Happy MLK Day!

January 16th, 2017

1.16.17 – Today, January 16th, we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This national holiday, which falls on the third Monday of January every year, honors the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s work and legacy.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

In recognition of Dr. King’s efforts and intentions for the benefit of all people, MLK day became a nationwide day of service in the 1990’s. It is officially part of United We Serve, the president’s call to service initiative. This means that all around the country, folks like you will be teaming up for the day with awesome organizations to better their communities.

Here at Food Forward, we’re proud to be a part of the MLK Day of Service program! We had a great time working with students from Occidental College and USC last year over Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend.

Oxy Volunteers MLK Day 2016

Volunteering for MLK Day

So what can YOU do to help?

If you’re reading this today and you would like to help out, you’re in luck! This is the perfect time of year to get involved in the work we’re doing. We rely on our excellent volunteers and we want you to join us in any way you can. Want to pick fruit? We’ve got opportunities multiple days a week. Want to help at a farmer’s market? We’re in markets all over the Los Angeles area. Want to help in some other way? You can!

Everything you need to know about volunteering with Food Forward can be found here, along with our calendar for the next couple of months.

Sign up to volunteer!

Below are just a few of our upcoming events:

  • Tangerine Harvest in Goleta: 1/21 & 1/28
  • Glean Team Leader Training and Info session: 2/11
  • Volunteer Orientation for New Volunteers: 2/15
  • Community Ambassador Training: 2/25

Volunteers at the Huntington Gardens

We hope to see you soon!

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What is Asian Citrus Psyllid?

January 9th, 2017

1.9.17 – ACP? HLB? If you’ve heard these abbreviations, or their even-more-confusing full names, you might be trying to wrap your head around what people are talking about. Here’s a quick and dirty introduction to Asian citrus psyllid and HLB, and why you should care about it.

Asian Citrus Psyllid on a Leaf

What is ACP (and HLB) and why you should care?

The Asian citrus psyllid (aka “ACP”) is a small bug that eats the leaves and stems of citrus (orange, grapefruit, lemon, etc) trees. While the bug is not harmful to people, it is an efficient vector for spreading the bacterial citrus disease known as huanglongbing (aka “HLB”), previously called citrus greening disease, which is one of the most destructive diseases of citrus worldwide. Once a tree is infected with HLB, the quality of it’s fruit will deteriorate and the tree will eventually die.

A federal quarantine restricts all movement of citrus and Rutaceae (the citrus family of plants) into California in order to prevent introduction of the psyllid or the disease from outside the state. Currently the California Department of Food and Agriculture is working to eradicate HLB by tracking the presence of both the bug ACP and the disease HLB, and if necessary, establishing quarantines to prevent either from spreading. If the psyllid and the disease were to become established in California, the disease would devastate the citrus industry as well as kill backyard trees.

Close-up image of ACP pest

What is Food Forward doing about it?

Since we depend on the abundance of California’s citrus trees, Food Forward is committed to preventing the spread of ACP and HLB, and educating our community about the disease:

1) Educating homeowners about how to minimize the risk of disease spread by implementing the solarizing method.

2) Instructing volunteers to place leaves/stems of the citrus in a bag that is left to dry in a sunny, open area.

What is Solarizing?

Solarizing is the practice of packing citrus sticks, leaves, and twigs into a plastic trash bag and leaving the bag out in the sun until everything dries out completely. This effectively kills any psyllid pests that may be on the sticks or leaves.

Solarizing eliminates the potential for insect travel between different properties or while in transit. The psyllid lives on, consumes, and travels on the foliage. By leaving plant matter on site or solarizing it before it leaves the property, it reduces the potential spread of the disease.

Use a trash bag to kill ACP pests

What can YOU do?

If you have a citrus tree or are harvesting a friend’s:

1 – Pack all sticks, leaves, and twigs into a plastic trash bag.

2 – Let bag of foliage sit in the sun until everything is completely dried out.

