No one goes hungry

June 30th, 2020

Meet our Volunteer of the Month, Gary Sarcione! Gary is a dedicated Glean Team Leader at the Ventura Saturday Farmers Market. He’s been volunteering several times a month since 2016 and has been a huge help at the market! Read more about Gary and what inspires him to volunteer below. 

 

Gary moved to Ventura County four years ago and quickly got involved with Food Forward and began giving back to his community!

So tell me, how did you get started with Food Forward?
My wife Dina and I had just moved to the Ventura area four years ago. While I looked for a job I needed something to make me feel productive in between searching and job interviews, so I looked around for a volunteer opportunity. I found Food Forward online and it seemed like something I’d enjoy doing while giving back at the same time.

What drew you to Food Forward’s work and mission?
I think how well it was organized and that the food went so quickly from the farmers to those in need. Kind of an instant gratification thing, I guess!

What do you do when you’re not volunteering with Food Forward?
I’ve just recently started a new career in film and electronic media, so I love being in production and practicing photography. I also enjoy spending time with my wife Dina and our cat Bast. Otherwise, I love exploring SoCal on my motorcycle.

 

Gary enjoys exploring Southern California on his motorcycle.

What is your favorite part about volunteering with Food Forward?
There’s a special feeling I get working the Ventura Farmers Market on a Saturday, like I’m a part of something bigger than myself and I’m just showing up to do my part. It’s very cool. I also like talking with the farmers. They are amazing people and I’m glad I’ve gotten to be around them.

How would you describe the volunteer experience at a farmers market glean?
It’s very team-oriented and easy going. You get to help save food from being wasted and get it in the hands of those in need in an uncomplicated way all while being outdoors and engaging with others. And it’s not a huge commitment so I regularly recommend it to people looking for an easy and fun way to volunteer.

What was your first volunteer day at a market like?
Oh, it was so much more than I expected. I remember it was just myself and the Ventura County Branch Manager Ally leading. I remember how nice she and the vendors were and how good it felt getting involved. Plus I was still very new to the area, so I went home feeling that I had made my first friend in California and for the first time felt a part of the community. It was a good day!

 

Gary regularly leads produce recovery at the Ventura Saturday Farmers Market.

What have you learned from volunteering?
That I always get back from it more than I put into it. Always.

Is there a particularly powerful volunteering moment you’d like to share?
One memory that sticks out is approaching one of the farm stands and asking if they needed a box that day.  It was pretty obvious they didn’t but the farmer grabbed the box from me and just started filling it. As he handed it back to me he said “no one goes hungry.” It was a nice moment but I have to say, the overall generosity of the vendors we work with is incredible and inspiring.

Any words of wisdom you live by?
The secret of getting ahead is getting started.

 

Gary’s motorcycle outfitted with some Food Forward flair!

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Black Lives Matter

June 6th, 2020

In light of last couple of week’s tragic events, we at Food Forward felt an urgent need to reach out to our community at large to raise our voice in unity.⁠⠀
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We vehemently condemn the four police officers who murdered George Floyd, and the inexcusable approach by Minneapolis officials investigating them. Moreso, we mourn the countless Black lives that have also been unjustly and brutally stolen on American soil, not just this past week, but dating all the way back to 1619.⁠⠀
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Food Forward shares the outrage and stands in solidarity with our Black colleagues, partners, volunteers, event participants, financial supporters, and all marginalized communities and people of color, in the fight against racism, injustice, and violence in every form.⁠⠀
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Food Forward’s mission is wrapped around the action of sharing fresh, free food so every human being in our community can thrive – and we intend to show our outrage, conviction, and yes sadness, through our re-doubled commitment to fulfilling that mission. We are also committed to working internally and externally to support and amplify anti-racist efforts in our society – something essential if our mission is to succeed.⁠⠀
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What started in the streets of Minneapolis has now spread to every single state in our nation. The protests we are witnessing give a voice to the many Black lives cut short by rampant, unchecked, institutionalized police violence.⁠⠀
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In this time, as we demand justice, we ask you to dig deep under the outrage, and find the abundance of love, of unity, of empathy within. And please go out and direct that love, that unity, that empathy towards those suffering in our community, in any way you can.⁠⠀
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Lastly, though we have a VITAL election happening in 6 months, elections can only do so much. We cannot look to others to make this right but, rather, WE MUST all take a good long hard look in the mirror and do better ourselves.⁠⠀
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#BlackLivesMatter

