When It All Makes Sense…

March 5th, 2018

Meet our Volunteer of the Month:
Barbara Daouda!

While a regular volunteer since 2016, Barbara found that there weren’t a lot of harvests in her area so she took matters into her own hands and, with a little encouragement, trained to be a Pick Leader this past October. Since training, she has travelled all over Fruitland, from Culver City to Goleta, leading harvests and rescuing fruit. Barbara always comes through in a pinch and has become a go-to leader in both Ventura and LA County. We are extremely lucky to have such a reliable leader who is always ready for a harvest – wherever it may be.

Food Forward's Volunteer of the Month, Barbara

How did you learn about Food Forward?

I learned about Food Forward from a friend who posted a picture on Facebook of her volunteering at a pick. I asked her to tell me more about it, checked out the website and signed up for a pick. My first pick was a lemon pick at Bentwood led by Lynda Gorov. I was really impressed with how well everything was organized and how easy it was to volunteer.

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

The program made sense to me. Picking fruit someone cannot use and making it available to those in need means both sides benefit. It’s a perfect match. Having grown up on a farm, I know how much work it takes to grow things and I don’t like wasting food. That’s why Food Forward’s programs resonated with me.

What is your favorite part of the Food Forward experience?

My favorite part of the Food Forward experience are the picks. There is something very satisfying about picking ripe fruit and knowing that someone will get to enjoy it.

How did you become a Food Forward Pick Leader?

I volunteered on and off for a couple of years, but was finding it hard to find picks in my area. I mentioned this to the leader on one of the picks and he encouraged me to step up to be a pick leader. It sounded like too much to take on at first so I didn’t commit right away. After a few weeks, I filled out an application, got trained by Ally, the Ventura County Supervisor, and before I knew it, I was scouting properties and leading picks.

Is there a particularly powerful volunteering moment you’d like to share?

I already knew I would enjoy the picks, but I also met some amazing people along the way from volunteers to office staff to homeowners, everyone has been wonderful to interact with. I’m not the most outgoing person, but everyone in the program is very approachable and friendly. I’m loving the whole experience.

What do you do when you’re not volunteering?

When I’m not volunteering, I work for a real estate company. I love to cook, garden, travel and spend time outdoors, ideally with my 15 year old son.

Volunteers at a fruit harvest

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Celebrating 50 Million Pounds Recovered and Donated!

February 27th, 2018


On February 23, 2018, Food Forward supporters, staff, and volunteers gathered at the Franklin Canyon Orange Grove in Beverly Hills to celebrate a milestone 50 million pounds of produce recovered and donated! Over the last 9 years, we’ve celebrated milestones such as our first 1 million pounds, hitting 10 million pounds., etc, but 50 million feels like we’re taking things to a whole new level. This celebration was an opportunity to look back on what we’ve accomplished and thank those who’ve lent an incredible amount of hard work and support for what we do.


Remarks were made by Rick Nahmias, Founder and Executive Director of Food Forward, Nancy Volpert, Director of Public Policy & Strategic Initiatives of JFS SOVA and Food Forward Board Member, Michael Fleming, Executive Director of the David Bohnett Foundation, Judith Kieffer, Executive Director of the Los Angeles Parks Foundation, Jackie Keene, the District Director for LA City Councilmember Paul Krekorian, Mark Brown, District Representative from Senator Herzberg’s Office of the 18th State Senate District, Jeanalee Obergfell, Senior Policy Analyst in Sustainability in the Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti, Andre Villasenor, Environmental Protection Specialist for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Commissioner Heather Repenning, the Vice President of the Los Angeles Board of Public Works.


We had so many Food Forward friends join us– those who have been with the organization from the beginning, new supporters, board members, former staff members, old interns, and even a couple of babies! It was great to see everyone come together to celebrate this amazing milestone.

The orange grove was looking particularly abundant on this sunny and windy morning, which was perfect for our celebratory orange harvest (those next 50 million pounds aren’t going to pick themselves!) where everyone had the opportunity to get their hands dirty. Together, we gleaned more than 1,500 pounds of oranges. Back in 2009, Jewish Family Service’s SOVA was the very first agency to receive produce from Food Forward, and on Friday, they received our 50 millionth pound. We love that things have come full circle, and we’re looking forward to the next 50 million pounds and beyond!

