Celebrating a Food Waste & Hunger Warrior

October 24th, 2018

Our October Volunteer of the Month is Marsha Brown! Marsha is our longest tenured Glean Team Leader at the Torrance Tuesday Farmers Market, having been a leader now for 4 years. Marsha is passionate, reliable, and very committed to helping those who need it most. She is on pace to lead the most events this year for the Farmers Market Recovery program. Marsha is also a frequent volunteer at our Produce Pick-Up events and helps us spread the word about Food Forward as a rockstar Community Ambassador. We are indebted to her for the countless hours spent volunteering with our organization and are in true admiration of her tremendous dedication to fighting hunger and food waste!


So tell me, how did you get started with Food Forward?
When I retired from a long career at UCLA I wanted to get involved in volunteer work that didn’t involve being in an office. I was having lunch with a friend who happened to be on the Food Forward Board of Directors. She told me about the organization and its mission and I was so impressed I decided to give it a try. Thank you Carol Goldstein!


What drew you to Food Forward’s work and mission?
I also heard Rick Nahmias speak in a class at UCLA about food insecurity and Food Forward’s mission of fighting food waste and getting surplus food to people in need. I was inspired by his story of how picking his neighbor’s fruit tree and donating the fruit led to the development of this organization that has now donated over 60 million pounds of food that would otherwise go to waste.


What do you do when you’re not volunteering with Food Forward?
I’m an avid reader, beach bum, and knitaholic.




What is your favorite part about volunteering with Food Forward?
I’ve met lots of wonderful people, I love the atmosphere of the farmers markets, the colors and smells, and being outdoors.  And it’s gratifying to see all of the produce that would be going to waste make its way to people in need. 


How would you describe the volunteer experience at a market?
Casual, easy, and friendly.


What was your first volunteer day like?
I don’t really remember — but I liked it and kept coming back!



Is there a particularly powerful volunteering moment you’d like to share?
Two things stand out:
I have come to truly appreciate the amount of work it takes to get food from farm to market.  Many of the farmers are up at 3 or 4 am to get to the market when it opens and the second the market closes they are packed up and ready to hit the road and do it again the next day. They are all kind and generous with their donations and they love sharing ideas of how to prepare the food.

When I volunteer at the MudTown Farmers Market in Watts I see the truckloads of produce that would otherwise get thrown away. It is hard to imagine until you see it.  It does take some work to sort and distribute but it’s so worth it to see that food not going to waste and feel the gratitude of the people who receive it.

Any words of wisdom you live by?
“You are what you are and you ain’t what you ain’t” (John Prine)


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The Growing Presence of Hunger on Campus

October 9th, 2018

10.9.18 – The familiar trope of a college student eating ramen while pulling an all-nighter reveals a troubling truth – around 40% of students cannot afford enough healthy food. These students often have to make difficult decisions, like whether to pay for tuition or groceries.   

cropStudents at UCLA take home produce gleaned by Food Forward volunteers


What’s the issue?

On college campuses across the country, a growing number of students are unable to afford the quantity and quality of food they need to be healthy and succeed academically. According to numerous studies, about 40% of students qualify as food insecure, meaning they lack reliable access to enough affordable and nutritious food.¹ This number is striking, especially when compared with the 12.5% of the general population who are food insecure.² Food insecurity among college students is often overlooked because people assume that being a “broke college student” is a rite of passage. However, lack of access to quality food is a serious issue for college students and one we should pay more attention to.


Who has the highest risk of experiencing food insecurity in college?

According to Feeding America’s 2014 Hunger in America report, around two million of its 46.5 million adult clients are full-time college students.³ Contrary to popular stereotypes, most food insecure students are working, receiving financial aid, and many are enrolled in meal plans.⁴ Penn State reported that those most at risk of being food insecure in college included students of color, students who experienced childhood food insecurity, lower-income students, students receiving financial aid, employed students, students without access to vehicles, financially independent students, and first-generation college students.⁵ And with the rising costs of tuition, books, and housing, more and more students are facing food insecurity.


26903347732_b30f18895a_oBurdened by the rising costs of tuition, books, and housing, many students cannot afford enough nutritious food (photo by John Vande Weg and Taya Kendall)

Those most at risk of being food insecure in college included students of color, students who experienced childhood food insecurity, lower-income students, students receiving financial aid, employed students, students without access to vehicles, financially independent students, and first-generation college students.

How does food insecurity affect the lives of college students?