 

Things we are reading and listening to right now:

List of Black-owned food businesses in LA

Groups supporting food and land justice for Black Americans

1619 Podcast by Nikole Hannah Jones from the New York Times

26 ways to be in the struggle beyond the streets

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Helping make the world go round

May 29th, 2020

Meet our Volunteer of the Month, Mary MacVean! Mary is a regular at our Produce Pick-Up in Watts, in partnership with the Watts Labor Community Action Committee. Mary is training to become a Produce Pick-Up Lead to support staff at the distributions. Beyond her help at the Watts Produce Pick-Up, Mary is a member of Food Forward’s Kitchen Cabinet and Spring Melt Auction Committee. We’re so grateful for all the different ways she puts her talents and passion to use in support of our work!

 

 

So tell me, how did you get started with Food Forward?
I met Rick early in the life of Food Forward. I had heard about what he had just started. I was a reporter for the LA Times then and wrote a story about the project. We liked each other and stayed in touch.

What drew you to Food Forward’s work and mission?
What I have always loved is the simplicity and easy logic.

What do you do when you’re not volunteering with Food Forward?
At the moment, I am in my house unless I am taking a run or walking my dog. But otherwise, I am a writer. And I spend a fair amount of time in the community. I also am extraordinarily lucky to have a remarkable assortment of friends, and I feel strongly about nurturing those relationships.

 

Mary invited Food Forward, along with other local food waste organizations, to a screening and discussion of Wasted: The Story of Food Waste.

What is your favorite part about volunteering with Food Forward?
I like that I can have different roles: the Kitchen Cabinet, the auction committee, and the Watts Produce Pick-Up.

How would you describe the volunteer experience at a produce pick-up?
I’ve been studying to be a Lead at the Watts Produce Pick-Up. It’s serious work, as we sort through the donated food and find the best way to set up an appealing market. Everyone is working hard. When the community comes to shop and sees the bounty, that’s the fun part. People often are happily surprised when they ask how many they can take of an item and are told, “As many as you can use.”

What have you learned from volunteering?
I grew up in a home where volunteering was just part of what one did. It could be private and quiet work for a neighbor. Or part of a bigger organization. So honestly, until very recently I thought it was just what helped make the world go around. Lately, I have become very unenamored with the way the extremely wealthy—the top fraction of a percent, the famous ones—are setting priorities for what social ills are addressed and how, for what public education should look like and many more. I worry the system is deeply broken.

Any words of wisdom you live by?
That changes from time to time. I do keep a list on my bathroom mirror that offers advice for each day of the week. For example, Friday is about forgiveness—something I can always use a little help to achieve.

 

Mary sporting her Food Forward bandana face mask! 
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Keeping Ventura County nourished during COVID-19

May 22nd, 2020

COVID-19 has created new challenges for our partners, who are seeing more folks seeking food assistance than ever before. Thanks to our partners Totally Local VC, Food Forward established the Ventura Rapid Response Hub, part of our emergency response to the increased need caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ventura County Branch Manager Ally Gialketsis (left) and Local Love deliver several pallets of fruits and vegetables to the Santa Paula Unified School District. 

 

The Ventura Rapid Response Hub is an emergency produce distribution hub in partnership with Totally Local VC’s Local Love Project (Local Love). Local Love activates and organizes community members to provide immediate aid in the aftermath of a disaster affecting Ventura County. It started in response to the devastation caused by the Thomas Fire in 2017 and has continued to support Ventura County through the COVID-19 crisis. Food Forward’s Ventura Branch has partnered with Local Love to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to agencies that are feeding families in Ventura County.