Read about it on LAmag.com!



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Hey South Bay! Our Harvest Program is coming to you!

January 31st, 2018

1.31.18 – Have you been looking at our volunteer calendar and bemoaning the lack of fruit picks in your neighborhood? Do you live in Palos Verdes? Torrance? Perhaps Manhattan Beach? If we’re anywhere close, then we have got some exciting news for you:

Backyard Fruit Harvesting is coming to the South Bay!

Two happy fruit picking volunteers

Food Forward in the South Bay

Food Forward has been serving the South Bay for years. Every week our volunteers are out collecting produce at the Torrance Farmers Market and Long Beach Marina Farmers Market, and we work with an awesome group of South Bay hunger-relief agencies. Kicking off 2018, we are proud to announce that our Backyard Harvest Program is now putting down roots along the coast from Long Beach to Manhattan Beach.

With the helping hands of our amazing volunteers, in 2017 the Backyard Harvest Program harvested over 350,000 pounds of fresh produce throughout Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, Riverside & San Bernardino counties. We know there is still more fruit out there, and can’t wait to start picking fruit with all of our South Bay supporters!

Help us spread the word!

We are seeking homeowners with fruit trees and folks interested in volunteering at upcoming harvest events. If you live or know people in the region, please post on NextDoor or social media outlets to help us spread the word.

Spread the Word!

Volunteer in the South Bay!

Check out our volunteer calendar to see upcoming volunteer opportunities around the region. You can also attend our South Bay Volunteer Orientation on Saturday, Feburary 10 to learn more.

Sign up for our upcoming Volunteer Orientation

Food Forward volunteers with a wall of fruit boxes

If you have questions about our Backyard Harvest Program, or how to get involved in the South Bay, you can always reach out to our team at volunteer@foodforward.org. Can’t wait to see you out there!

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How you can help those impacted by the Thomas Fire

December 21st, 2017

Support Relief efforts across Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties to provide support to our Southern California neighbors.

Feeding the firemen fighting the Thomas Fire: José Andrés of World Central Kitchen hands out Ojai-grown tangerines from Churchill Orchards collected by Food Forward.


The Thomas Fire is something that we Southern Californians always knew in the back of our minds could happen, but we likely never really thought it would happen to us. Yet it did. And what we witnessed in the face of crisis is a strong, resilient, compassionate, and proud community. Food Forward would like to recognize that, as a community partner in Ventura for the last 7 years, we are in this together, with you all.

As the Thomas Fire continues to burn in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties, displacing many of our Food Forward family and impacting the entire region, many of our produce recovery events in the area have been postponed in respect to those who have been affected and in response to poor air quality. All harvests will be postponed until the New Year, and farmers market gleans will happen on a case-by-case basis.

This tragic event has left a scar on our community, and it will continue to impact the Ventura Branch and our friends in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. In the coming weeks, Food Forward will be working with regional partners to establish a coordinated response; one that considers the long-term effort of supporting those affected while rebuilding our community. We will keep you posted as these opportunities emerge and when there are ways for you to get involved. Thank you to those who have already helped out with Emergency Relief in some way. For those of you looking to get involved now, we can recommend a few things:

Our friends at the United Way of Ventura County are accepting donations for fire victims in Ventura County. You can also donate directly to victims on Go Fund Me. 

The Red Cross has been inundated with donation items, and volunteers are sorting through these piles of generosity. Before collecting all of the unwanted items in your house and dropping them off at a site, please check to see what can be of use. You can call the local Red Cross at 805-987-1514.

The Red Cross – providing evacuation centers for displaced community members.
World Central Kitchen – cooking and distributing meals to 2,000 evacuees and first responders twice daily.
Food Bank of Santa Barbara County – distributing emergency food to those in need for the entire week.
L.A. Kitchen – organizing volunteers, food donors, and chefs to to help prepare wholesome, healthy meals for Californians affected by the wildfires.

We also recommend reaching out to your local church and community organizations, as many of them will take on the sustained relief effort for those impacted.
If you have ideas and or specific ways that you think we can make the most impact in Ventura County, please contact our VC Branch Office at 805-630-2728. We will be back in action with regular events as soon as the dust settles. We hope that you can take this down time from harvesting food to help with disaster relief.