Students are supposed to be worried about their final exams or their post-grad plans – not whether or not they can afford to buy food. Being food insecure impacts students in many ways, adding stress onto their busy schedules and negatively affecting their mental health and ability to focus.

In order to cope with food insecurity, students have reported skipping meals, purchasing inexpensive processed foods, asking family or friends for money, stretching food to make it last longer, working at least one part-time job, and making trade-offs between food and other basic necessities. As tuition and other costs of university study go up, students are increasingly making the hard decision to financially support their studies over their well-being, as nutrition simply becomes an “unaffordable luxury”.⁶

Aside from not regularly consuming three meals a day, food insecurity in students is also linked with disordered eating behaviors. In addition, food insecure students often have increased levels of stress, poorer levels of sleep quality, poorer physical and mental health status, and experience more headaches. Academically, they often have difficulty studying, lower grade-point-averages, and higher rates of failed courses and withdrawing from college altogether.⁷ One student articulated this relationship perfectly when she said, “Trying to do homework when you haven’t eaten for the past seventy hours is not going to happen.”⁸


screen-shot-2018-10-05-at-3-46-40-pmFood pantries, food recovery programs, and dining hall donations are all ways campuses can provide equitable access and reduce food waste


What can you do?

If you are: a student experiencing food insecurity in the United States at this very moment, find your nearest food bank through Feeding America or FoodPantries.org. There are also popular programs that specifically cater to college students, such as Swipe Out Hunger or The Campus Kitchens Project.⁹

If you are: looking to improve food security on your campus, some solutions that have worked for universities include introducing on-campus SNAP retailers, campus food pantries, food recovery programs, dining center meal donations, campus community gardens, and campus farmers markets.

If you are: a policy maker or voter, you can help fight college food insecurity by getting state and university governments to collaborate on meal plan scholarships for low-income students to address hunger discreetly. In addition, supporting and passing laws that support donations of produce or leftover food will continue the fight against food insecurity.

And anyone can volunteer with Food Forward and donate to support our work! Currently, we donate produce to several campuses and college programs in the LA area, including Rio Hondo College, Santa Monica College Students Feeding Students, Los Angeles Valley College, Swipe Out Hunger at UCLA, Harbor College, Los Angeles City College, Cal State University Northridge, and Cal State Long Beach. Your involvement helps us get fresh produce to these students, which means they have more time and energy to focus on their futures.


1 Dubick, James, et al. “Hunger on Campus.” College and University Food Bank Alliance, 2016, pp. 1–47, Hunger on Campus; Diamond, Kate & Stebleton, Michael J. “Do You Understand What It Means to be Hungry? Food Insecurity on Campus and the Role of Higher Education Professionals.” The Mentor, Penn State, 11 April 2017, https://dus.psu.edu/mentor/2017/04/do-you-understand-what-it-means-to-be-hungry-food-insecurity-on-campus-and-the-role-of-higher-education-professionals 2 “What Is Food Insecurity in America?” Feeding America. https://hungerandhealth.feedingamerica.org/understand-food-insecurity 3 Yavorski, Kimberly. “The College Students Who Are Starving in Silence.” Pacific Standard, Pacific Standard, 6 July 2017, psmag.com/education/college-students-starving-in-silence. 4 Tomar, David, et al. “Hungry To Learn: Food Insecurity Spreads On Campus.” The Best Schools, TheBestSchools.org, 2018, thebestschools.org/magazine/hungry-to-learn-food-insecurity-spreads-on-campus. 5 Diamond, Kate & Stebleton, Michael J. 6 Dubick, James, et al. 7 Ibid. 8 Diamond, Kate & Stebleton, Michael J. 9 “Resource Library.” Challah for Hunger, Challah for Hunger, 2018, challahforhunger.org/resourcelibrary/. 

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A Volunteer We Can Always Count On

September 28th, 2018

Meet our Volunteer of the Month for September, Mike Yankauskas! Mike is a Pick Leader with our Backyard Harvest Program who is hard working, dedicated, funny, and just a genuinely great person. He goes above and beyond each time he leads a harvest and we can always count on him to fill in if we are in a pinch. We’re a better team because of his efforts and are grateful he volunteers with us. Thanks, Mike!


So tell me, how did you get started with Food Forward?
After a shocking turn of events during the 2016 election, my wife and I attended a community outreach gathering looking for some way to get more involved. FF was one of the organizations mentioned and sounded like something we’d be interested in.


What drew you to Food Forward’s work and mission?
Getting outside and working with my hands was appealing. Learning how much food waste is occurring and seeing how directly the work goes to good got me hooked.