Many food assistance agencies have made adjustments or temporarily suspended services due to COVID-19. For organizations that are still open, the increase in demand has been huge—some report three or four times their typical amount of clients at food distributions.

 

Cilantro, kale, cantaloupe, raspberries, and more were given to Ventura residents at a recent food distribution.

 

Food Forward launched five new “Rapid Response Hubs” in April to ensure communities across Los Angeles and Ventura counties have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. These hubs are a direct response to the increased need in neighborhoods most affected by the loss of services. Having a reliable source of free, high-quality fruits and vegetables can help ease the burden of new financial stressors for many throughout Southern California. At each location, a truckload of recovered produce is quickly distributed to multiple agency partners, who in turn distribute this food to their clients.

One agency receiving produce from the Ventura Rapid Response Hub is Turning Point Foundation. Among other services, Turning Point Foundation provides individuals experiencing homelessness and/or living with mental illness with basic needs like food and clothing. Since the pandemic’s onset, procuring enough food for their clients has been difficult. Suki Sir at Turning Point Foundation says “Food Forward is our savior! Without the work Food Forward is doing to get us produce through the hub, my residents would be in a really bad place with food insecurity.”

 

A family poses with fruits and vegetables at a distribution in Ventura County. 

 

The Ventura Rapid Response Hub is one of the ways we are supporting food access in Ventura County. To learn more about our response to COVID-19, click here.

 

 

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A family activity & a way to contribute

April 23rd, 2020

Tom has been volunteering with his 3 adorable kids and lovely wife since February 2018. We met him at an avocado harvest in Somis, and he’s been volunteering regularly ever since! Tom and his family have stepped up in this critical time and have continued to regularly harvest fruit from backyard fruit trees and orchards on their own. Thank you to Tom and his family for all that you do!

 

Tom at a lemon harvest in Ventura County

 

So tell me, what drew you to Food Forward’s work and mission?
At first it was a family activity that we found that we can all do together. My wife, Chrissy, first found out about Food Forward and signed us all up for a bacon avocado pick in Somis in the spring of 2018. It was more enjoyable than I expected. I quickly became a pick leader and haven’t looked back since.

 

What do you do when you’re not volunteering with Food Forward?
I work for the Navy at Naval Base Ventura County Point Mugu. I also went back to school to learn how to fly.

 

What is your favorite part about volunteering with Food Forward? 
Meeting new people and being able contribute to my community.

 

During the COVID-19 outbreak, Tom has continued to do solo and family harvests of local fruit trees. 

 

How would you describe the volunteer experience at a backyard harvest?
It’s a good time. I encourage the volunteers to meet and talk to new people while picking.

 

What have you learned from volunteering?
I have learned that it is easy to contribute to my community.

 

Is there a particularly powerful volunteering moment you’d like to share? 
There are a few that come to mind. We went to pick enormous navel oranges near scenic mountains in Fillmore, but the harvest we’ve done twice was picking grapefruit at a horse ranch in Somis. The first time was late in the afternoon and it was over 100 degrees. My family all participated and over 100 boxes of fruit were harvested. When this property came back up to pick we had to do it again, thankfully it wasn’t nearly as hot the second time. I’ll do that pick every year.

 

Tom’s kids often help him harvest.
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Agency/Partner Spotlight: Alma Backyard Farms & Anti-Recidivism Coalition

April 16th, 2020

A native pollinator garden and bright sign welcome you to Alma Backyard Farms, January 2020.

There are some partnerships where all the puzzle pieces just seem to fit together perfectly. Such is the case with Alma Backyard Farms and the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC). While our relationships with each organization look different, they are connected by a shared vision for what food justice and community engagement look like.

 

ARC members sort lettuce at the Mudtown Farmers Market in Watts, April 2019. 