**If you or another member of the Food Forward family was impacted by the fire, let us know. We would love to support in any way possible.**

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Farm to Table: Culver City Farmers Market to Creating Better Communities

December 7th, 2017

12.7.17 – If you’ve ever joined us at a backyard harvest or Farmers Market, hopefully you’ve seen how much fresh food a small team of volunteers can collect in an hour or two. But you may not have seen what happens next! In this piece, one of our incredible former student interns Linnea Mack documents the journey from Farmers Market to Receiving Agency, and farm to table.

Creating Connections from Farm to Table

The farm to table movement is an increasingly popular phenomenon, but it’s more than just a trend. It’s a sustainable way of living that promotes environmental, economic, and community stability.

We live in the midst of an incredible abundance of food, yet food insecurity and hunger persist across the region. Food Forward began as a way to combat this discrepancy,  working to bridge the gap between abundance and need.

Creating Better Communities, a local non-profit spearheaded by Becky Murray, works on the latter end of this process. Creating Better Communities serves meals three times a week to the Venice Beach boardwalk’s homeless community. This is where Becky found her inspiration, “I saw a lot of need and not a lot of people giving out.”

This week I followed the produce as it moved from farm to table, witnessing first hand what an incredible journey it truly is.

The Pick-Up


The Culver City Farmers Market comes to a lull. The Food Forward glean team is out in full force, collecting, weighing and sorting the vendors’ donations. The boxes are filled to the brim with everything from turnips to fresh juicy plumcots.

“We donate, otherwise the food would just go to feed the soil. We would rather it go to feed someone who needs it,” shared of the donating vendors, Tenerelli Orchards.

This week a total of 1058 pounds was gleaned from the market. A volunteer from Creating Better Communities comes to pick up her share of the week’s haul, fitting what she can into the SUV.

This weeks donations included lettuce, tomatoes, squash, green onions, onions, corn, and turnips!

“We donate, otherwise the food would just go to feed the soil. We would rather it go to feed someone who needs it.” – Tenerelli Orchards

The Preparation


Becky along with 4 other volunteers prepare the weekly meals. The menu for the week is determined by the market donations. Becky asserts that this is part of what she enjoys about the process. “It’s fun to learn how to cook and adapt with what were given.”

This particular morning, they were making omelettes. The veggies were diced, stirred into a large pan of eggs, dashed with a dab of freshly made salsa and served over a small bed of lettuce.

The volunteers shared stories of previous experiences and what led them to volunteer for Creating Better Communities. It was inspiring to be surrounded by people from different backgrounds coming together for a common purpose. Before I knew it, we had filled over 200 containers. The meals were then boxed, loaded, and ready for distribution.

The Distribution


cbc8Arguably the most meaningful step in this Farm to Table process was the distribution of 200 meals, which went directly to those who may not have otherwise eaten today. Becky agreed that this was her favorite part of the process. She loved being able to see the direct impact of where the food was going. Their goal is to eventually source their own food by creating a garden for the community, with the end goal of making fresh produce readily available for all.

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Double YOUR Impact on Giving Tuesday

November 26th, 2017

You can help Food Forward recover TWICE as much fresh produce on Tuesday, November 28 by raising funds or donating on Facebook. For one day only, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will be matching up to $2 million raised on Facebook for nonprofits.




Tuesday, November 28 marks the beginning of Food Forward’s End of Year Fundraising campaign! From now until the end of the year, it’s our goal to raise $100,000 to help bring more fresh fruits and vegetables to people in need than ever before. For every $1 you donate, Food Forward will get 11 pounds of produce to our neighbors who need it most.


Want to DOUBLE your impact on Giving Tuesday?


For one day only, November the 28th, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will be matching up to $2 million raised on Facebook for nonprofits. Facebook will also waive its fees!

How can you take advantage of the match and help jumpstart our End of Year Campaign? On Tuesday, simply go to the Food Forward Facebook page, hit the donate button, and make your contribution. It’s that easy!


Consider launching your own Facebook fundraiser. Click here to check out the new page on our Food Forward website to find out how you can create your own fundraiser. In a few short steps, you’ll be set to tell the world how much you care about fighting hunger and food waste!