What do you do when you’re not volunteering with Food Forward?

I work as an Accountant and outside of that, I do a fair amount of reading, playing softball, puzzles, hiking, and traveling


What is your favorite part about volunteering with Food Forward?
I really enjoy the large harvests where a group of strangers can instantly band together to harvest thousands of pounds of fruit to help those in need.


How would you describe the volunteer experience at a harvest?
It’s very satisfying to walk up to a tree full of fruit that would normally go to waste and walk away from it with full boxes that will go a local organization.


What was your first volunteer day like?
Very eye opening. We drove up to an orchard in Ventura and were shocked to see the rows and rows of grapefruit and orange trees just sitting there. I wanted to stay all day and pick the fruit so it wouldn’t go to waste


What have you learned from volunteering?
How much more satisfying work is when it helps someone else.


Any words of wisdom you live by?
Do or do not, there is no try.


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Harvest Change with Smog City’s Laurie Porter

September 25th, 2018

9.25.18 — As part of Food Forward’s 2nd Annual #HarvestChange initiative, Smog City created a Danny’s Cream Ale, brewed with fresh sweet corn. You’d be amazed at the number of ways Smog City works to reduce waste all year long — through supporting Food Forward and their own many sustainability initiatives. We chatted with owner and Food Forward Culinary Advisory Board member Laurie Porter about what inspires her to Harvest Change every day.

ek8a8310Smog City’s Laurie Porter (right) pictured with some of our wonderful kumquat donors!


Smog City is harvesting change this month with a super-special cream corn ale. What makes this ale such a great way to enjoy corn? What kind of beer drinkers will enjoy this beer most?

Our Danny’s Cream Ale is a fun take on traditional cream ales which usually use processed corn in the brew. We grilled fresh sweet white corn and used the complex starches and and robust caramelized sugars to yield a more silky and full mouthfeel. Additionally, the fresh corn character blends nicely with the cream ale base.

Despite the challenging brew and production process that this beer required, this is an extremely approachable beer for both new beer drinkers and seasoned beer drinkers. I’d also like to add that there was only a small amount of this beer made so it is available only during our “Pints with Purpose with Food Forward” events at the taproom in Torrance on Thursdays in September.


screen-shot-2018-09-19-at-4-36-27-pmSmog City’s Danny Quinonez transforms charred sweet corn into a golden, frothy brew!


You’ve supported Food Forward in so many ways over the years. From our partnership Kumquat Saison (which just medaled at the Great American Beer Fest this month!) and annual Spring Melts to Harvest Change and 1% for the Planet, it’s hard to keep track! What excites you most about the idea of harvesting food, fighting hunger, and building community with Food Forward?

Working with Food Forward over the last 4 years has yielded so many wonderful experiences for myself and our Smog City team. Harvesting fruit, reducing waste, and directly impacting our community is something truly tangible, you can see the results of your investment in real time and that keeps you motivated. It feels good. It’s is incredibly satisfying to take fruit that would otherwise have gone to waste, turn it into our award winning Kumquat Saison and convert that into community activism. It tastes good and it does good, that’s a perfect partnership from my vantage.


ek8a6301-smSmog City makes and sells a partnership beer with Food Forward all year long! A behind the scenes look at Kumquat Saison.


Smog City is a role model for other craft breweries, and other businesses alike, in putting sustainability first. Supporting Food Forward is just one part of your larger efforts to to build a better sustainable world! What are some other cool things that Smog City does to “harvest change” all year long?

Since my husband and I started Smog City we’ve been focused on reducing waste, giving back and using our business to be proactive in our community and on the environment. We hope these small acts of activism will resonate and inspire others to do more and give more. Since we opened Smog 7 years ago, we believe that our responsibility as a small business is in quality of our product, the happiness of our team and to support the communities in our backyard.

With that said, Smog City took our environmental activism to the next level in 2017 by partnering with 1% for the Planet, an organization that partners businesses with environmentally conscious non-profits. This partnership has allowed Smog City to expand our impact to more organizations in our community. One way we give back is through our monthly partnerships with organizations like The Bay Foundation, Aquarium of the Pacific, Marine Mammal Rescue and of course, Food Forward. We host weekly fundraisers at our taproom on Thursdays between 3-10pm in an attempt to bring a unique experience to our customers while educating them on how they can also have a positive impact on the environment. I think it’s important that we are not complacent and that we empower others to make positive decisions that will impact future generations.

