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.

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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!

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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.

 

READ MORE ABOUT HARVEST CHANGE 

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!
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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!

 

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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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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.

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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. 

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Artists:

 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.

Links:

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!

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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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Summer Fruit Tree Care 101

July 10th, 2018

7.10.18 — Longer days and hotter temperatures means fruit trees are in their active growing season. What are our fruit trees doing during the active growing season in a physiological sense? What do they need? Joanna Glovinsky, founder of LA’s Fruitstitute, a fruit tree care and education service for backyard growers, explains the Hows and Whys of summer fruit tree care.

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Here at Fruitstitute our aim is to teach backyard growers how to understand their fruit trees or, as we put it, how to read your tree. Our approach is to take the science of fruit tree care out of the orchard and make it accessible to everyone who’s interested in growing great fruit in Southern California. Now that summer is here, the time is ripe to talk about how to ensure a sweet summer harvest.

 

HOW YOUR TREE MAKES FRUIT

To put it simply, the long days of summer mean your tree’s energy intake and output are at the highest. This is because increased daylight boosts photosynthesis, the process through which leaves convert energy from the sun into carbohydrates, which kicks off the metabolic processes of plants. (Remember that high school science class?) I’ll break this down even further so you can get the full picture.

The conversation starts with stomata, an outer layer of cells on a leaf responsible for photosynthesis. These cells are like millions of little mouths that open to feed during the day and close at night. In general, the more hours the sun hits the leaves on a tree, the more hours stomate stay open. As stomata open, water inside the leaf, which traveled up from the soil, evaporates. This physiological process is called transpiration. The water evaporating from each leaf on a tree creates a suction effect throughout the tree that pulls water and soluble nutrients from the soil up through the roots and into rest of the tree, a process called translocation. The longer the day, the longer the stomata are open, the longer transpiration and translocation occur. One thing worth noting is that stomata close when a tree needs to conserve water. So, on really hot days stomata will not be open as long and the tree does not lose more water than it can handle. Similarly, if a tree is underwatered, the stomata will not open.

 

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Open stomata are also consuming energy from the sun (photosynthesis), which is then converted into carbohydrates, the energy the tree needs to grow and make its various parts. This is a very simplified description of the process called respiration. Chlorophyll, the stuff that makes leaves green, is the secret ingredient here. So, the longer the day, the greater the rate of respiration.

Taking the above into account, we can see that the leaves of a tree – their size, color, access to sunlight – are critical for the tree to carry out these physiological processes that allow for growth. We can also see that for these physiological processes to occur optimally, a tree needs sufficient water and sufficient soil nutrients.

 

HEALTHY TREES MAKE TASTIER FRUIT

Let’s put these pieces together and a picture of what a healthy fruit tree looks like in the summer should become clear.

A healthy tree has:

-A healthy canopy of foliage. Not too dense but not too thin, green in color throughout and leaves that are generally clean of debris and grime
-Proper irrigation
-Good soil fertility

If any or all of these three things are off, the health, rate of growth and fruit bearing capacity of the tree is compromised. Moreover, the greater the degree to which any of these three things are off, the greater the tree’s health is compromised. That’s because without the right amount of photosynthesis, water and nutrients, your tree cannot properly produce or budget its resources. The result of which will ultimately lead to a sad tree with sad fruit.

For deciduous trees, those that lose their leaves and go dormant in winter, summer is particularly important. All the energy they create in summer is then stored during winter and used to create next year’s growth. Should the tree not produce enough leaves for example, or should these leaves be lacking in chlorophyll year after year after year, the tree will eventually fail (i.e. die).

 

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THE LABOR OF SUMMER FRUIT

What does all this mean in terms of summer tree care? First, it implies that you should make sure your trees are being properly watered. Second, you need to consider your soil fertility. If you didn’t do it in the spring, make sure you apply your growing season soil amendments – compost/fertilizer and woody mulch – as soon as you can this summer season. If you see discoloration in leaves, you likely have a nutrition deficiency and should amend your soil.

That takes care of our feeding our roots. But what about our leaves? To answer that question, we first need to understand what your tree is growing in the summer. This is the same as saying, how does a tree allocate its energy resources in summer.