Be sure to donate early before the match runs out! Donations from 8:00 am EST on November 28 will be matched — up to $50,000 per nonprofit, or $1,000 per fundraiser.

But, wait! There’s more!

If you make a $200 donation on Facebook or mobilize your friends and family to raise $200 or more for your campaign on Giving Tuesday, we’ll send you a free Food Forward Weekender (pictured below). This generously-sized sturdy carryall will tote-ally be your new favorite bag!




Please note! You can only get your free Weekender on Giving Tuesday. After your donation has been made through Facebook or your campaign reaches $200, email Pam Guerra with your name and address. Then we’ll mail you a Weekender!



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Volunteer with us this Holiday Season!

November 13th, 2017

11.13.17 – Harvesting food to fight hunger feels especially relevant this time of year. As we take time to share food with friends and family this holiday season, we also love to give time to share food with our Southern California family. We have tons of volunteer opportunities coming up this holiday season, and we hope that you join us in the coming months to share a little bit of your holidays with us.

Food Forward's Friendsgiving Lunch

Holiday Volunteer Opportunities with Food Forward!

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!

Volunteer this holiday season!

Fighting Hunger this Holiday Season

Here at Food Forward, we like to take extra time during the holidays to think about how our work impacts folks 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.

Three Food Forward Volunteers at the Larchmont Farmers Market

Our Farmers Market Gleans are a fun way to spend your holidays giving back!

Upcoming Holiday Volunteer Opportunities

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 harvests and Farmers Markets all through the next two months. We love being able to provide fresh and local produce to sit on the table beside the stuffing and gravy.

Here are some of our upcoming volunteer events around Thanksgiving and December holidays:


Wednesday, December 20th

Prepare Produce for the MudTown Farmers Market in Watts

Saturday, December 23rd

Ventura Farmers Market

Torrance Farmers Market

Calabasas Farmers Market

Burbank Farmers Market

Sunday, December 24th

Hollywood Farmers Market

Channel Islands Farmers Market

Melrose Place Farmers Market

Long Beach Farmers Market

Saturday, January 6th

Welcome Orientation for New Volunteers!

and more!

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 Recovery Gleaning events a while back! If you want to sign up to volunteer as a family, email us at volunteer@foodforward.org.

“We have a lot to be thankful for, and it seems right to show that during Thanksgiving weekend.”

– A Food Forward Volunteer Family

Holiday Meals at Food Banks and Pantries

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.

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.

MEND's Thanksgiving Meal

Volunteers cooking Turkey at MEND Poverty

Check out some of these holiday volunteer opportunities at our partner Receiving Agencies! They inspire us year round, and the work they do around this time of year will make you feel warm inside:

The MEND Christmas Basket Program: Our friends over at MEND Poverty are looking for volunteers to help visit families, sort toys, and deliver food to folks throughout the holidays.

Temple Israel of Hollywood’s Christmas Dinner: Join Temple of Israel on or before Christmas Day to help them serve a mighty Christmas Dinner.

Monday Night Mission: Monday Night Mission meets every weekday night to serve food on Skid Row for homeless adults and families who aren’t able to find shelter elsewhere.

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 Volunteer Calendar to see a list of volunteer opportunities or email volunteer@foodforward.org for more information.

Volunteer this holiday season!

Happy giving thanks,

– The Food Forward Team

Lunch at the Fruit Cave!

A view from a Food Forward “Friendsgiving” Lunch in years past

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Gleaning in the 805

November 6th, 2017

11.6.17 – Food Forward partnered with gleaning organizations in the 805 region for #Glean805, a collaborative effort that helped to recover tens of thousands of pounds of food for those in need.

Glean805 is an annual collaboration between local gleaning groups throughout the 805 region including GleanSLO, Santa Barbara’s Backyard Bounty, Santa Ynez Fruit and Veggie Rescue, FOOD Share Ventura, and Food Forward Ventura County. The organizations partner over nine days in October to raise awareness of gleaning efforts across San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties.

Events held between World Food Day on October 16 and National Food Day on October 24 this year resulted in area gleaning organizations recovering over 20,000 of pounds of food that would otherwise go to waste. This translates to over 80,000 servings being donated it to people in need in our communities.