The Mudtown Farmers Market, our bi-weekly Produce Pick-Up in Watts in collaboration with WLCAC, was the catalyst for our partnership with Alma Backyard Farms. In early 2019, ARC volunteered with Food Forward at our Watts Produce Pick-Up. The Anti-Recidivism Coalition empowers formerly and currently incarcerated people to thrive by providing a support network, comprehensive services, and opportunities to advocate for policy change. It wasn’t long until they were regulars at Watts, bringing a group of volunteers about once a month to help sort through thousands of pounds of produce for a free community distribution. We were always excited to have ARC volunteers—our staff came to know their group as dependable, hard working, and friendly. Not only were we grateful to have their help, but we were glad to support their organization by providing meaningful volunteer experiences for their members.

 

A wheelbarrow full of lavender harvested at Alma Backyard Farms, January 2020.

 

Beyond ARC members’ dedication to making fresh produce accessible at our Watts Produce Pick-Up event, they also helped us become more sustainable. ARC introduced us to Alma Backyard Farms, which “exists to re-claim lives of formerly incarcerated people, re-purpose urban land into productive urban farm plots, and re-imagine disenfranchised communities in Los Angeles as a hub for transformation.” Alma Farms is now our composting partner for the Watts Produce Pick-Ups. Any produce that is not fit to eat gets picked up by Alma and composted on site at their farm in South LA. Their partnership makes it possible for this event to have absolutely zero food waste! Alma Backyard Farms grows food for their community, and recently became a Food Forward partner agency to supplement what they grow. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, they have been creating free grocery bags for the community, complete with fresh greens from their farm, Food Forward’s recovered produce, prepared foods from local chefs, and freshly baked bread. Every other weekend Alma conducts a safe curbside pick-up and gives away 200 of these bags.

 

For several weekends since the COVID-19 outbreaks, Alma has created 200 bags filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, bread, and prepared foods. Photo from Alma Backyard Farms.

In January, Food Forward staff members Michele Chase and Joe Bobman had the pleasure of spending a day at Alma Backyard Farms with ARC. Alma Backyard Farms is located near Compton, where co-founders Erika Cuellar and Richard Garcia have been developing the farm and its programming for the past three years. Erika and Richard transformed a half-acre vacant lot into fertile farmland, complete with irrigated fields and raised beds, a chicken coop, compost, and a native pollinator plant garden. Activities at the farm include a weekly farm stand, cooking classes for adults and children alike, meditation, and volunteer service. At the core of their mission is Alma’s urban agriculture job training program, which teaches formerly incarcerated men and women urban farming techniques.

 

Food Forward’s Technology & Engagement Manager Joe Bobman and ARC Life Coach Jarret Keith sample the vegetarian chili they helped make, January 2020. 

During the visit, we helped turn soil in the compost pile and for a soon-to-be soccer field. We also prepared ingredients for resident chef Mia Aguilar’s vegetarian chili using vegetables grown on site. According to Food Forward’s Agency Relations Field Coordinator, Michele Chase: “I can see how regular visits to this urban farm would provide a real opportunity to practice these skills in a safe and dignified environment.” Beyond building skills, Alma knows that being at the farm and growing food has a transformative impact on people’s lives.

 

Beautiful rainbow carrots grown at Alma Backyard Farms. 

Both ARC and Alma Backyard Farms are working to provide support, mentorship, and dignified work and volunteer opportunities to formerly incarcerated people. But beyond a surface level comparison, there’s a sense of transformation that ties all these partnership together. ARC helps Food Forward repurpose food that would otherwise be wasted, and feed people with it—in the process, they learn valuable skills and have the opportunity to give back. Alma takes what can’t be eaten and turns it into compost, so that it can fertilize new life. And such is the effect their farming program has on its participants—through learning how to grow food, they experience, as Richard puts it, “the ultimate rehabilitation.”

We are truly grateful to be aligned with these two organizations who are transforming their communities. Through our partnerships, we have all grown in different ways—just like a garden. Throughout the workday, Richard continued to reiterate to the group that “[This farm] is your home. You are welcome back anytime.” This reminded Jarret Keith, an ARC life coach, of a fitting quote from Muhammad Ali to close out the day: “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.”