In summer, your tree allocates most of its chemical energy toward shoot and fruit growth. Root growth is reduced as a result, which is partly why summer is not the best season to plant a tree. New shoots are developing and as they do, they’re growing the flower buds for next season. For flower buds to form, leaves on these shoots need to photosynthesize sufficient amounts of chemical energy to make the stuff that forms flower buds. These new shoots have also added a new layer of foliage to your canopy that may be crowding or shading other branches. Too much shade and/or crowding means fruit on the effected branches cannot ripen as it should and the leaves cannot photosynthesize as they should. What do you do? The third component of summer tree care is summer pruning.

Summer pruning is all about optimizing light penetration throughout your canopy. When pruning your fruit tree, thin branches that have grown too tall and are shading/crowding the canopy and clean out all dead wood and debris. Because temperatures are hotter, bug populations are more prolific, so you don’t want to create too many wounds for bugs to enter with your pruning cuts. Summer pruning should remove only what is necessary. Similarly, don’t remove any bigger branches in the summer either. Doing so invites bugs and diseases. You could also wash down your canopy with water if you notice extra grime built up on the leaves, which hosts bugs. As always, know how to make proper pruning cuts before garnishing your blades.

 

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fruit-thinningFinally, to the fruit, the other thing your tree is allocating its energy toward growing in summer. Picture a skinny branch overloaded with fruit. If you leave all that fruit on that branch, the fruit may ripen but that branch only has so much energy to give to each fruit. However, if you were to thin some of that fruit, and leave one fruit per every few inches or so, depending on the size of the branch, that branch has that much more energy to allocate to each one of those fruit. Accordingly, the fourth and sweetest component to summer fruit tree care is fruit thinning. Fruit thinning not only makes your fruit tastier it’s also so important for the health of young trees, overbearing trees and for any branch being weighed down by the weight of its fruit. Wouldn’t you rather have a few superior fruits than a lot of inferior ones? You gotta thin it to win it.

By Joanna Glovinsky
Founder, Fruitstitute

 

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Produce of the Month: Lychee!

July 2nd, 2018

Lychee Love

7.2.18–What are these scaly little red fruit? Only one of the most deliciously clear, sweet, and juicy fruit out there! Read on to learn more.

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Background + History

Lychees are native to the southern provinces of Fujian and Guangdong in China, where they have been cultivated since at least 1059 AD. Guangdong, in particular, continues to have prolific lychee production with fruit grown throughout the province.

The fruit is a member of the soapberry family, of which it is the only member, and thrives in tropical climates with high summer heat, rainfall, and humidity. Lychee are in season primarily in May and June. China remains the main producer of the fruit, though it is also widely grown throughout Southeast Asia and India, with more recent production in Brazil, Australia, the United States, the Caribbean, and South Africa.

 

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Consumption + Dangers

Fresh lychee are consumed by peeling back the skin to reveal a translucent, fleshy fruit that is white or pinkish. The texture of the flesh can best be compared to a grape, though the sweetness is incomparable. Though lychee can be found in a growing number of grocery stores throughout the United States, it can be most easily obtained in canned form.

In traditional Chinese medicine, lychee is considered a “warm” element that helps to nourish the blood and warm the body and is used to improve digestive systems and bad appetite. However, it is also thought to put the eater at increased risk of ulcers and acne.

Overconsumption of lychees can be toxic and fatal. Naturally occurring toxins found in lychees, especially unripe lychees, can lead to hypoglycemia that causes fever, convulsions, and seizures.

Don’t let this scare you off though! When eaten in moderation, lychees are a deliciously sweet treat.

Recipe

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Lychee and Lime Sorbet (adapted from BBC Good Food)

If you can’t find any fresh lychees, try this recipe using canned lychees for a refreshing summer treat!

Ingredients: 

– 3 14oz cans lychees in syrup
– 1/3 cup of caster sugar
– egg white
– zest from 2 limes, juice from 1 lime

Method:

1. Drain the syrup from two cans of lychees into a small pan. Add the sugar and dissolve over a gentle heat. Bring to the boil for 1 min.

2. Blitz the drained lychees in a food processor until very finely chopped. Pour in the lime juice and syrup with the blade still whirring – don’t worry if the mix isn’t perfectly smooth at this point. Tip into a 1-liter container and freeze for at least 6 hrs until solid.