3 – Dispose of foliage properly (use as mulch under trees, put in your yard waste bin, etc.)

4 – Recycle, reuse, or save the bag until the next harvest.

If you suspect your tree has the psyllid or the disease, please call the California Dept. of Food and Agriculture pest hotline at 800-491-1899.

Learn More:

Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program 

University of California’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources ACP Distribution and Management site

More Fruit Tree Care Resources

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Gleaning Gardens to Share our Surplus

January 3rd, 2017

1.3.17 – Do you know that Food Forward has a special Pick Leader who is growing gardens for people in need? That’s right! John Parmenter, our Volunteer of the Month for January 2017, has been cultivating gardens at two locations – one in a backyard of a Food Forward fruit donor and one at his community garden – for over 6 months now and donating the gleanings to Turning Point Foundation in Ventura. Every Thursday, John tends to the gardens, harvests any ripe produce, and delivers it all to this local agency. If that isn’t fresh produce, we don’t know what is!

Volunteers at a squash harvest

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

Well, my wife and I retired from teaching in the Los Angeles Unified School District a few years ago, and with more time on our hands we looked to volunteer some of that free time to help others. I went online and found the Food Forward site, and felt it was the right fit for me.

At that time I remember reading about the need for volunteers to pick squash in Camarillo so I signed up. It was very hot work that day, but we managed to fill quite a few boxes. That was my first pick.

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

The Food Forward mission makes perfect sense to me. With an abundance of food to share in our community there’s no need for anyone to go hungry. It’s simply a matter of gathering the surplus and delivering it to those in need.  

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

I try to stay active to fill my days, and so far it seems to be working. I’ve been an avid fly fisherman for many years and this interest has kept me busy with a number of projects. When I’m not out fly fishing in the local Ventura surf, I’m usually doing something fly-fishing related like tying flies, writing about the sport, or crafting bamboo fly rods.

I also enjoy organic gardening and have been maintaining small garden plots for years. Currently I have two plots at a community garden in Ventura, and most of what I grow now is donated to Food Forward.

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

Whenever I finish a pick, and run a delivery to one of our agencies, I always walk away with a good feeling knowing that people will benefit directly from my efforts. What could be better than that?

Any words of wisdom you live by?

Stay active, stay involved, and allot time in your life for helping others!

Leafy greens ready to be gleaned

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Produce of the Month: Winter Greens

December 19th, 2016


This month, the sweet ripe peaches and strawberries of last summer have faded to dusty memories and when we look outside at what’s growing in Southern California we see greens, greens, and greens.

There seems to be an endless list of greens, most of which grow this time of year, and a huge number of them are available here in our backyards. This is great news because it means that we can learn in-depth about varieties local to Southern California as we showcase their flavors in our cooking.

Today, we’ll profile three greens to give you a head start on winter cooking. Keep in mind, there are tons of other interesting greens out there and many recipes allow substitutions for one green over another. So take a look at whatever you’ve got at home and let’s get going!


 The very well-known: Kale

Kale is a leafy green that has such high levels of vitamins and minerals, it’s often listed as a “superfood.” It’s part of a plant species called Brassica oleracea (which includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage) and is an excellent source of calcium and iron. It has been cultivated by humans for 6000 years and its 50 varieties are grown all around the world.

Kale even has its own official day – October 5th!

You can plant Kale in containers or in the ground in SoCal in the fall, winter, and early spring. It benefits from some frost and it is harvest-ready when the individual leaves are the size of your hand. Store it in plastic in the refrigerator and use it raw or cooked. If you find it too dry in salads, try massaging the leaves before eating them.



The familiar: Bok Choy

This sweet white and green winter vegetable, also known as Brassica rapa, is a type of Chinese cabbage. It is native to China (which is why it’s historically been used in Chinese cuisines) but it is now also grown in Europe and America. These days, it is an all-purpose vegetable that can do heaving lifting in stir-frys, steamed dishes, and soups. It packs a great punch nutritionally as well, with high levels of vitamin A and C.