Besides our partnership with Food Forward and 1%, Smog City has a paid recycling program, we donate our spent grain to a local farmer for feed at no cost to him and no additional burden on our landfills and we recently installed an energy turbine that will allow us to reduce our use of gas and electricity among other things. These are all small measures but together they lead to a greater movement. One that says, We are growing a great company and at the same time having a positive impact on our community and environment and that’s how it should be.

Visit Smog City Brewery and Taproom!
We’re open 7 days a week. We also have a second taproom in the Bixby Knolls neighborhood of Long Beach called SteelCraft LB where we serve our award winning craft beers and guest wines! Both locations offer great community experiences and an opportunity to get to know the people behind the beer.

Smog City Brewery and Taproom
1901 Del Amo Blvd Torrance 90501

Smog City at SteelCraft
3768 Long Beach Blvd
Long Beach 90807
P: 562-269-0531

Or follow us on instagram @smogcitybeer



ek8a3426Kumquat Saison in process at Smog City’s Torrance brewery.

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From Mar Vista to New Life Society

September 11th, 2018

9.11.18 — In our newest Farm to Table blog post, intern Joyce Liu highlights New Life Society, an organization that receives fresh produce from the Mar Vista Farmers Market for a mobile food pantry in Leimert Park.


The beautiful spring of Southern California brightened up the Sunday Mar Vista Farmers Market with fresh greens, citrus, apples, and some early cherries. The wonderful smell of warm bread and fruit met in the air, wafting into people’s nostrils and refreshing their minds.

“Excuse me, would you like to donate anything today?” Near the end of the market, a group of volunteers from Food Forward gleaned produce from vendors that would otherwise go to waste and distributed it to local hunger-relief agencies. Food Forward’s Farmers Market Recovery Program has recovered 2,400,791 pounds of produce from 24 farmers’ markets throughout the Los Angeles and Ventura, the equivalent of 9,603,164 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables.


Some of this gleaned produce went to an organization called New Life Society that distributes food and offers life counseling. When I met Yogita at the market, the person who runs their local chapter, she was busy sorting items from the donations for immediate distribution in the afternoon. With a friendly smile and cheerful voice, she invited me for a site visit to her mobile food pantry located in Leimert Park.

“I began to do this a few years ago when I came to study film in LA and inherited New Life Society from Millie Mims. Traditionally, we believe in the healing power of food.” Yogita stood by the side of her display of Food Forward boxes, speaking while waiting for people to pick up some fresh fruits and vegetables. She was drawn to New Life Society through compassion and drive for justice. “A lot of people in the neighborhood are struggling with their lives and this is partly due to a negative fostering environment. Many of them end up homeless, addicted to the drugs, and fail to sustain their life.”

Besides making films and feeding those in need, she has also been active in advocating for a better livelihood for the homeless at community councils. “But nothing happened,” she bemoaned, “so I figured: ‘if you want to do something good, just go ahead and do it.’” Her courage and perseverance pushed her to achieve her dream of building a sustainable community by making healthy food choices more accessible.


Edifying through Ndyuka Wapishana and American culture, she used her rich knowledge about food to develop natural remedies and great recipes to share among the neighborhood. While the bulky orange branches in a box stumped everyone who saw them, Yogita saw the value. Instead of throwing them away in the compost, she advised a mother to boil the leaves and drink the tea to treat mucous. Yogita was also innovative in creating some combinations of food to “give some flavors” (e.g. hummus with some greens and nasturtium), which she considered crucial in making any healthy dish favorable. I asked what her secret was in was creating these recipes. She smiled and said: “Well, I got a lot of inspiration from my mom. If you are fighting too much, you are probably eating the wrong food.”

Throughout my interview with Yogita, there were warm greetings, hugs, and lovely chats between her and the people who came to pick up food. From my point of view, they were more like friends than merely clients.

In envisioning the future of New Life Society, Yogita is looking to create more inclusive and established programs beyond their food pantry services. She is hunting for better housing to accommodate the recipients of the gleaned produce as well as the potential volunteers. Besides the current location in Crenshaw, she is also working with an adult day care center and organizing a few vegan cooking nights. Despite the current difficulties, she was positive about the future: “ I have people like you who come visit and help from time to time. I can handle things well for now, but I will need more volunteers in the future when I get the house.”

Food fulfills our stomach. More importantly, it is the medium to communicate with hungry souls in hopes of offering them a sustainable life solution. It was great to shadow Yogita from New Life Society—from the food donation, to natural remedies, to individual livelihood and community development. She is grateful for the partnership with Food Forward, which supports the foundation of her work in food justice, and she hopes for further collaboration opportunities in the future.