3. Break up the frozen mix, then return to the bowl of the processor. Tip in the egg white and whizz until thick, pale and smooth. Add zest from 1 lime. Return to the container and freeze again, ideally overnight. Serve in scoops with remaining lychees scattered with a remaining zest.

Enjoy!

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Ventura County Essay Content for Students

June 28th, 2018

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Food Forward is a non-profit organization that recovers fresh produce from backyards, orchards, farmers markets and wholesale distributors that would otherwise go to waste. All of those healthy fruits and vegetables are donated to local hunger relief and community support organizations.

If you are a student in Ventura County in grades K-12, we want to hear from you about some very important issues:

What does food justice mean to you?

and

How can we reduce food waste?

 

Your ideas about these subjects could win you a ticket to the Ventura County Fair where you will present your winning essay and a feature on Food Forward’s online blog!

Research the topics of food justice, food waste and food insecurity in our region and provide ideas on how to increase everyone’s access to fresh, abundant, wholesome produce grown in Ventura County. The essay should be approximately 300 words.

Submissions are due by July 20, 2018 and should be sent to jill@foodforward.org.

 

FAQ’s

When is my essay due?

Please email essays to jill@foodforward.org by July 20th, 2018.

 

Is there an age limit?

This contest is for students in Ventura County in grades K-12.

 

Who do I contact with questions?

Email jill@foodforward.org

 

I don’t know about food justice, what should I do?

Research it! You can do a search on Google by typing, “food justice, food waste, where is my food grown, etc.” You can also visit foodforward.org and read our blog.

 

Is there a fee to enter?

No. It’s free to enter.

 

Tell me more about the presentation at the Fair.

The top 3 entries will receive free Ventura County Fair tickets (one day entry for one student only for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place). For those who wish to present their essay at the Fair, they will arrange the day and time (usually a Saturday afternoon) to do so on the stage in the Ag Building with the essay contest organizers.

 

My family wants to come watch me present, do they get in free?

Unfortunately we can only provide free entry tickets to the top 3 essays contest winners. Your family members may purchase tickets to the fair by visiting this page.

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Supporting Senior Wellness With Nutritious Produce

June 26th, 2018

6.26.18 — This month, we’d like to highlight one of our receiving agencies. EngAGE is a Food Forward partner supporting the art of active aging. Read on to learn more!

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EngAGE provides arts, wellness, learning, community building, and intergenerational programs to 31 affordable senior and multi-generational communities through their Southern California branch. They support senior wellness through fun physical activities like dance and water aerobics, on-site vegetable gardens in senior communities, and classes on healthy cooking and nutrition.

 

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Consistent access to nutritious food is key to improving wellness for seniors. In the United States, 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day, and 1 in 12 face food insecurity. To make sure their clients’ nutritional needs are met, EngAGE picks up fresh Food Forward produce every week, recovered from the Brentwood Farmers Market. Since 2016, Food Forward has donated over 42,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables to help feed seniors and their families.

 

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Megan Hocking, Programs Director at EngAGE, says, “Residents at our EngAGE properties are thrilled each week to receive their fresh produce from Food Forward. The resources from Food forward provide grocery distribution, nutrition and culinary education to families, seniors, and their dependents. EngAGE’s food program vastly improves the quality of life for low-income seniors and GAP (Grandparents as Parents) residences, many of whom do not have access to healthy, fresh produce.”

To learn more about EngAGE and their impact on senior populations, please visit https://engagedaging.org/

 

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Inspiring Others to Volunteer

June 20th, 2018

6.20.18 — Say hello to our Volunteer of the Month for June, Ben Tenn! Ben is a long-time Community Ambassador who represents Food Forward at community events across the San Fernando Valley, but specifically in his own neighborhood of Northridge. Huge thanks to Ben for inspiring so many people to get involved with our work!

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

I was looking for a charity where I could both find a good cause and be helpful.  I learned about FF through some media / PR and contacted the office. I also care about feeding those in need without our rich society.  That seems like a basic we all should support.

 

What is your favorite part about serving as a Community Ambassador with Food Forward?   

I am very comfortable in group settings and find I can encourage students, parents and families to consider volunteering which means my hours of volunteering can generate many more hours from many others – a real joy to be productive.