In Ventura County, Food Forward recovered 2,080 pounds from seven fruit picks; 2,154 pounds from four Farmers Market Recovery events; and 6,166 pounds from Wholesale Recovery collections. That’s a total of 10,400 pounds – or 41,6000 servings – during the nine day period.

The 805 is an area of agricultural abundance, yet there are many people that go hungry. Gleaning is an opportunity for communities to come together and help fight hunger right in their own backyards, while connecting with their neighbors, reducing food waste, and creating a healthier community. Every year, millions of pounds of food go unharvested in fields and neighborhoods across our region.

To get involved in gleaning efforts in Ventura County, visit our volunteer calendar.

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Community Service Opportunities at Food Forward

October 27th, 2017

10.27.17 – Fall is the perfect season to start looking into places to do community service. Schools are getting started, the holidays are coming up, and it’s the right time to start planning your resolutions for the coming year. While we look for volunteers to come out and join us all year round, and have community service opportunities nearly every day of the year, now is definitely a great time to get started!

Harvest Food, Fight Hunger, Complete Community Service

How do you complete community service at Food Forward?

To get started, head on over to our volunteer calendar, find an event that works for you, and submit our quick registration form to sign up. We’ll send you a confirmation email when you sign up, and a reminder email before the event. If you have any questions, you can get in touch with our volunteer team at an point by emailing volunteer@foodforward.org.

Sign Up for Community Service Opportunities

A happy Food Forward Volunteer

Thumbs Up! Photo by Zack Warburg

What is Community Service?

Community service is exactly what it sounds like: serving your community! There are so many reasons that people volunteer their time to serve their own and neighboring communities.

Whether you’re completing required volunteer hours, have some spare time, or just want to give back, everyone is welcome to volunteer. We make it easy for you to sign up and come out, and if you need proof of community service, we’re more than happy to verify the time you spend volunteering with us.

Students at the CSUN Day of Service

Where can I complete Community Service with Food Forward?

All over Southern California! You can complete community service hours at any of our food recovery events in Los Angeles or Ventura counties. We have events at different locations nearly every day of the week.

Our volunteers are out at over 20 farmers markets every week, and depending on the season, many fruit and produce harvests as well. To see all of our upcoming volunteer opportunities, check out our volunteer calendar.

How to confirm my volunteer hours?

It’s easy! Sign up for as few or as many events as you’d like on our volunteer calendar. Once you complete your required hours, send us an email at volunteer@foodforward.org. Let us know that you require proof of your community service, and we’ll send you our official form.

Please give us up to a week to process your volunteer hours form. If you know you’re going to need verification, it’s best to let us know early so that we can get it to you on time!

If you have a different form that you need us to fill out, that’s no problem either! Bring it out to each event you come to, and have your Food Forward Event Leader sign off on the date. If you have any questions, get in touch with us at volunteer@foodforward.org.

Our proof of community service volunteer hours form

Why choose Food Forward for your service project?

Why not!? Food Forward’s service events are fun, outdoor, and social. You can sign up for one event or as many as you’d like, and all of our volunteer opportunities are short and sweet as an orange. Even better, you will get to see the impact that you are making immediately. Nothing is sweeter than that!

Sign Up for Community Service Opportunities

Volunteers completing community service at a farmers market

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What is food insecurity? Food security?

October 18th, 2017

10.17.17 – Food insecurity has largely replaced hunger as the primary focus of organizing, action, and policy surrounding food access. But what is it and where does it come from?

Produce from one of our harvest gleans


How we define and measure food security and food insecurity

What is food insecurity?

Since we talk about food security and food insecurity quite a bit here at Food Forward, we thought it would be helpful to define both terms, what they mean, and how we measure them. Here’s our definition: food insecurity refers to a lack of access to enough good, healthy, and culturally appropriate food. There’s a lot going on there, so let’s unpack it a bit.

Enough: this one’s the easiest. Everyone needs to eat, and we all need to eat a certain amount to stay healthy, active, and happy.

Good: this is where things get a bit hairy (or pear-y). Good is a relative word. What’s good food for you might not be good food to your friend, sibling, neighbor, or co-worker. But instead of ignoring the vagueness of this term, we should embrace it! Everybody deserves to eat food that they think is good, right? Nobody should have to eat peas if they hate peas but love carrots (Mom & Dad, are you reading this?).