By Joyce Liu, Food Forward intern


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Harvesting Change with Preux & Proper’s Sammy Monsour

September 4th, 2018

9.4.18 — As part of Food Forward’s 2nd Annual #HarvestChange initiative, Preux & Proper will contribute $1 for each Grilled Yellow Sweet Corn Salad. We chatted with activist, author, and Preux & Proper chef/partner Sammy Monsour about what inspires him to Harvest Change.

unspecified-12-34-47-pmPreux & Proper’s Sammy Monsour.


Food Forward chose to highlight corn for this year’s Harvest Change because it’s so emblematic of this time of year. It’s also a staple in your cuisine. What makes your Grilled Yellow Sweet Corn Salad such a perfect way to enjoy corn?

Nothing feels more like end of Summer / early Autumn to me than corn on the cob, especially off the grill. Growing up, my Lebanese grandmother grew corn—amongst other delicious veggies—in our backyard garden, so I’ve been in love with corn harvest season since childhood. Since then, I’ve fallen in love with many cuisines and cultures, Mexican being one of them, and our grilled yellow sweet corn is a reflection of that. It’s a riff off LA street corn, made with smoky miso aioli, queso fresco, scallion, aleppo chile and our crispy pork cracklins.

In many ways, this dish represent the food I Iove to eat, cook and serve. Simple and rustic plates that are served family style and loaded with flavor. My cuisine mixes my fondest memories of life and eating while encompassing the many cultures and peoples I’ve been fortunate enough to learn from. Sourcing sustainably and cooking from scratch with love, care and integrity are the foundation of what we do at both Preux & Proper and South City Fried Chicken.


We benefit from a year-round growing season here in Southern California, but there’s something really special about produce this time of year, too. What’s your favorite thing going on at the market right now?

Corn, tomatoes, peaches and figs! We’re in a 6-8 week period of perfection for these tasty treats! There’s nothing more perfect to me than a perfectly ripe and sweet ear of corn, heirloom tomato, yellow peach or brown turkey fig. They can be enjoyed in simple preparation or featured in the most elegant of preparations, and in both sweet and savory applications. The sky’s the limit!


Supporting Food Forward is just one part of your larger efforts to to build a better world — to harvest change — through the food you serve. What role do you believe that you, and your partner Joshua, have in sharing that ethos with the public?

For starters, whether our guests are aware of our sustainable practices or not, everyone that dines with us is supporting our mission, and ultimately supporting a better food system and a healthier community. I think that’s really cool!

We also take the responsibility of community work very seriously and join forces with many outstanding and inspiring organizations year round, including Chefs Collaborative, Seafood Watch, LA Kitchen, LA Food Council Policy, Share Our Strength, Slow Food, and of course, Food Forward.

We host annual fundraisers at Preux & Proper, organize and plan symposiums on the topics of community, sustainability and the advancement of our food system, and partner with several organizations to utilize Preux & Proper as an intern site for folks both young and old who are looking to gain a skill-set and start a new, more positive life. As just a couple of guys working hard and living our dreams, we the “ah ha” moment together and realized that “we made it,” and that even though we still have so much more we want to achieve together, we’re in a position where its officially our responsibility to be a part of the greater good.


2018-08-29Preux & Proper’s best-selling Grilled Yellow Sweet Corn Salad helps Food Forward
donate 11 pounds of produce to those in need. (Credit: Top Foodie Faves)


Sourcing all this good stuff is seriously hard work. What advice would you share with a young chef or restaurateur who’s still starting out, but wants to make responsible choices in their work?

Start with one thing that you’re passionate about and let yourself go down that rabbit hole. Ask questions. Do thorough research. Donate your time at food based charity events and network with folks you admire and want to learn from. It’s very overwhelming at times, because the subject of sustainability is so vast, but don’t let that discourage you.

As we rapidly approach a massive population increase, and the effects of global warming are evident through climate change, we’re heading into a future that is either very bright or very dim. Stay positive. There’s a LOT of people working toward making tomorrow better and they need your help. The world is changing “over night” and there’s great demand for innovation. It all starts with understanding simple concepts like seed saving, regenerative farming, sustainable aquaculture, waste reduction and energy efficiency, to name a few. I hope that makes sense.