Growing bok choy requires rich, loose soil and cool weather. The leaves grow close together (similar to celery) and should be harvested when they are 12 to 18 inches tall. Both the green part and the white part of the plant can be eaten and are delicious, just make sure to thoroughly wash them first.


The hardly-known-at-all: Water Spinach

Water spinach, botanically classified as Ipomoea aquatica, is native to parts of Asia. Its leaves and shoots are typically enjoyed in their early growing stages and have a mild, sweet flavor. Eaten fresh or cooked, they are nutritious and delicious and should always be used as soon as they are picked. They are a staple in many Asian cuisines. While water spinach may taste slightly like the spinach you’ve had before, it is actually more closely related to sweet potatoes!

If you find water spinach growing here in California, you’ll be looking at a piece of history. Why is that? Water spinach was brought to the US in the 1970s and it started growing out of control. Because this invasive plant crowds out other native species, it has been federally regulated for decades. It’s listed as a noxious weed in many states, meaning it can’t be planted without permission.





These simple recipes are written for specific winter greens, but other greens can absolutely be substituted instead. Pick substitutions with similar structure and texture for the best results, and don’t be afraid to get creative!

Hearty Winter Greens Sauté

Winter Greens Salad with Roasted Pear and Pecorino

Warm Wilted Winter Greens

Vegan Stir Fry with Mushrooms and Water Spinach

Coconut Water Spinach Stems

Spicy Bok Choy Slaw

Bok Choy Steamed Rice












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Colleges Lead the Way in the Fight Against Hunger

December 5th, 2016

12.5.16 – While celebrating what we’re thankful for, we recognize that far too many people do not have access to the same resources, privileges, and basic human necessities. One of the things we are most thankful for is the opportunity for us to be involved in the fight to end hunger across Southern California, and all of the amazing partners we have the opportunity to work with. This week we are giving a shout-out to college groups that have highlighted the need for food justice, and taken initiative to address hunger on college campuses.

Student Hunger

Student hunger is not new, but until recently food access at colleges and universities has not received as much national attention as it deserves. Stigmas associated with poverty, homelessness, and food assistance programs have reinforced a lack of visibility of food security on college campuses, while research into hunger and food insecurity (generally defined as a lack of reliable access to enough food) has focused more on other demographics and communities. That is, fortunately, beginning to change.

A recent study found that 1 in 5 students within the California State University system does not have access to enough food, while 1 in 10 is homeless. Estimates from recent surveys at UCLA also put the rate of food insecurity among students at 20%, much higher than the average rate of food insecurity for the whole U.S. population (15.9% in 2012, according to Feeding America).

1 in 5 students within the California State University system does not have reliable access to enough food

As it becomes clearer that food insecurity is a huge problem for school communities, students and faculty are taking action. Colleges and students have placed a large emphasis on community engagement, activism, and service for a long time, but now they have begun to address the need for change on campus. Many schools have created innovative programs to address student hunger, and we’re excited to introduce a few amazing programs.

LACC Gleans Larchmont

Food Forward began working with LACC in early 2014, one of our first partnerships with a University group interested in combating student hunger. The President of the Associated Student Government at the time, Food Forward Super Volunteer Heidi Johnson, approached us with the opportunity to help them launch a Resource Center that provides food, clothing, and other items to low-income students and members of the campus community. For the past two years, Heidi has been coming out regularly to the Larchmont Farmers Market to lead teams of volunteers in gleaning produce from vendors at the market. Most weeks, 100% of that produce goes straight back to the LACC Resource Center to help students, faculty, and staff.

