Reflecting on our first decade and looking towards the next

January 17th, 2019

The first pick happened 10 years ago on January 17, 2009 and was led by Food Forward Founder/Executive Director Rick Nahmias (far left)


Dear Fruit Family,

Ten years is a heady milestone for any organization, especially one started with a simple desire to solve a local problem through grassroots efforts. We are somewhat baffled and very proud to announce that we turn ten today!

In early 2009 I noticed fruit rotting in my neighbor’s yards, while also hearing of growing lines at food pantries due to the cratering economy. I recruited a single volunteer (remember Craig’s List?!) and decided to harvest my neighbor Heather’s ridiculously abundant tangerine and navel orange trees to do some good. The result: 3 weekends of tree climbing cloaked in the perfume of California citrus, and a yield of 800 pounds of fruit. That soon grew into 100,000 pounds of hand-harvested fruit by the end of our first year.

Flash forward to 2019, when Food Forward recovers an average of 100,000 pounds of fresh produce every day. 100% of these fruits and vegetables go completely free of charge to food insecure folks across the region. What a long, strange, and wonderful journey it’s been! 

The “now and then” is a bit mind-spinning, but here are some highlights.


In 2009:

· 4 co-founders and a few dozen volunteers
· Produce only came from backyard harvests
· 5 agencies received our almost exclusively-citrus donations
· There was no staff, vehicles, or office
· For much of the year we had no website, ways to raise funds, or even a name


And today:

· 4,000+ volunteers engaged in 2018 

· 5 thriving programs: Backyard Harvest, Farmers Market Recovery, Wholesale Recovery, kNOw Waste, and our newest, Produce Pick-Ups

· 22.5 million pounds of produce recovered in 2018

· 1,800 agencies served across 8 SoCal counties and beyond

· 30 staff and a fleet of 7 vehicles

· Produce recovered for an average of $.09/pound

· Our environmental impact was the equivalent of taking 2,012 cars off the road in 2018

· An estimated 2 million people will receive fruits and vegetables recovered by Food Forward’s programs in 2019

Explore our brand new 10-year timeline to take a look at our journey!


In many ways, it feels like we’re just beginning. But as is our namesake – it’s about looking forward.  

This past weekend we gathered to launch a formal strategic planning process to create the vision for our next five years in Fruitland.  And while it’s too early to tell exactly where we will go, I can say our first and foremost priority is to grow deeper roots to bring food insecure communities and individuals more free, healthy produce.

To accomplish this, we’ll harvest more backyard trees in Fruitland, plant Glean Teams at more farmers markets, distribute more fruits and vegetables via Produce Pick-Ups in underserved neighborhoods, and grow our Wholesale Produce Recovery program with the aid of a new Produce Depot.

This work couldn’t have happened without an incredibly receptive and participatory community supporting us. As we blow out our birthday candles, we have you all to thank for inspiring us to keep dreaming and actualizing what a healthy, food waste-free Southern California can look like.

To show the gratitude we feel for you, the community from which we sprouted, we gift this brand new video (below) produced with Serena Creative to be shown in Laemmle Theatres throughout February. We hope it reflects even a tiny bit of what makes this anniversary such a beautiful and humbling milestone to have reached.   

Thank you, and here’s to another decade of sharing abundance!

Rick Nahmias
Founder/Executive Director


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Food Foward turns 10!

January 17th, 2019

We mark the anniversary by signing the lease for our Produce Depot near DTLA. This new warehouse space will enable Food Forward to recover and donate 40 million pounds of produce each year, doubling its current produce recovery efforts. The 6,000 square foot Produce Depot will expand our capacity with refrigeration, dry storage, workspace for staff, a new software system to track produce, food recovery equipment, and two new box trucks

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Don’t miss LA FOODWAYS on KCET

January 10th, 2019

A documentary from filmmaker Raphael Sbarge (A Concrete River: Reviving the Waters of Los Angeles) and KCET, LA FOODWAYS features Food Forward amongst other SoCal based organizations and looks at the storied agricultural history of Los Angeles to understand present food waste challenges and opportunities to bring fresh foods to urban communities. 

From the importance of orange crops in the 19th century to the massive scale of food waste in the U.S., the film is a deep dive into the different manners in which local organizations are coming together to ensure the future of agriculture in the region in order to identify environmentally friendly solutions for the future.


See it on KCET on Wednesday, February 6, 2019 at 8 pm PST.



Join the conversation on social media using #LAFoodways

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Celebrate our work in Ventura County!

January 3rd, 2019

Come celebrate 6 years of harvesting food and fighting hunger together!

Agricultural abundance is the legacy of Southern California, and it’s what makes Food Forward’s work possible still today. That’s especially true in Ventura County, where our organization has flourished over the past 6 years, redistributing over 1 million pounds of surplus produce across the county with support from community partners like you.

So, where better to celebrate our collective achievements than at the Agriculture Museum?!

February 10, 2019 from 1 to 4 PM
Museum of Ventura County Agricultural Museum in Santa Paula
Free Admission and Open Wine & Beer Bar (21+)


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The Spring Melt returns…

January 1st, 2019

You’re invited to eat, drink, and be merry in celebration of Food Forward’s first decade!

Come dine, imbibe, and vibe at Food Forward’s 2019 Spring Melt: Celebrating 10 Years of Sharing Abundance on April 13, 2019 at The Jim Henson Company in Hollywood. 



Interested in learning more about the event or becoming a corporate partner?
Visit this page for more details!

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Food Forward holds 2,280 volunteer-powered events

December 31st, 2018

4,050 individuals volunteer with Food Forward in 2018, and give 23,240 hours of their time to help us fight hunger and food waste.

