Food Forward Blog
Fight Hunger During the Holidays!

Food Forward's Friendsgiving Lunch

Volunteering During the Holiday Season

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

Sign up to volunteer!

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

Fruit and Vegetable Turkey - Happy Home Fairy

Volunteer Opportunities for Families

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

Family Fruit Pick!

Three generations of Persimmon Pickers

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

Holiday Meals at Food Banks and Pantries

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

MEND's Thanksgiving Meal

Volunteers cooking Turkey at MEND Poverty

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

Giving Thanks and Giving Back

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

Happy Thanksgiving!

– The Food Forward Team

Lunch at the Fruit Cave!

A view from our “Friendsgiving” Lunch

Read More: Posted in Food, Los Angeles Volunteer, Urban Hunger, Ventura County Volunteer
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Students Inspire at Pasadena’s After-School Programs

Food Forward Boxes GIF

Partnering with Pasadena’s Public Schools

We’re really excited about a new partnership with the City of Pasadena and Pasadena Unified School District. Pasadena offers free meals to anyone under the age of 18 throughout the summer and continues to supplement meals for students during the school year. With such a big reach, they’ve been a perfect partner in our food recovery and produce distribution work! I was invited to join them at La Pintoresca Teen Education Center (LPTEC), an afterschool program for high-school students at La Pintoresca Park in Northern Pasadena, and came away SUPER impressed by what both educators and students have been able to do with a few deliveries of fresh fruit.

Pasadena provides full meals for as many as 1,000 students every day throughout the summer and school year. That’s a lot of food, but it doesn’t mean that the fresh fruit they receive from Food Forward goes unnoticed. According to Jessica Handy, Administrative Intern with the City, pre-packaged cups of juice often fill the requirement for servings of fruit, and the snacks aren’t always filling or refreshing. Receiving from Food Forward allows the students to add fresh fruit to their lunches and to have healthy snacks in the afternoon.

Students learn to love healthy food

The students in the afterschool program were not so interested in eating fresh fruits and vegetables at first, said Yuriko Montes, Recreation Services Specialist. Teenagers, she observed, were not usually as open to trying new foods as younger students in the program. However, she said that with Food Forward’s fruit deliveries, “since it was available and they had more awareness about where it was coming from, they took more ownership and became more open to trying it.”

Michael shows us the mural

Look, fruits and vegetables! Michael helped paint this mural and is working on another one now.

That ownership was clear to me as soon as arrived, when the students welcomed me in and then came out to help me unload boxes of oranges and persimmons. We talked about fruit trees and food waste, and they told me about all of the different programs that they participate in through LPTEC. These students have been leading all sorts of cool projects related to food, sustainability, and community, and they’ve been able to bring Food Forward’s fruit into these projects in really inspiring ways.

Becoming Food Justice Advocates

According to Yuriko, participation in Pasadena’s free meal program had been declining over the past couple of years, even though the number of families with children living below the poverty level is higher now than it has been since 2006. The students in LPTEC’s afterschool program became advocates for the Free Meal program and had an amazing idea. Creating a new branding campaign, design, and logo, these students passed out fresh fruit and used the opportunity to promote the meal program to children and families across Pasadena. They told me that Pasadena residents were very pleasantly surprised to be offered fruit that was grown in backyards in their own neighborhoods, and participation in the meal program began to rise.

Dejon with Fuel Logo

Dejon shows us the “Fuel Up” Stickers that he designed.

Besides using the fruit in their promotional campaign, the students at LPTEC used Food Forward’s fresh donations to try new recipes in their cooking classes (fresh juices and aguas frescas seemed to be especially popular there), inspire arts projects, and fuel lots of fun outdoor activities. The students’ familiarity with food system issues was also clear in our conversation about Food Forward’s Food Recovery Programs. As we dove into the boxes of oranges that I brought over, these students reminded me that, besides being good for snacks, food means a lot to our local communities. These students are food lovers and food advocates, and they inspire us here at Food Forward to be the same.

LPTEC Student Recognized by Michelle Obama

UPDATE: I learned recently that one of the students that I met at LPTEC, Dalon, is an award winning artist and recently went to the White House to receive an award from First Lady Michelle Obama. Here’s Dalon showing me his favorite part of LPTEC’s kitchen: the fridge.