LACC Gleaners at the Larchmont Farmers Market

UCLA’s Glean Team

Having already successfully launched one farmers market in cooperation with a local University, Food Forward was already on the lookout for more opportunities to connect with students fighting hunger. Late last year a former Food Forward student intern involved with the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative formed a “Glean Team” of student volunteers who have been coming out to collect hundreds of pounds of produce from farmers markets near campus every Sunday. The students bring this produce back to UCLA, where they distribute food to low-income students at the UCLA Food Closet and 580 Café Food Pantry.

Students Feeding Students at SMC

Another effort that we’ve been lucky enough to be a part of is the Students Feeding Students event at Santa Monica College. SMC Students from the Club Grow club go out to a number of Farmers Markets once every semester to glean surplus produce from farmers and take it back to campus. They organize a free “farmers market” where students and others can check out and take home an amazing variety of fresh, local produce. The event, which has been going for a few years now, is very popular with students and other SMC members and draws a big crowd of “shoppers” every semester.

Free Student Farmers Market

The Campus Hunger Project

Two of our amazing partner organizations in the fight against hunger – Challah for Hunger and Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger – have teamed up to start a new initiative addressing hunger on college campuses. They are bringing together resources for students, advocates, supporters, and anyone who is trying to learn more about or act on this issue. They are also empowering students and other members of college communities to speak up and advocate for better food access for all. If you’re interested in learning more or getting further involved, we definitely recommend checking them out:

Visit The Campus Hunger Project

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LA Weekly Presents Sips & Sweets 12/2/16

November 19th, 2016



In its third year, LA Weekly’s now annual holiday party will feature over 15 of the city’s top bakers, over 20 of LA’s most respected mixologists and more local LA artisanal craftspeople. Join us Friday, December 2nd from 8pm – 11pm and sample delicious confections, sip on handcrafted cocktails and shop for amazing holiday gifts and trinkets. Curated by the LA Weekly’s own food critic Besha Rodell and Katherine Spiers, this eating, drinking and shopping extravaganza is one not to be missed. A portion of the proceeds benefit Food Forward. This event is 21+.

Date: Friday, December 2nd, 2016

Time: 8 – 11 pm (VP hour 7 – 8 pm)

Where: Peterson Auto Museum; 6060 Wilshire Blvd; Los Angeles, CA 90036


Buy tickets

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Fall Fruit Recipes: Pomegranates & Persimmons

November 15th, 2016



As the days here in Southern California are getting shorter and shorter, fall has arrived. That means it’s prime time to focus on two fruits we haven’t seen yet this year: pomegranates and persimmons! These attention-grabbing brightly-colored fruits peek out from among green leaves, demanding to be eaten. But, if you’re like many people, you’re not entirely sure what to do with them. You’ve seen them as decoration on thanksgiving tables, but is that all they’re good for? Definitely not! Today we’re sharing two easy and delicious recipes submitted by readers of our Fresh Juice newsletter so you can enjoy these beautiful and seasonal fruits right now.




Some fun facts about pomegranates:

-They are native to Iran and parts of the Mediterranean, and were brought the California in 1769.

-The fruit is a symbol of prosperity, abundance, and fertility.

-They are an excellent source of vitamins and antioxidants, and can help reduce inflammation.

-Pomegranate trees reach average heights of 12-16 feet and can live for over 200 years, although their vigor declines after 15 years.

-They are often consumed in juice form.

For more information, check out http://www.crfg.org/pubs/ff/pomegranate.html


Pomegranate Crunch by Barbara Jebejian

Prep time: 10 minutes



1 pomegranate

2 handfuls of walnuts (or other favorite nut)

1 teaspoon of sugar (or more, if desired)

Pinch of cinnamon


1. Remove seeds from pomegranate (for tips on how to do this, check out this video!).

2. Roughly chop walnuts into bite-sized pieces.

3. Mix pomegranate seeds and walnut pieces in a bowl.

4. Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon on top and stir to combine.

5. Use as a delicious topping on cereal, oatmeal, or yogurt.


Persimmons from Food Forward Harvest


Some fun facts about persimmons:

-They are native to China and over two thousand varieties have been cultivated for centuries.

