Food Forward Blog
Million Pound Milestone for Farmers Market Recovery

One of the several initiatives providing more than 15 million pounds, or 60 million servings, to feed those in need.

FMR - 1M

Food Forward, the North Hollywood-based non-profit organization whose mission is to fight hunger, harvest food and build community, has achieved a milestone through one of its several initiatives, the Farmers Market Recovery Program.

As of December 12th, 2015, the volunteer-powered effort to collect farmers market produce left over at the end of the market day has surpassed the one million pound mark. All produce is donated to social service agencies that use it to feed clients in need.

In operation for just seven years, Food Forward has recovered more than 15 million pounds (the number increases weekly) of produce through several urban gleaning initiatives, including harvests in backyards, private estates and public spaces, as well as the Downtown Wholesale Produce Market, which has exponentially increased the organization’s reach. More than 165,000 pounds a week are recovered and will feed at least a million people this year.

The Farmers Market Recovery Program, which began in August 2012 at Santa Monica’s renowned downtown market, now operates five days a week at 17 farmers markets, including West Hollywood, Hollywood, Santa Monica (two markets), Brentwood, Pacific Palisades, Torrance (two markets), Culver City, Studio City, Calabasas, Pasadena, Burbank, Studio City, Mar Vista, Larchmont, Alhambra and Downtown Ventura.

More than 60 volunteer “Glean Team Leaders” along with 200-plus volunteers each month meet face to face with the farmers to collect unsold, high quality bounty that might otherwise go to waste or be turned into compost. Varying seasonally, the average weekly collection yields 300 to 400 pounds per market up to 2000 pounds weekly at the larger markets (Hollywood, Santa Monica) in summer.

Farmer Debby Takikawa of The Garden Of… says, “Food Forward is the perfect answer to the amazing abundance that comes from the farm. Without Food Forward, we’d be leaving food in the field. It’s a wonderful thing to know there’s a place for this food and that Food Forward has the capacity to take it all!”

More than 300 social service agencies across Southern California partner with and benefit from all of Food Forward’s recovery initiatives.

Lack of refrigerated storage makes it difficult for food pantries to provide fresh produce, the item most requested by their clients. Depending on the season, the Farmers Market Recovery Program provides partner agencies with a wide variety of foods from greens, squash, stone fruit, tomatoes, to herbs, root vegetables, bread and more that they can put to immediate use throughout the year.

“We like the work that Food Forward does,” says Craig Underwood of Underwood Farms. “Often those on limited budgets opt for cheap calories and miss out on the good nutrition and healthfulness of fruits and vegetables. We are blessed to be able to grow it and are glad to be able to share it.”

The Farmers Market Recovery Program allows agencies to pick up farm-grown produce directly at the markets nearest to them. Among those served are: A Place Called Home (Brentwood and Studio City); Seeds of Hope (various markets); Family Rescue Center (Calabasas); STAR (Culver City); LA LGBT Center (Hollywood); Project Angel Food (Hollywood); St. Joseph’s Center (Mar Vista); OPCC (Pacific Palisades); Groceryships (Santa Monica Wednesday); Step Up on Second (Santa Monica Wednesday); Torrance (El Nido Family Centers); SOVA (WeHo); Friends In Deed (Pasadena); Cooking Laboratory (Alhambra); and Project Understanding (Ventura).

The produce is tracked and weighed and the farmers receive a tax letter from Food Forward of the end of the year acknowledging their donations, so it’s a win-win for everyone involved.

There’s always room for more Glean Team Leaders and volunteers for the Farmers Market Recovery Program and for all of Food Forward’s initiatives. To find out more, visit or contact


For media inquiries, please email Laura Jellum

Read More: Posted in Community Action, Farmers Market, Farmers Market Recovery, Urban Hunger
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Rookie Volunteer Makes Big Impact
Food Forward Kitchen Volunteer

Jeff (left) shows off our holiday jam line

Jeff has done it all. Since starting as a general volunteer at the Torrance Farmers Market in March 2015, Jeff has spent over 140 hours volunteering with Food Forward. He’s a Glean Team Leader and leads volunteers at the Torrance markets on a regular basis, but that hasn’t stopped him from traveling around Los Angeles County to volunteer at our fruit picks, craft and kitchen days, and community outreach events. He’s always willing to jump in when needed, fill in at other markets, and continues to sign up as a regular volunteer too. We also love having Jeff in the Food Forward family because he’s always up for our fun, fruity, festivities, whether that means coming out to a volunteer meet-up or celebration, or representing Food Forward in Angel City’s Avocado Eating Festival.

So tell me, how did you get started with Food Forward?  