Dalon shows us the fridge


– Joe Bobman, Volunteer Coordinator

Read More: Posted in Backyard Harvest, Community Action, Food Education
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This Volunteer is Sharing the Food Forward Love

Kelsie Volunteering at the Santa Monica Farmers Market

We’re so happy to introduce our Volunteer of the Month for November, Kelsie Silva-Neto! Kelsie jumped on board the Food Forward family this past February and has already made a huge impact. She’s an experienced Glean Team Leader and Community Ambassador, and when she’s not doing that she has been volunteering at the office for our Backyard Harvest Program. Here at the Fruit Cave, we’ve come to love Kelsie for her warm, open, friendly aura, and for how awesome she is at spreading the Food Forward love to everyone she meets. Kelsie has been representing Food Forward at all sorts of event across Los Angeles County – farmers markets, college fairs, even a Polo Tournament (!) – and we are so lucky to have her out there sharing our story. Whether she’s gleaning, tabling, or sending thank you notes to homeowners, Kelsie has brought a lot to Food Forward and our network of volunteers and donors. So make sure you say hi to her the next time you see her at the market!

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

I got started with Food Forward by volunteering at the farmers market in Santa Monica on Wednesdays. After that market I was hooked. I volunteer regularly at Santa Monica on Wednesdays and once a month in the Pacific Palisades, and took on a Community Ambassador position as well.

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

Food Forward’s two-fold mission of reducing food waste and helping those in need was what got me interested. I’m in recovery from an eating disorder so volunteering with Food Forward has helped me create a different relationship with food. When I see others in need of something that I have spent a long time taking for granted, it reminds me to take a step back and keep a healthy perspective.

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

When I’m not volunteering with Food Forward I’m usually writing, reading, singing, hiking or spending time exploring LA!

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

My favorite part of volunteering with Food Forward is seeing how generous our vendors are. They consistently give to this program and it makes being a volunteer really satisfying. Some of my favorite memories are when vendors surprise us with a huge donation or when a vendor who normally doesn’t donate chooses to give us a donation. It’s also been a great opportunity to meet like-minded people in the city.

You’re one of our very first Community Ambassadors. What’s that like?

Being a Community Ambassador is a lot of fun! I get to go to different events and neighborhoods to talk about how cool Food Forward is. A lot of people are really on board with the idea and eager to get involved. I wouldn’t have nearly as much fun being a Community Ambassador if people weren’t getting excited about what we’re doing.

Any words of wisdom you live by?

“You have to give it away to keep it”

Collecting Produce at Mar Vista Farmers Market

Read More: Posted in Backyard Harvest, Community Action, Farmers Market Recovery, Los Angeles Volunteer
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Food Waste in America

Food Waste in America

In 2012 an alarming report released by the Natural Resources Defense Council revealed that as much as 40% of the food that we are growing, raising, and cooking gets thrown away. We take a look at that report to look at how much food is going to waste, for what reasons, why it’s even worse than it seems, who’s talking about it, and who’s doing something about it.

How Much Food is Wasted?

Figuring out how much food ends up in the trash is tricky, and the data that we have on national food waste is, at best, an estimate. However, several different studies have put food waste between 30-40%, so it’s safe to say that something around 1/3 to 2/5 of our national food supply is never eaten. That number is even higher for highly perishable food groups like fruits and vegetables.  

Where Does It Happen?

It’s tempting to point fingers at restaurants or a wasteful next-door neighbor, and though consumer losses do account for a big portion of food wasted, the reality is that food waste occurs at every point along the food production chain. A lot of food is lost in distribution (check out our blog post about our visit to LA’s Wholesale Market) and in grocery stores. According to the NRDC, 20% of all fruits and vegetables grown never even leave the farm!


Why are Americans throwing away 6 billion pounds of food every month? Three of the biggest reasons are 1) cosmetic standards that demand that fruits and vegetables are free of blemishes, spots or wrinkles; 2) overstocking and over-purchasing, and 3) confusion about sell-by and expiration dates. Whether it’s ugly, extra, or not quite fresh, the food that we are throwing away is, for the most part, perfectly edible and tasty.

Squash in Dumpster

The Problem With Food Waste

The tragedy is that the United States is losing 40% of its food supply at time when hunger and food insecurity are growing. There are nearly 50 million people in the United States living in households without suitable access to healthy food, and it’s not because of food shortages or a lack of production. As our Founder and Executive Director puts it, “Hunger is a distribution problem, not a supply problem.” Food waste also constitutes a waste of resources on a massive national scale. We spend $165 billion and use 25% of our freshwater just to produce the food that gets thrown away. Think about that next the time you’re talking about solutions to California’s current drought.