-They were brought to California in 1870 and by 1930, our state had over 200,000 persimmon trees.

-Two varieties are mainly grown here today: Fuyu (light orange, spherical, eaten raw) and Hachiya (orange-red, acorn shape, usually used in baked goods).

-Persimmons have high vitamin and mineral content, especially when it comes to vitamin A, C, E, and B6.

For more information, check out: http://www.crfg.org/pubs/ff/persimmon.html


Persimmon Panzanella by Joanie Simon (Submitted by Sarah Spitz)

Prep time:  15 mins

Cook time:  15 mins

Total time:  30 mins



1 9inx9in prepared cornbread (homemade or store-bought)

3 ripe, sweet persimmons, chopped

8 ounces aged cheddar cheese, cubed

¼ cup mint, chopped, chiffonade style

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon whole grain mustard

¼ teaspoon salt (plus more to taste)

½ cup oil (olive or grapeseed)


1. Preheat the oven to 300F.

2. Cut the cornbread up into 1 inch cubes and spread out over a baking sheet.

3. Bake cubes for 10 minutes. Rotate cubes and continue baking another 5 minutes until cubes are slightly crisped on the outside.

4. Place cornbread, persimmon, cheddar cheese, and mint in a mixing bowl.

5. Combine garlic, red wine vinegar, mustard, salt, and oil together in a jar. Cover the jar and shake to emulsify. Add salt to taste.

6. Drizzle dressing all over the bread mixture. Toss and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes to allow dressing to soak into the bread.

7. Serve garnished with extra mint and enjoy!



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Passionate about Produce

November 14th, 2016

11.14.16 – Meet Bekki, our Volunteer-of-the-Month for November! Bekki approached us this past May to let us know that she was “strangely passionate about fruit” and wanted to get involved. We knew right away that she had come to the right place. Bekki started as a Program Assistant with our Backyard Harvest Program, helping our team follow-up with fruit-tree donors and coordinate all our various backyard picks. She’s also a Pick Leader, and has helped us get the last bit of summer citrus and the first few fall fruits these past couple of months. She’s been an absolutely amazing volunteer leader, and we hope that you get a chance to pick fruit with her soon!

Our Volunteer of November

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

I was looking for volunteer work and stumbled upon Food Forward on the Volunteer Match website. I was super excited by Food Forward’s mission, so I was persistent in my efforts to get in touch and get involved!

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

I loved the idea of solving two problems at once: preventing food waste and providing healthy food to those in need, while building community across our vast metropolis. I’m also strangely passionate about fruit. My family owned a produce company for years in Arizona, my grandpa peddled produce out of his van all around our town for 40 years, and I enjoyed joining him whenever I could.

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

In a former life, I helped create software for a tech company. I have two young daughters (4 and 2) who keep me running in circles. I love practicing yoga, jogging, and hiking. I also enjoy trying new restaurants and recipes, and exploring my neighborhood on foot.

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

I really love the picks: there’s something really meditative about picking fruit and being in nature. I find myself feeling super focused and determined when picking. And in the office, it is really amazing to be surrounded by people who care so much about the mission; who are authentic, smart, interesting, and hard-working. When I first started volunteering in the office, I was super impressed that so many people could carry on phone conversations in the same office simultaneously (talk about focus!).

Any words of wisdom you live by?

Two nuggets from my grandpa (“The Vegetable Man”): Grab the bull by the horns, and kick butt! And, Giving is living.

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Mulching – What, Why, and How

November 7th, 2016

11.7.16 – Mulching may seem intimidating, but it is not as difficult as it seems, and it can be very beneficial to the health and size of citrus trees. How much can adding a natural extra layer on top of the soil really do? This piece was written by Food Forward staff and Catherine Achy, one of our student interns from UCLA, and is part of our essential series on fruit tree care.

What is mulch?