I also try to source at least one really cool and new sustainable ingredient a week. It makes me feel like I’m moving forward no matter what else is going on around me. I’m no expert and am constantly challenging myself to learn more daily. I was fortunate enough to learn that mentality from my many mentors, and if anything, that is what I would pass along.



flickr_2Fresh sweet corn, about to be recovered by Food Forward volunteers at the Santa Monica Farmers Market.

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Volunteering Morning, Noon, and Night

August 31st, 2018

8.31.18 —  Meet our Volunteer of the Month for August, Rebecca Brandt. Rebecca is a Pick Leader in Ventura County and has been known to lead fruit picks 7 or 8 times a week! Since she started volunteering with Food Forward a little over a year ago, she’s contributed 89 hours and participated in an extraordinary 44 events. Rebecca is hardworking, funny, and very dedicated to Food Forward’s mission, and we couldn’t be more grateful to have her in the Fruit Family. Thanks for you all you do, Rebecca!
So tell me, how did you get started with Food Forward?
I discovered Food Forward through VolunteerMatch.com. Just signed up for a backyard harvest that was within 30 minutes of home and was hooked!
 What drew you to Food Forward’s work and mission?
The work itself drew me because it’s outdoors, it’s active, I get to meet and influence interesting people, and being around the fragrant fruit blossoms is a plus. The mission is honorable. Our efforts to redistribute food that would normally go to waste makes a huge impact on those less fortunate!


What do you do when you’re not volunteering with Food Forward?

When I am not volunteering with Food Forward I work for the Navy, currently in logistics for the Seabees. Sometimes I travel to Fresno or Sacramento to visit family, or take a little time for myself to relax at home and catch up on errands.

What is your favorite part about volunteering with Food Forward? 

My favorite part about volunteering with Food Forward is knowing that I am helping people in a number of ways. First there’s removing unwanted produce from a property, and then of course feeding people who need it!



How would you describe the volunteer experience at a harvest?

The volunteer experience at a harvest is always an opportunity to influence people to continue to make an impact. Everyone shares stories, learns from each other, and grows from being a part of something greater than themselves. We have fun while making a difference!


What was your first volunteer day like?

My first volunteer day was memorable and positive. It was a large backyard harvest in a lemon orchard with 20 or so other volunteers. The pick leaders, Joyce and Ally, were informative, inspiring and bubbly. The experience of collecting fruit, seeing the support of other volunteers, and simply chatting with Joyce and Ally inspired me to eventually become a pick leader.


What have you learned from volunteering?

From volunteering I have learned that there are more people out there who do want to make a difference. From the middle schoolers just logging in volunteer hours to the significant other just trying to make their partner happy by tagging along, people enjoy uniting for a greater cause to help others, and this makes me happy 🙂  


Any words of wisdom you live by?

When being true to yourself: “Those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter!”

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Continuing the Conversation About Food Deserts

August 21st, 2018

8.21.18 — Join us in getting involved with the conversation about food deserts, the implications of using the term, and possible solutions to limited food access in communities from a personal to policy level.

Bags of chips are displayed at a Walmart store in Secaucus, New Jersey, November 11, 2015. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson - RTS6KQ8

What is a Food Desert?

Food deserts are areas with limited access to supermarkets or other sources of fresh, nutritious, affordable, and culturally-appropriate food. They exist in urban and rural areas, and are disproportionately located in low-income communities and communities of color. Residents in these neighborhoods may also be challenged by inadequate access to transportation, lower access to education, and higher levels of unemployment.[1]

Although they are called “food deserts,” this doesn’t necessarily mean there is no food at all in these areas. Often times, there are many fast food restaurants, corner stores, liquor stores, and gas stations that provide highly processed foods that do not provide the necessary nutrients for a healthy diet. In fact, living in food deserts increases your likelihood of obesity and diabetes nine and five percentage points respectively, making food deserts a public health issue.[2]


What’s the deal with that term?

The word “desert” is often used by human geographers to describe an area that is lacking in some aspect that is considered to be important for humans to have access to.[1] As a verb, “desert” also meant to abandon something or someone.[2] By the mid-1990’s, the term “food desert” emerged to describe places or situations that restricted residents’ access to nutritious food.[3] While the term was meant to highlight the discrepancies between these areas and areas that had easier access to healthy food, there has been an increasing amount of discourse about the drawbacks to using this term.