Food Waste In The Media

Food waste has been getting increasing attention in the past couple of years (check out the trends in online searches and journal articles). John Oliver brought the issue to national attention this past summer with an 18 minute segment that was picked up by several other major media networks, and a 2014 documentary on the subject is still being shown around the country. The U.S. Government has also given more attention and resources to wasted food since it launched a national Food Waste Challenge in 2013. This past September, the USDA and EPA released the United States’ first ever national food waste reduction goal, calling for a 50% reduction in wasted food by 2030.

5 Things You Can Do to Reduce Food Waste:

1)   Volunteer with Food Forward at one of our Food Recovery Events.

2)   Donate your extra fruit.

3)   Sign the “What the Fork” Petition to include Ugly Produce in stores.

4)   Learn how to shop, store, and cook food effectively.

5)   Call your elected official and ask them to support legislation to reduce Food Waste.

Peppers in Dumpster


Read More: Posted in Food, Food Education
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Faces of Food Forward: Catholic Charities

When Food Forward began zesting Ventura County through the fortitude and passion of an award-winning Super Volunteer who became our first Ventura County Branch Manager, Martha Penhall, we began looking for a receiving agency to take the growing fruits of our labors and ensure they were passed along to people in the county with the greatest need.

CATH CHARITIES -2015-32-LRGrapefruit harvested fresh from the tree by Food Forward volunteers is unloaded at the Catholic Charities loading dock

Catholic Charities’ mission to provide basic services and food to their clients made them a perfect partner, particularly because one population they serve resonated strongly with us: the region’s often isolated farm workers. This is a community that faces a cruel irony of laboring to help feed urban communities and yet often cannot afford to buy the same fruits and vegetables they harvest due to their incredibly low wages.

We wanted to help and, thus, Martha forged a relationship with Patricia Calderon, Coordinator of Catholic Charities in Moorpark, which is a community that bridges the agricultural and suburban belts of southeastern Ventura County. At that time, they worked out of a couple of trailers but they managed to store and, even at times, pick up the food we harvested to distribute it in a timely manner to folks of all stripes. The staff at Catholic Charities was so enthusiastic about our work that they even hosted Pick Leader trainings for our Backyard Harvest Program during off hours.

Though the economy has improved slightly in the last couple of years, more than 10% of Ventura County’s population is food insecure and many of those people work in the ranks of the agriculture and service industries.

Jim Mangis, Food Forward’s current Ventura County Manager, points to Catholic Charities as a cornerstone organization in the community, “[They] have been a positive lifeline for local Moorpark families for decades. Food Forward loves delivering fresh citrus, avocados and veggies to them, knowing that it will go quickly and cheerfully to those who need it most. ”

Catholic Charities has since moved to a beautiful new facility that allows them to serve many more people then ever before and, so, their need for fresh produce has only increased.


Maria receives fresh produce for herself and her family, relying on this food as the only consistent source of fresh produce she has.

According to Calderon, “The fruit provided by Food Forward over the last few years has enabled Catholic Charities/Moorpark Pantry Plus to supplement the quality and quantity of the food distributed to over 500 households with 2000 individuals every month.”

The day we visited, we met unemployed domestic workers, families with children and retired individuals struggling to make ends meet. They were each treated to full bags of grapefruit, which Food Forward volunteers had harvested 15 minutes earlier and were still warm from the sun.

CATH CHARITIES -2015-30-LRTeresa of Moorpark, who is retired and visits Catholic Charities regularly, supplements meals for herself and her husband with Food Forward produce. She enjoys making juice from the fresh fruit Food Forward supplies because “it helps us get through the week in a healthy way.”

Patricia Calderon, the Program Coordinator who oversees the staff and pantry operations tells us, “We enjoy along working with Food Forward very much. Your mission aligns with the work we do every day: To rescue and provide food for people in need. Our professional relationship has been pleasant and productive. It is my pleasure to work with your crew and keep them motivated… to make a difference in our community providing fresh fruits to the people with great need.”

CATH CHARITIES -2015-35-LRDannie is a disabled punch press operator who walks 2 miles from his home to Catholic Charities each week to receive both fresh produce and an allotment of dry goods.

Read More: Posted in Community Action, Food, Urban Hunger, Ventura County Volunteer, Volunteer Organization
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