 

ARC members watch a cooking demonstration at Alma Backyard Farms, January 2020. 

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Food Forward’s Watch/Read/Listen Guide

April 2nd, 2020

Many of us have found ourselves with more time on our hands—which offers an opportunity to learn new things. We’ve compiled a list of food-related movies, books, and podcasts to watch, read, and listen to. From food waste to food insecurity to just food, enjoy our guide! 

What to watch: 

Movies and more about food waste, food insecurity, and, well, food.

Wasted! The Story of Food Waste: A documentary which explores the reason for the 1.3 billion tons of food waste produced globally, and the people working to fix the problem.

Just Eat It: Watch along as these filmmakers dive into the issue of food waste, and eat nothing but food that’s about to be wasted by grocery stores for six months.

A Place at the Table: This documentary, from the producers of Food Inc., shows the scope of food insecurity and hunger in America and follows three people impacted by food insecurity.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Check out his segment all about food waste.

LA FoodWays: This documentary series traces the past, present, and future of food in Los Angeles – and features Food Forward!

And, for some food-related movies: Ratatouille, Soul Food, Like Water for Chocolate, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Waitress, and A Grand Day Out with Wallace and Gromit (Pursuit of Cheddar Cheese) are a fun selection of movies all about food.

 

What to Read:

Here’s our list of books to snuggle up with while we stay-at-home.

Waste Free Kitchen Handbook – by Dana Gunders

The Good Food Revolution: Growing Healthy Food, People, and Communities – by Will Allen

Indigenous Food Sovereignty in the United States: Restoring Cultural Knowledge, Protecting Environments, and Regaining Health – Edited by Devon A. Mihesuah, Elizabeth Hoover, Foreword by Winona LaDuke

Protecting Pollinators: How to save the creatures that feed our world – by Jodi Helmer

The Way We Eat Now: How the Food Revolution Has Transformed Our Lives, Our Bodies, and Our World – by Bee Wilson

Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal – by Tristam Stuart

 

What to listen to:

For the audiophile, a selection of podcasts all about food.

Life Kit – How to Reduce Food Waste: https://www.npr.org/2019/12/10/786867315/how-to-reduce-food-waste

The Lid is On – Feeding the world with 1.3bn tons of wasted food: https://news.un.org/en/audio/2018/10/1023172

World Resources Institute – Liz Goodwin on Reducing Food Loss and Waste—Lessons from the UK: https://www.wri.org/blog/2016/10/podcast-liz-goodwin-reducing-food-loss-and-waste-lessons-uk

Important, Not Important – #85: A Blueprint for Fighting Food Waste in Your Community: https://www.importantnotimportant.com/podcast/2020/02/24/ep85-a-blueprint-for-fighting-food-waste-in-your-community

Seriously? America! – Episode 05: Almost 12% of Households Are Food Insecure: https://seriouslyamericashow.com/blog/episodefive

Pang! is Dan Froot and Company’s series of contemporary audio dramas based on the oral histories of families around the country who are hungering for change: https://www.pangpodcast.com/

Will there be Food? – Episode 13, Home for the Holidays: https://www.presence.io/podcast/home-for-the-holidays/

 

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Moving forward when things don’t go as planned

March 27th, 2020

For this Volunteer of the Month post, we are featuring our Volunteer Program Intern, Nora Healy! Nora has been an amazing help to our program, and has been incredibly adaptive to the changing circumstances due to COVID-19. Through it all, she has maintained a super positive, can-do attitude. She is always ready to help out and we’re grateful to have her on our team! Learn more about Nora below. 

 

 

So tell me, how did you get started with Food Forward?
I had friends who had interned with Food Forward before, so when I decided to take fewer classes this semester in order to make room for an internship, Food Forward was the first place I looked. The Volunteer Program Internship stood out to me the most, so I applied and here I am!