Healthy: we love healthy food here! Healthy food is nutritious and sustaining. It’s full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, energy, and all the other things that our bodies need to be happy.

Culturally appropriate: like “good”, this term brings us back into the subjective realm. Having access to culturally appropriate food means that people have food that they are familiar and comfortable with. It’s knowing how to shop for it or select it, prepare and cook it, and how to enjoy it! Part of this is availability of familiar foods & varieties, but it also could include things like the language of the label and instructions.

What is food security?

The definition of food security is, as you might imagine, just the opposite! Food security means having reliable access to enough good, healthy, and culturally appropriate food. It means that you or your family aren’t worried about paying for groceries, where your next meal might come from, or cutting back on food in order to pay the bills.

Food security is related to all sorts of other great and wonderful ideals like food justice, food sovereignty, and food equity. While food security is certainly a crucial part of these, concepts such as food justice and food sovereignty tend to have broader social, economic, and cultural implications. So food security is an important part of food justice, but not the whole of it.

Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust & Umma Health Clinic's Free Market

The Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust & Umma Community Clinic uses produce from Food Forward’s Wholesale Recovery Program to run a free pop-up farmers market.

What’s the difference between food insecurity and hunger?

While food security and hunger are related, they are not the same. In fact, the USDA recently removed references to hunger in their food security measurements, citing the need for a separate and more detailed study on hunger. Here are some key differences between the two:

First, food security is socio-economic (financial and cultural), while hunger is physiological (physical). Studies on food security attempt to measure reliable access to food, with questions that include anxiety over shopping, budgeting for healthy meals, and running out of food. Hunger, on the other hand, is a physical sensation. We could say that hunger is one potential consequence of food insecurity, but food insecurity does not always result in hunger.

Second, we measure food security at the household level and hunger at the individual level. A family experiencing food insecurity may have some members that go hungry and others who do not. For example, parents in food insecure families might have enough food to feed their children, but might experience hunger themselves.

How do we measure food insecurity?

So, with all this talk about what it is, how do we actually measure something like food insecurity. Food Forward and most other hunger-relief nonprofits rely on measurements that the USDA conducts annually. Every year tens of thousands of households respond to their short survey, which is added onto the census.

There are only 10 questions, and an additional 8 questions for families with children. The questions ask about various indicators of food insecurity, ranging from the least severe (“We worried whether our food would run out before we got money to buy more”) to the most severe (“In the last 12 months did you or other adults in your household ever not eat for a whole day because there wasn’t enough money for food”).

Once the answers are collected, the USDA groups households into the 4 classifications of food security: high food security, marginal food security, low food security, and very low food security. Households are considered to have low food security if they reported experiencing 3 or more indicators of food insecurity. Households are considered to have very low food security if they reported 3 indicators of food insecurity AND some degree of eating less than they should / skipping meals.

A box full of tomatoes from the Farmers Market

Keeping it simple

This system of measuring food security allows families to self-report their own experiences, and also keeps the results very clear. It gives us a very simple measurement to look at: what percent of households reported 3 or more indicators of food insecurity. This keeps things easy for those of us who care – individuals, volunteers, policy makers, students, you and me – to understand.

But despite how simple it may seem, the study is actually quite complex! Years and years of research have gone into defining and refining the questions and analysis of results. While some people might think that the simplicity of the method leads to less reliable results, in fact that’s not the case at all (if you don’t believe me, you can read this 130 page statistical analysis and report!). The study keeps our understanding of food security and food insecurity clear and accurate.

Why talk about food security at all?

Food security and food insecurity are really important concepts for us to think and talk about. By moving the discussion of food policy beyond hunger (which again, refers only to a physical sensation), food insecurity captures the reality of individuals and families who struggle to get enough food.

Finally, these terms give us a working definition and standard for measurement. This allows community organizers, non-profit leaders, policy makers, and government officials to talk with each other and work together to create plans that will improve overall access to food, health, and wellness. Because even as we dive into definitions, studies, and statistics, the overall goal is to secure everyone’s right to eat well and be well.

Learn more about our fight against food insecurity

Food Forward produce at a free pop-up farmers market at Santa Monica College

Pop-up farmers market for students and community members at Santa Monica College

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