 

What are some surprising things you have learned from volunteering?   

No surprise but nearly everyone is impressed with what FF does and thanks us for doing it.  People are happy and eager to help if schedules allow.  We are well received and respected for our work.

“…My hours of volunteering can generate many more hours from many others – a real joy to be productive.”

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

Families love to volunteer and sign up both as the parents want to contribute to our society and to get their kids involved too.  And college students totally understand our mission and are eager to get involved, particularly at CSUN and the big pick on campus.

 

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

We enjoy traveling both domestically and internationally, to learn about what is happening elsewhere and the history behind it.  I also enjoy reading history and biographies and continue to consult to local small businesses.

 

Any words of wisdom you live by?    

I along with many others are in or near retirement, so staying involved is important.  FF is a great example of a wonderful organization due to the mission and the excellent management of the program by staff at all levels.  Congrats to Rick and the entire team.

 

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Food Forward’s kNOw Waste Program

June 6th, 2018

Do You know waste?

6.6.18 — Since 2016, Food Forward has brought its kNOw Waste program to eight 5th grade classes in the Los Angeles area. In the spring of 2018, educator Martha Hall brought these lessons on food waste to one elementary school, and writes about her experience below. 

It’s hard to imagine all that a 10 year old’s brain absorbs in the buzz of the 21st century. No matter where you look or step, screens of every shape and size are blaring news updates, celebrity gossip and special reports about overwhelming natural and people-induced disasters. The world can seem a noisy, chaotic and scary place, and especially so to a 5th grader.

How better to help them navigate our unstable terrain than to gift them with information, stories of hope and possibility, and the steps to take action? Thankfully, Food Forward’s kNOw Waste program offers just that. I feel fortunate that as an educator with Food Forward, I had the opportunity to join three fifth grade classes at Grand View Elementary School in West Los Angeles in March and April of this year. Our weekly discussions about the realities and complexities of food waste provided a space to grapple with big issues as well as the time to devise and propose some possible solutions. Information is power, and by the end of the six-week unit, these 5th grade students indeed seemed enthusiastically empowered.

 

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Food Forward’s Harvest and Education Manager Sam Teslik teaches a class about food waste.

The kNOw Waste curriculum covers everything from the ways food is wasted at home and in school, to how and why food is often wasted in the production cycle – in the field, in the distribution process, at the retail level of stores, restaurants, farmers markets, etc. Students learned new concepts, went over related vocabulary words, reflected out loud and in writing on the ideas introduced, and shared their ideas in pairs and to the class. At the end of the six weeks, the students broke into groups, prepared their own food waste and food justice focused Public Service Announcement (PSA) and presented it to their peers.

 

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A student poster urges others to prevent food waste by donating uneaten food.

While all of the themes and topics engaged the kids, the one unit that stood out above the rest to me was our Week 4 conversation about food insecurity and food justice. The kids instinctively grasped the inequities of food distribution, the challenges of food access for low income individuals and families living in “food deserts,” as well as the harsh reality that vast quantities of food go to waste at all stages of the growing, harvesting, shipping and selling process while so many people, including our own friends and neighbors, go hungry. No heavy hitting needed on our part. They got it.

At the close of that particular class, one of the fifth grade teachers challenged her students. “This is a call to action,” she said to a room of 27 wide-eyed, focused and concerned kids. “You can help. You can make a difference.” And with their newly raised consciousness and her encouraging charge, I knew they could, and that they would.

 

img_7697After our final class, when most of the students had already filed out the door to recess, one student approached me, gave me a hug and handed me a handmade card. It read: “I (heart) Food Forward. Thank You,” and below, the motto, “Harvest Food, Fight Hunger, Build Community.” It’s clear that these 5th graders are still part kid, giggly and dreamy, yet also emerging as young adults with astute awareness and intelligence. What better message could we have left them with? They now “kNOw” about the issues of food waste & food justice in their community, and they’re determined to do something about it.

Interested in bringing kNOw Waste to your school? We are currently taking applications from schools interested in bringing Food Forward’s kNOw Waste program to their 5th grade during the Spring of 2019. If you are a teacher or administrator interested in applying please fill out our school interest form.

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