What drew you to Food Forward’s work and mission?
I have always been passionate about food justice and Food Forward has done such a clever job of utilizing existing resources (produce that is already growing on trees all over LA and that might be wasted at farmers markets and wholesale markets) to solve long standing issues of food insecurity.

What do you do when you’re not volunteering/interning with Food Forward?
I am a senior at Occidental College where I am a director of a middle school mentorship program and a Chicken Tender for the lovely hens in our community garden. In my free time you can find me binging the Great British Baking Show, baking my own treats, snuggling with my foster cat, and spending as much time as possible outside.

 

What is your favorite part about volunteering/interning with Food Forward?
My favorite part of interning at Food Forward is the people. Everyone I have met from my coworkers to the Glean Team Leaders have been welcoming, kind, and teachers to me during this internship.

How would you describe the volunteer experience as an intern?
I love interning here because I feel like a real part of the organization. I am given meaningful tasks and not just treated like someone to get coffee. I get to (virtually) go to meetings, brainstorm ideas for handling the COVID-19 changes, and work on my professional development.

What have you learned from volunteering?
I have learned how to move forward when things are not going as planned. I started this internship right before the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, so I started in the office and in the field, like all of my predecessor interns, but a couple weeks in we moved entirely online. Since then I have gotten to be a part of creatively finding ways for Food Forward volunteers to remain engaged with food justice issues in LA and with our organization during social distancing.

Any words of wisdom you live by?
At this moment, amid the very real coronavirus concern, I have been reminding myself that “this too shall pass” and making sure I get enough sunshine everyday.

 

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An Update on March 19, 2020

March 19th, 2020

 

It’s hard to wrap our heads around how quickly our daily lives are changing. It’s even more difficult to know where we will be tomorrow, next week, or in a month. Like everyone, all of us at Food Forward have been taking things day-by-day to respond to the impact novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) has on us as individuals, as an organization, and as a community. 

The majority of our staff in Los Angeles and Ventura began working remotely late last week. At the Produce Pit Stop, our staff is maintaining its massive recovery efforts from the Wholesale Produce Market with increased cleaning and hygiene protocol in place. As of today, we made the decision to suspend community volunteer events for the time being. We will keep you posted regularly, as we know so many of you want to help. To mitigate lapses in service, our Farmers Market Recovery and Backyard Harvest teams are diverting as many hunger relief agencies as possible to pick up from the Produce Pit Stop–where large loads of fruits and vegetables are available.

As the landscape of need shifts under our feet, we are getting creative with our partners to establish distribution hubs to serve community members and local hunger relief agencies. After our long-time partner A Place Called Home had to temporarily suspend most services for South Los Angeles families, we were able to supply them with assorted produce to create 200 grocery bags for their newly established bi-weekly Family Resource Depot. Yesterday, in Watts, our team worked with staff at the Watts Labor Community Action Committee to ensure that our regular Produce Pick-Up could still happen. 12,000 pounds of strawberries, jicama, squash, oranges, spinach, Brussels sprouts, and onions were given out to local agencies and to the public in bags via a drive-through model.

 

A Place Called Home distributes grocery bags with produce recovered by Food Forward

 

The sad truth is that the most vulnerable amongst us will be impacted most by this health crisis, but many more people may be facing food insecurity due to financial upheaval. To continue to provide emergency food relief during this critical time, we must be innovative, adaptable, and compassionate. We hope you will stand next to us–in spirit–to make this possible.

Amongst all of the uncertainty, we have been heartened by the outpouring of support we are receiving from people who want to help. At this time, the best way to support our work is by making a donation to help us adapt our programs to the shifting need. After canceling our annual fundraiser, the Spring Melt, an anonymous donor stepped up to MATCH every dollar we raise from now until April 4, up to $50,000. While we won’t be toasting in-person, we invite you to take a break and Melt-at-Home with us to strengthen our fight against hunger and food waste. 

Since the beginning, Food Forward has been committed to our simple mission of sharing abundance with those who need it most. While how we do that may look different over the coming weeks and even months, we will live by our mission to spread generosity. We encourage you to do the same, so we can get through these challenges more resilient than ever. 