For example, some activists and food systems workers use the term “food apartheid,” because unlike most deserts (the Mojave desert, for example), “food deserts” don’t happen naturally. This lack of access to good food is not accidental or coincidental. These food injustices are a result of deliberate private and public resource allocation decisions that exclude resources like healthy food from low-income communities, with communities of color being affected disproportionately. These factors include suburban migration and redlining, budget cuts in public transit, and discriminatory housing & hiring practices. While “food deserts” describe these areas as desolate and void of potential, “food apartheid” can challenge us to think critically about the social inequalities, inspiring us to act.



k7z6rltjpfb75mljigf3awllju© Los Angeles Times

What’s the solution to food deserts?

So then, the answer seems simple: why don’t we just get grocery stores to move in these areas? Well sometimes, even this doesn’t necessarily fix everything. Studies have shown that even when grocery stores move into areas classified as food deserts, these communities continue to face disparities in health outcomes. It’s clear that there is a bigger problem than geography.

As described by Richard Florida,

when it comes to food and nutrition, it’s not just that higher income Americans have more money. They benefit even more from higher levels of education and better information about the benefits of healthier eating. Indeed, education accounts for roughly 20 percent of the association between income and healthy eating, according to the study, with an additional 7 percent coming from differences in information about nutrition…enable affluent and educated households to put this nutritional information to use. For one, they simply have more time and resources to devote to their health and well-being. Conversely, lower-income people may simply discount the health advantages of higher-quality food or see some of those foods, like kale or avocado toast (to pick the most obvious examples), as smacking of urban elitism.[4]

On a basic level, to help increase food security in a community, there needs to be adequate access to healthy food, whether it be through a supermarket, farmers’ market, co-op, community food initiative, and perhaps surprisingly, even a corner store. With many low-income communities already doing a lot of their shopping at corner stores, moving healthy produce into these shops could be a great alternative. Perhaps we will start to see a rise of affordable and healthy fast food restaurants across the nation. However, there is evidence that educational initiatives on healthy eating and cooking need to be paired with physical food access in order to effectively help food security.[5] Policy level interventions could help subsidize healthy foods or harness in-store marketing to promote the purchase of healthy foods.[6]

Some solutions that are already working in communities in the United States include farmers markets that accept EBT, the Market Match Program, non-profit grocery stores and co-ops, produce services that deliver fresh fruits and vegetables, and organizations such as Food Forward that redistribute what would be food waste to food insecure residents.[7]


olympiastandSÜPRMARKT (Photo © LA Weekly)

What can you do to help?

You can click here to see if you live in an area under food apartheid or to locate the nearest area to you. You’re already doing a great step in helping your community by educating yourself about these issues. You can continue work in food security by finding solutions that work within your community, whether it is growing your own food in a backyard garden, working with local convenience stores to get more healthy foods, or teaching your friends and family members new recipes and about the benefits of healthy eating. Some local organizations that are already working with food security in low income communities include Los Angeles Food Policy CouncilSUPRMRKT, Food On Foot, Hunger Action L.A., Market Makeovers, Every TableSlow Food Ventura County, Food Share, and many others. Volunteer, reach outside your comfort zone, talk to your representatives, and speak up for those that cannot speak for themselves.



[1] Dutko, Paula, et al. “Characteristics and Influential Factors of Food Deserts.” USDA.gov, United States Department of Agriculture, Aug. 2012, www.ers.usda.gov/webdocs/publications/45014/30940_err140.pdf?v=41156.

[2]“The Socio-Economic Significance of Food Deserts.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 29 June 2011, www.pbs.org/newshour/arts/the-socio-economic-significance-of-food-deserts.

[3] Shaw, Hillary John. “The Ecology of Food Deserts .” Core.ac.uk, The University of Leeds School of Geography, Dec. 2003, core.ac.uk/download/pdf/1146142.pdf.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Florida, Richard. “Stop Blaming Food Deserts for the Nutrition Gap.” CityLab, University of Toronto’s School of Cities and Rotman School of Management, 22 Jan. 2018, www.citylab.com/equity/2018/01/its-not-the-food-deserts-its-the-inequality/550793

[7] Corapi, Sarah. “Why it takes more than a grocery store to eliminate a food desert.” PBS, PBS, 3 Feb. 2014, https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/takes-grocery-store-eliminate-food-desert

[8] Ibid.

[9] Conley, Paul. “5 Food Desert Solutions that Seem to be Working.” Food Dive, Food Dive, 31 Oct. 2013, https://www.fooddive.com/news/5-food-desert-solutions-that-seem-to-be-working/188432/

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Did Someone Say Pizza?

July 31st, 2018

7.31.18 — Join Shing Yin Khor and Eron Rauch on August 4 for the Project Pizza online pop-up shop benefitting Food Forward. The draw-a-thon will feature dozens of talented artists making art and eating pizza, while raising money to fight hunger and food waste.


