation Week, so we’re sharing the reasons we love our volunteers!

“Volunteers aren’t just the backbone of our organization. They are the heart, the legs, the eyes, and the soul of what we do. They are the patterns weaved into the fabric of everything this organization has grown to be.” – Jason Reedy, Farmers Market Program Manager

 

 

It’s Volunteer Appreciation Week! Food Forward began as a group of volunteers solving a problem in their community, and has grown into an organization which serves millions of people with the help of thousands of volunteers. The ability of Food Forward to grow and develop new food recovery models is dependent on the dedicated and caring people who volunteer their time with us. And it’s a big community—last year alone, over 4,000 people in Los Angeles and Ventura counties supported Food Forward’s work at 2,280 volunteer-powered events! Volunteers gleaned surplus fruits and vegetables with us at farmers markets, picked fruit from backyard trees and orchards, and helped us distribute food at our Produce Pick-Up events.

 

“I like that it so tangible, pick and give immediately. It’s a great sense of accomplishment and making a difference.” – Kathy Schaeffer, Pick Leader & Glean Team Leader

 

 

Food Forward is able to recover all this food because of our volunteers, but we also rely on volunteers to lead our events! We are lucky to have a dedicated team of “Super Volunteers” who lead farmers market gleans and backyard harvest events. These folks train with Food Forward and lead at least one event a month, but many lead every week, sometimes even several times in a week. They represent Food Forward out in the community and connect us to new volunteers and produce donors. Plus, they are genuinely caring people who go the extra mile to make a difference in their community.

 

“We are so fortunate to have the most amazing volunteers. The people I’ve met through the Backyard Harvest Program have become friends, mentors and wonderful examples of how to live a fulfilling life having fun, while helping others!” – Samantha Teslik, Harvest & Education Manager

 

 

Food Forward volunteers are caring, friendly, compassionate, roll-up-your-sleeves people. They are always willing to help out in a pinch and eager to connect more people to our mission and work. One week isn’t enough to express our gratitude for our volunteers—they’re just that amazing! Thank you to all our volunteers, we couldn’t do what we do without you.

 

“Volunteering is like voting. By showing up to make a difference, you are voting on the community you want to live in. Thank you for your votes!” – Adrienne Roellgen, Accounting & HR Assistant

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We need YOU! Join us by getting outside and picking fruit!

March 29th, 2019

What do we need you for?

It’s citrus season here in Southern California, which means there are fruit on the trees ready to be harvested! We are lucky to have hundreds of homeowners who are ready to donate their fruit to local hunger-relief agencies, but we cannot do it on our own. We need more volunteer leaders to help us pick fruit and make sure it gets to people who can use it! Can you help us by becoming a Pick Leader for our backyard harvests?

 

 

 

 

What are Food Forward’s Backyard Harvests?

Food Forward fights hunger and prevents food waste by rescuing fresh surplus produce, connecting this abundance with people in need and inspiring others to do the same. One of the ways we do this is through our backyard harvests. Our backyard harvesting program sends teams of volunteers out to harvest fruit that would otherwise go uneaten. After the pick, 100% of the fresh fruit collected is donated to local hunger relief agencies. Don Shenk has been volunteering with us for six years, leading a pick about once a month, and he says, “it’s truly one of the best things I get to do with my life and my time. I’m a believer in Food Forward!”

 

 

 

 

How do Backyard Harvests work?

Every fruit harvest is led by a Pick Leader, who are amazing volunteers who wanted to get more involved with Food Forward! Pick Leaders choose to lead harvests from a list of pre-vetted properties in neighborhoods all throughout Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. Food Forward staff coordinates the logistics, and Pick Leaders bring the Food Forward equipment and oversee volunteers at each pick. Some are small harvests with only a handful of volunteers, and others are large, with over 50 volunteers!

 

 

 

 

Why become a Pick Leader?

Pick Leaders are VITAL to what we do and the impact we have on the community. Stephanie Truong, who has been a Pick Leader with us for about six months, reflected on her experience by saying, “It doesn’t take much to make a big impact. Majority of harvests take about 2 hours max. In that 2 hours, we can harvest over 600 lbs. of fruit that would have otherwise been rotting on the floor!” Many leaders also love getting to be outside while making a difference in people’s lives. Chrissy Wahlstrom, who has served as a pick leader for over six years, explains: “the smell of citrus on a Sunday morning cannot be beat! But mainly I want everyone to have access to healthy foods and I love being a part of that process.” Other leaders have found leading picks to be a great opportunity to build a community. Barbara Daouda says, “I already knew I would enjoy the picks, but I also met some amazing people along the way, from volunteers to office staff to homeowners, everyone has been wonderful to interact with. I’m not the most outgoing person, but everyone in the program is very approachable and friendly. I’m loving the whole experience.”

 

 

 

Interested? Here are some next steps to help YOU become a Pick Leader.

We would LOVE to have you join us! Anyone can apply to be a Pick Leader, and it’s an easy process. After volunteering two times, submit an Event Leader Application to our program staff. Then, you just need to attend a training session and shadow an experienced leader. Following those few steps, you are ready to start leading events and harvesting fruit! If you have any questions along the way, we are always willing to chat and help you out.

 

This post was written by Food Forward’s Volunteer Management Program Assistant, Elise Froebe.

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