Mulch is any type of organic material that is spread over soil as a cover. Some examples include bark, twigs, leaves, wood chips, grass clippings, pine needles, newspaper, cardboard, compost, and manure.

Mulch has many benefits for soil and plants. By covering the soil, it reduces the evaporation rate from the soil, locking in moisture and increasing the amount of water available to plants and soil biology (and cutting down your water bill!). This also keeps the soil temperatures cooler. In addition, it breaks down over time to provide nutrients for microorganisms in the soil which increases biodiversity. The drier and thicker the mulch, the longer it will take to break down into soil. Mulch will suppress the growth of weeds and can have add a nice aesthetic to a residential yard.

Especially important for us here in Southern California, citrus trees treated with green manure have been shown to be larger in tree and fruit size than those treated with animal manure.

New citrus tree with mulch


How to Mulch?

Food Forward recommends that all tree owners mulch their trees in order to save water and increase the health of the trees. This could be as easy as leaving the leaves that fall from the tree. There are also sometimes local options for free mulch in your community including local tree trimming companies, holiday straw bales, and excess plant material from other parts of yours or your neighbors’ yards. Many garden care stores also sell a variety of mulch types for landscaping use. We recommend choosing a natural mulch rather than a synthetic mulch so the tree receives added benefits.

  • Add a 2 to 4 inch layer of mulch around the base of the tree. This prevents weeds from growing while still allowing water to reach the soil.
  • Keep the mulch 12 to 24 inches away from the tree trunk. Mulch, and the water it stores, can contribute to fungi growth.
  • Maintain your mulch layer year round.

Mulching Illustration

Mulching Examples

What to use?

Natural and organic mulches decay over time, adding nutrients to the soil, making them a better alternative to their synthetic counterparts. Yard waste is an easy and cost effective option. Using yard waste as mulch helps to solve the urban waste disposal issue. 20% of soil waste in landfills is yard waste, and using this to mulch instead of throwing it away helps to lessen this amount.

  • Grass trimmings
  • Fallen leaves
  • Pine needles
  • Compost
  • Wood chips from local trees

Different types of mulch


You can read more about mulching at http://homeguides.sfgate.com/gardening/. Mulch, mulch, mulch! And after you mulch, be sure to check out our other resources for tree-lovers like you here:

Learn more about Fruit Tree Care

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Can You Pizza It?

October 31st, 2016

10.31.16 – Happy Halloween! In honor of the holiday of dressing up, we’ve got a piece on how to dress up your old leftovers, and while you’re at it, save money and help reduce food waste. This piece was written by Janet Quan, one of our amazing student interns from UCLA.

Fix food waste with pizza! You can take ingredients that are approaching their expiration date in your pantry or fridge, and instead of tossing it away, why not toss it on your pizza? Pizza is reliably tasty, it is inexpensive, all age groups enjoy it, and the varieties are endless. Pizza crust can be bread slices, baguettes, bagels, and even eggplant while pizza sauce can be mashed tomatoes, sweet potatoes, or avocado. Below are some recipes that serve to stimulate your creativity, not to limit it.


Re-imagine your crust:


Have a French baguette you fear might get stale soon, pizza it.

Creative Pizza Crust




Eggplant Pizza Crust



Re-imagine your pizza sauce:


If you bought too many avocados because they were on sale, pizza it.

Avocado Pizza Sauce




Extra ingredients from Mexican night? Pizza It!

Leftover Bean Pizza




Do not limit what can be pizza sauce. Even a root can bud into pizza sauce.

Pizza with sweet potatos



Completely re-image your pizza:


If cream cheese = the sauce, fruits = the topping, bagel = the crust, then cream cheese + fruits + bagel = pizza!

Creative Fruit Pizza




Mediterranean Style Pizza




Who said a pizza had to be flat and round?

A rolled and fried pizza




In my Vietnamese household, we call banh xeo the pizza of Vietnam.

"Vietnamese Pizza"


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