Project Pizza:

An Online Pop-Up Shop Benefitting Food Forward


August 4, 2018; 9 am to 9 pm

Location: Live-streamed on Twitch

RSVP on Facebook


Join Shing Yin Khor and Eron Rauch on Saturday, August 4 for the second Project Pizza online pop-up shop, raising money to fight hunger by selling food-themed art. From 9 am to 9 pm the artists will host a draw-a-thon featuring a dozen of their talented friends making art and jamming their faces full of pizza. Preorders open August 3rd, so visit the menu here and grab your slice (one random drawing), a whole pie (10), or even a party pack (30) to share with friends and co-workers.

The party will be live-streamed on Twitch. Drop in to watch Shing try dream up toppings for her pledged 250 drawings of pizza! Watch Eron probably set a real pizza on fire while he manages the stream! Will there be special guests? You bet! Every slice/drawing we sell helps immensely, so thanks in advance for spreading the word to all your food- and art-loving friends.  

The fundraising goal is $5,000 and, that mark is hit, it will help Food Forward to finish strong in their new capital campaign to open the doors to a Produce Depot in Downtown Los Angeles. 

All the art, resources, and time for Project Pizza are donated with special thanks to local farmers Weiser Family FarmsBuon Gusto Farms, and Tutti Frutti Farms for providing the ingredients used to power the artists with pizza. 



 Jeff Zugale (@jeffzugale), Jason Porath (@jasonporath), Rosie Marx & Co. (@rosiemarx), Nilah Magruder (@nillafle), Shing Yin Khor (@sawdustbear), Eron Rauch (@eron_rauch), Shannon Saar, Betsy Streeter, Kai (@kaidoesstuff), John Hogan (@thejohnhogan), and more TBA.


Main Site: http://eronrauch.com/projectpizza

Hashtag: #projectpizzaart

Live Stream: http://twitch.tv/videogamesforthearts

Shing Yin Kohr Twitter@sawdustbear

Eron Rauch Twitter@eronrauch

Shing Yin Kohr Instagram@sawdustbear

Eron Rauch Twitter@eron_rauch

Contact: eronrauch@gmail.com


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A Chef with a Passion for Volunteering

July 25th, 2018

7.25.18 — We’d like to introduce you to our wonderful Volunteer of the Month for July, Michele! Michele is a volunteer triple threat: Farmers Market Glean Team Leader, Produce Pop-Up Lead, and Community Ambassador. She is passionate about serving her community and always willing to go the extra mile — and, did we mention she bakes a mean cookie? Thanks for everything Michele, we love having you in our Fruit Family!



How did you get started with Food Forward and what drew you to Food Forward’s work and mission?  

I found Food Forward while job searching when I moved back here to my hometown last year. I come from a professional cooking and farming background, so I was pursuing work in the local sustainable food movement. Food Forward offers so many ways to reach people with their three food recovery programs that I immediately tried them all, doing backyard harvests, farmers market gleans, and produce pop-up distributions.


What is your favorite part about serving as a Glean Team Leader and volunteer at Produce Pop Ups with Food Forward? 

I love that both programs contribute to an “everybody wins” chain of events. Food that would otherwise have gone to the landfill goes to people in need. Farmers get tax deductions for their donations, and individuals with reduced access to healthy, fresh produce receive this nourishment through established receiving agencies and through direct distribution in their communities.

And when we do get to interact directly with the consumers at the produce pop-ups, I LOVE hearing about what people are planning to cook with their bounty of ingredients. Maybe it’s because I am chef, but it’s truly something special to witness families comparing recipe ideas, like how they stew their collard greens or what kinds of salsas they’re going to make with hot peppers.


What are some surprising things you have learned from volunteering?

I didn’t know about the Good Samaritan Act, a federal law enabling nonprofits to receive food donations in good faith without legal liability.


Are there any particularly powerful volunteering moments you’d like to share?

One of my favorite moments was last Friday in Inglewood, when one woman was so excited about her produce haul that she ran into the parking lot, put down her box, and peeled open one of these specialty bananas we were giving out. She was just so happy to taste it and extol its virtues to me!


What do you do when you’re not volunteering with Food Forward?

I work as a freelance food stylist. I also enjoy being outside (especially in my hometown), hiking, games, family, friends, animals, cooking, gardening, traveling, and eating.


Any words of wisdom you live by?

I try to be present and grateful always. Sometimes it’s very hard, but volunteering helps!


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