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Food Forward produce reaches 1,800 hunger relief agencies

December 1st, 2018

Now, 1,800 partner agencies across Southern California receive Food Forward recovered produce.

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Supporting Our Neighbors Affected by the Wildfires

November 15th, 2018

11.15.18 — Hundreds of thousands of people across Southern California are being impacted by the Woolsey and Hill Fires. Read on for resources and ways you can support those affected by these devastating wildfires.

Volunteers with Bakers Kneaded (including our friends Michelle Lainez and Clemence Gossett) prepare sandwiches for first responders. Photo from Tehachapi Grain Project on Instagram.


It feels like 2017 all over again with the fierce Santa Ana winds and fires burning rapidly through our woodlands. The Hill and Woolsey Fires started on November 7 and, to date, have burned approximately 102,500 acres, displacing hundreds of thousands of people and threatening thousands of homes and structures. Nearly everyone in our region has been affected directly or indirectly in some way, but many people in the Food Forward family have been severely impacted by these wildfires. We keep all of you in our hearts and minds during this trying time.

For real-time emergency information, visit Ventura County Emergency Information.


If you can donate:

Before you donate items or money, please do your research. These New York Times and Ventura County Star articles include helpful information about organizations that are working on the frontline of the fire relief and can use your support.


If you can help:

The United Methodist Church of Thousand Oaks could use help with their food distribution program. They are helping those affected by the fires as well as their normal clients in need. You can contact them here.

Bakers Kneaded is preparing, packaging, and delivering food to the firefighters on the frontline. Learn more and get involved by visiting them on Instagram. 

World Central Kitchen is looking for volunteers with kitchen experience. Sign up here.


If you have resources to share or ways people can help, please email us. Food Forward will have more updates on our efforts to support communities impacted by the fires in the coming week.

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All About the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act

October 31st, 2018

10.31.18 — Did you know that there are state and federal laws that protect food donations? Read on to find out more about the Good Samaritan Food Donation Acts that encourage food recovery work like ours!

 As a volunteer with Food Forward, you are protected from liability by
the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. Glean on! 

What is the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act?

In 1996, Bill Clinton signed the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, a federal law that protects people and organizations who donate food in good faith from liability. The breakdown: when you glean oranges with Food Forward and those get donated to a food pantry, you, Food Forward, and the pantry are protected from civil and criminal liability.


Ok, but what exactly does this law do?

The law provides a few key protections: it protects any business or gleaner from civil or criminal liability due to the age, packaging, or condition of wholesome foods or grocery products donated in good faith to a nonprofit organization. In the bill, food is defined as any raw, cooked, processed, or prepared edible substance, ice, beverage, or ingredient…for human consumption,” and grocery product is defined as “a nonfood grocery product, including a disposable paper or plastic product, household cleaning product, [or] laundry detergent.” Both categories of items must be “apparently fit” in order to be covered by these protections, this means that the item must meet federal, state, and local standards for quality and labeling. 

The Good Samaritan Food Donation Act also protects nonprofit organizations who directly distribute this donated food to individuals from civil or criminal liability arising from the quality of the food. These two protections exist as long as there is not “gross negligence” from the individual or nonprofit – meaning the donors knew the food was unfit for consumption but donated it anyway. 


Perfectly good lemons, tangerines, and grapefruits, ready to be donated.

If the Federal Law exists, why do we need a California law?

Despite the protections offered by the 1996 legislation, many potential donors were not donating to food banks and other food distribution organizations due to liability concerns. A survey conducted in 2016 found that among restaurants, manufacturers, and retailers, 25-44% cited fears over liability as a top barrier to donating food. In order to encourage more food donations, California legislators and food waste and hunger relief advocates collaborated to simplify and strengthen the existing protections.

In 2017, Governor Jerry Brown signed the California Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, a bill which expands on the state’s existing legal protections for those who donate food. The bill was authored by Assemblymember Eggman and includes the following provisions: it reaffirms the protections from civil and criminal liability outlined in the federal bill, with the additional statement that donations of food fit for consumption which has exceeded its labeled shelf life date are protected by the law. Additionally, the law provides an important change to the Health and Safety Code by requiring health inspection officers to promote recovery and donation of suitable food during inspections. Prior to this clause, no state had ever mandated outreach and education for food donation laws. 


 These laws enable our agency partners, such as the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust
(pictured here), to safely distribute fresh fruits and veggies to members of our community.

What this means for Food Forward

These laws are a big part of what makes our work possible, but we don’t take them for granted. Food Forward believes that all people deserve access to fresh, healthy, and delicious fruits and vegetables — so even though we are recovering food that would have normally gone to waste, nothing we donate is actually trash-worthy. In our Backyard Harvest program, our volunteer leaders are trained to pick fruit when it’s ripe to ensure freshness. Our Farmers Market Recovery program receives the extra produce that vendors have left-over, so these fruits and vegetables are market quality. And, our Wholesale Produce Recovery team carefully vets each pallet to make sure we are only taking the best of what we are offered. Our agency partners expect and deserve fresh, high quality produce, and we take pride in ensuring that they receive it.


Awesome! What can I do?

Even with these laws in place, so much perfectly good food is wasted every day. Many businesses, organizations, and individuals are afraid of the potential legal risk of donating food, so it ends up in a “safer” place—the trash. But thanks to the federal law and several state laws such as California’s, there’s no reason not to find a better home for all of that perfectly good food. If you know a person or business who could donate their unused produce, prepared food, packaged food, or household products, tell them about the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. You can also share this post on social media to get the word out! Lastly, support our work, come volunteer with us, and be an active member in fighting hunger and food waste in your community.

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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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