I graduated from college a couple years ago with a degree in Electrical Engineering. But I realized at the last minute that I had no interest in power or improving electrical devices – our society is becoming lazier with each release of “the latest fad.” So I did some exploring and decided to go… “earthy.” I did a Bing search for “gardening volunteering in Torrance” and found out about Food Forward’s gleaning at the Torrance Certified Farmers Market (TCFM) in Torrance. I had no idea what gleaning was and I didn’t know what to expect. But I signed up as a volunteer, anyways, since the farmers market was just on the other side of where I live. After 2 months and about 10 gleans later, I decided to step up to the plate by becoming a Glean Team Leader for the Torrance Farmers Market. And the rest, as they say, is history.

What drew you to Food Forward’s work and mission?

Food Forward’s Farmers Market Recovery program. I mentioned earlier that I didn’t know what gleaning was. Even though I grew up going to church, the word never came up in Sunday School or out of anybody’s mouth. The word may as well have been included in the list of “SAT words Jeff doesn’t know the meaning of.” I had no idea it existed in the Old Testament biblical times and that one of the reputable female Bible characters – Ruth – was a gleaner. It wasn’t until a friend of mine explained to me what it was that I began to see something amazing in the art of gleaning and how it can help our problem of food waste. Even though we aren’t gleaning in someone else’s farm, I think it’s amazing to see such an ancient act brought back into our modern day society.

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

When I’m not volunteering with Food Forward, I’m figuring out my next plan in life, co-leading a group of 7th grade boys in my church, and binge watching TV/Reality TV shows.

What is your favorite part about volunteering with Food Forward? Any particular memories you’d like to share?

Oh my… There are so many awesome things I’ve found about Food Forward that it’s hard to pick one favorite part.

I would first say the gleanings at the Farmers Market. Seeing the boxes stacked and piled after each glean leaves me in a state of awe knowing that we would be giving 300 to 400 pounds of produce (and bread) to local non-profit organizations and agencies that deal with early head start programs, senior centers, kids or youth with physical or mental disabilities, and food banks/grocery distribution.


I  L O V E D  making the Food Forward jams this recent winter! It was something I never experienced growing up, so it was cool to be part the making process and seeing everything unfold from gleaned fruit to jam. And they taste great too!

Any words of wisdom you live by?

“Sincerity means that the appearance and the reality are exactly the same.”  Oswald Chambers

Read More: Posted in Farmers Market Recovery, Los Angeles Volunteer, Urban Fruit Gleaning
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Meet our Super Volunteer “Power Picker” of 2015
Taylor at a Food Forward Harvest

Taylor, second from left, leading a volunteer group

Meet Taylor Crotty, our Volunteer of the Month for December! Taylor has been volunteering with Food Forward since 2013 and has been a Pick Leader for over a year. She’s been such a super-star volunteer that we named her one of our “Power Pickers” of 2015 and awarded her a beautiful “Golden Picker!” Over the past year, Taylor led more picks than nearly any other Pick Leader and has travelled all over Los Angeles County to lead teams of volunteers in Venice, Central LA, and the San Gabriel Valley. She even organizes groups of her family, friends, and co-workers to come out and harvest fruit with Food Forward. All-in-all, we are so lucky to have Taylor as a Super Volunteer Pick Leader, and we hope that you get a chance to meet her at a fruit harvest soon.

The Prestigious "Golden Pickers!"

The Golden Pickers

So tell me, how did you get started with Food Forward?  

I started volunteering with Food Forward through the Backyard Harvesting Program. After a little less than a year picking fruit on the weekends, I attended a Pick Leader Training and have been leading solo and group picks ever since.

What drew you to Food Forward’s work and mission?

Initially I was drawn to Food Forward’s work to reduce food waste and combat hunger. I had recently moved back to Los Angeles and was looking to explore and reconnect with the community. Since volunteering, I have had the opportunity to discover new neighborhoods and see some truly spectacular gardens.

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

When I’m not volunteering, I enjoy hiking, camping, and pickling fruits and vegetables.

What is your favorite part about volunteering with Food Forward? 

I enjoy so many aspects of volunteering, from engaging with property owners and receiving agencies to climbing fruit trees. It is truly inspirational meeting people from Venice beach to Boyle Heights who care and are engaged in their community advocating for food justice.

Any particular memories you’d like to share?

I finally got to try zapote!

Taylor at a pick!