We hope to see you up a tree soon.

From all of us at Food Forward

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Agency Spotlight: El Nido Family Centers

March 13th, 2020

Food Forward’s Fall 2019 FMR intern, Rebecca Luna, followed several boxes of fruits and vegetables as they made their way from the Torrance Farmers Market to El Nido Family Centers, Food Forward’s partner agency serving East Compton. Read on to hear what she learned about their work! 

Volunteers pose with boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables at the Torrance Farmers Market.

Throughout the United States, up to 40% of the food we produce never makes it to someone’s table. In fact, in 2010 the USDA estimated that about 133 billion pounds of food, worth $161 billion dollars, went to waste (USDA). At the same time, many families do not have access to enough nutritious food, due to prohibitive costs, the neighborhood they live in, and other factors. 11% of US households are currently facing food insecurity (USDA). As a result of segregation, redlining, historic economic disenfranchisement, and other discriminatory policies, certain communities face more challenges than others. One such community here in Los Angeles is Compton.

El Nido Family Centers provides free, nutritious fruits and vegetables to low-income families. Founded as a social service non-profit agency, El Nido Family Centers aim to provide services and programs to disadvantaged, low-income communities in Los Angeles County. Their seven locations and many programs have reached thousands of families through education, youth development, health and therapeutic services. The El Nido Family Center in East Compton has its doors open from 10 am to 4 pm, Monday through Friday.

 

Volunteers collect boxes full of surplus produce at the Torrance Farmers Market.

The produce distributed by El Nido Family Centers comes from the Torrance Tuesday Farmers Market—where without Food Forward, it would end up becoming wasted food. Every Tuesday, Food Forward volunteers distribute boxes to farmers for them to fill with any surplus produce they have at the end of the market. El Nido Family Centers comes to the market, collects these boxes of produce, and takes them to their center in East Compton. On one Tuesday in September, they received 170 pounds of surplus fruits and vegetables, then headed back to their center to prepare the produce for the next day’s distribution. Their food program displays the produce for families who come to the distribution, showcasing the fresh picks of the season.

During my visit, Daisy Duran, El Nido’s Health Director, excitedly highlights the produce available for people and explains to me that families also come to the center daily for their other programs. The services provided by El Nido Family Centers are quite extensive and reach out to the community of East Compton with culturally relevant and sensitive material. The families coming by greet Daisy and I with excitement and familiarity.

 

The selection of fruit, vegetables, and bread on display for folks coming to El Nido. 

They are all invited to come to the tables and take produce they can use. As they make their selections, the community chatters about their weeks and catch-up. They explain to me what plans they have for their produce—one woman, Yasmin, says that she’ll use it to make soups and salads. She says (translated from Spanish), “I prefer to grab things I’m more used to, because I’m familiar with them.” Many people explain to me how they try to make new meals with produce they aren’t as familiar with. They also express their gratitude for the availability of free produce to take home.

Throughout the rest of the day, families continue to come in and out, picking fruits and vegetables to feed their families and neighbors. Daisy’s hopes for the future of the El Nido Family Centers food program is to add workshops, such as how to make kid-friendly healthy snacks, food preparation tips, and how to use unfamiliar produce. She also hopes to incorporate a dietician into their programming. Daisy plans to add these new programs soon, in an effort to continue working with the community and seeking new developments in health outreach.

 

A mother and son fill up a bag with nutritious food to take home. 

Visiting our partner agencies, like El Nido Family Centers, reminds us of the importance of our work throughout Los Angeles County to provide fresh produce to communities in need. Thanks to our volunteers and donating farmers, produce that would needlessly go to waste can help alleviate the burden of food insecurity for these families. The work of El Nido Family Centers helps to shape and empower communities to have the ability to choose their ideal futures. We thank El Nido Family Centers and their food program for their incredible work!

 

This post was written by Food Forward intern Rebecca Luna. 

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