Read More: Posted in Backyard Harvest, Los Angeles Volunteer
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We are hiring: Farmers Market Recovery Program Coordinator (Temp)

POSITION: Farmers Market Recovery Program Coordinator (Temp)
ORGANIZATION: Food Forward (501.c.3 non-profit),
HOURS: 40 hours/week
LOCATION: North Hollywood office and in the field


The Farmers Market Recovery Program (FMR) is an innovative program that gleans the unsold produce from farmers markets and distributes it to hunger relief agencies around Los Angeles. The program perfectly aligns with Food Forward’s mission, as it addresses the problems of food waste that are often present at farmers markets while combating urban hunger and food access injustices. The FMR program currently has weekly volunteer events at 17 markets across Los Angeles and Ventura Counties.


The Program Coordinator will report to the FMR Manager and will play an important role in organizing and deepening. Weekly responsibilities of the Program Coordinator include coordinating and retaining volunteers; maintaining program logistics; data collection, and; reporting program information to the FMR Manager. Long-term projects will include assisting in the launch of new market gleanings, engaging with program stakeholders, and supporting volunteer and vendor appreciation efforts. The Program Coordinator will have the opportunity to offer new ideas and techniques to improve the program. The schedule would be based on a Monday through Friday work week with occasional hours on the weekends. Occasional weekend work would consist of market volunteer and logistics support which varies in need week-to-week. This position is temporary, while our current Program Coordinator is on maternity leave.


  • Valid Class C Driver’s license and access to a reliable vehicle
  • Ability to lift and move boxes of produce weighing up to 45 lbs from ground
  • Availability to work on Saturdays and Sundays when needed and commit to 40 hours of work per week


  • Extremely organized and efficient with excellent attention to detail
  • Excellent verbal and written communication
  • Team player excited to work with an eclectic bunch of individuals
  • Highly skilled in Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Word, Google Drive, and Dropbox
  • Social media skills, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter
  • Has passion centered around Food Forward’s goals

WAGE: $13.00 – $16.00 / Hr Depending on Experience


Send a cover letter in the body of the email and attach your resume in a PDF version to  The subject line should read, Farmers Market Recovery Program Coordinator – (Your Name).  No phone calls please.  Please follow these instructions to insure that we process your application.

Read More: Posted in Job Opportunity
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Fight Hunger During the Holidays!

Food Forward's Friendsgiving Lunch

Volunteering During the Holiday Season

We just finished the last piece of our Halloween candy, and that means that the rest of the holidays are just around the corner. As an organization devoted to food, we could not be more excited for all of the dinners, pies, and cookies that we will soon get to share with our friends and families. Because food plays such an important role in making the holidays, well, the holidays, these next two months are also a great time to connect with Food Forward volunteer opportunities. We’d love to have you share a little bit of your holidays with us!

Sign up to volunteer!

Here at Food Forward, we like to take extra time during the holidays to think about how our work impacts families across Southern California. While we’re busy year round working to Harvest Food, Fight Hunger, and Build Community, our mission feels especially important to us as we celebrate (and eat!) food with our own families and friends. And we’re not alone! Like big meals, school vacation, and visits from relatives, volunteering during the holidays is an important American tradition. According to VolunteerMatch, Americans will volunteer 15-20% more during these next two months than the rest of the year.

Fruit and Vegetable Turkey - Happy Home Fairy

Volunteer Opportunities for Families

November and December are full to the brim with family events, dinners, and celebrations. They’re also the perfect time to give back as a family and share a really special experience volunteering together. Most of our events are perfect for families and small groups, and parents are welcome to bring children along with them (see our events calendar for information about age restrictions). One of our stellar volunteer families from the Santa Monica Farmers Market wrote that they “are looking forward to volunteering again during the holiday season as a family. We have a lot to be thankful for, and it seems right to show that during Thanksgiving weekend.”

Family Fruit Pick!

Three generations of Persimmon Pickers

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

Holiday Meals at Food Banks and Pantries

November and December are also important months for our partner organizations and for those they serve. Most Food Banks and Pantries offer special holiday grocery distributions and cooked meals for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Hanukkah. Many even give turkeys and other traditional foods. The holiday season can be the busiest time for our Receiving Agencies, who bring in more food and more clients than any other time of year. All the extra effort is worth it to be able to share a food-filled and festive experience with folks who might not be able to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal at home this year.

MEND's Thanksgiving Meal

Volunteers cooking Turkey at MEND Poverty

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

Giving Thanks and Giving Back

We hope that you have wonderful holidays this year filled with family, friends, and food. With the abundance of Southern California’s fruit trees and farms all around us, we have a lot to be thankful for. Most especially, we are thankful for the opportunity to share that abundance with others. We hope that you share your holidays with us this year. Go to our Events Page to see a list of volunteer opportunities or email for more information.

Happy Thanksgiving!

– The Food Forward Team

Lunch at the Fruit Cave!

A view from our “Friendsgiving” Lunch

Read More: Posted in Food, Los Angeles Volunteer, Urban Hunger, Ventura County Volunteer
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