Food Forward Blog
From the Hollywood Farmers Market to Pershing Square

The phrase “farm to table” often comes to mind at farmers markets. With the abundance of fresh produce, many can’t help but imagine the dishes they can conjure up to place on their own dinner tables. However, not all produce is destined for a traditional, picturesque dinner table setting. Extraordinary amounts of produce are left unconsumed and destined, instead, for the garbage after many markets. This is where Food Forward steps in. Every week our volunteers can be seen gleaning produce from vendors at numerous markets across Southern California just before receiving agencies pick up to lead their own distribution for those in need. While the phrase “farm to table” may still hold true, the typical table-top setting begins to take different forms as reclaimed produce makes its way to Food Forward’s receiving agencies.

The ways in which we interpret and interact with food as a symbol has always been interesting to me. It made sense, then, that not too long into my internship did I become intrigued by the path produce takes to those in need. For a typical customer at a farmers market, these items are likely a tool used to better one’s health and to prepare a delicious meal. The rows of colorful fruit and vegetables juxtaposed with fresh flowers and eggs symbolize abundance and the powers of nature to many. To those living without stable homes and with insecure food sources, however, these foods also mean survival.


Since 2012, Food Forward has been gleaning the Hollywood Farmers Market with Food Not Bombs (FNB) as a receiving agency. In this nontraditional “farm to table” storyline, produce goes through a few different processes before reaching the folks at FNB, “a secular group providing delicious, healthy, vegan meals to the community free of charge.” Every Sunday, Food Not Bombs picks up produce from the Hollywood Farmers Market and moves on for meal preparation. From there, dishes of beans, rice, veggie stew, and salad are served to anyone who attends (usually between 30 and 50 people) every Sunday night at Pershing Square and sometimes Skid Row in Downtown Los Angeles. According to a member of the Los Angeles chapter of Food Not Bombs, “While the rice and beans provide excellent protein, the stew and salad provide most of the much-needed nutrition for the communities we serve at Pershing Square and Skid Row.”

The Market

In order for the produce to reach Los Angeles community members at Pershing Square, we must first take a look at the action going on at the Hollywood Farmers Market where FNB receives their supplies.


It is here where Food Forward gleaners first distribute boxes to vendors with surplus produce to donate. Once boxes are filled at the end of the market, they are collected, weighed, and distributed to receiving agencies like Food Not Bombs.

Every week, a glean is lead by a glean team leader (GTL) and a team of volunteers. The Hollywood market is very large and often calls for multiple teams to get the job done.


Dedication helps drive the gleaning process to completion and produce moves on its way to the next stage!

The Prep

After Food Not Bombs picks up the produce at the Hollywood Farmers Market, it is immediately prepared, chopped, and cooked at their facility. A schedule hangs on a wall nearby to help everyone work as efficiently and mindfully as possible. Meals are served at 6:30 PM and there is a lot of prep to be done beforehand!


Like Food Forward, Food Not Bombs is powered by volunteers who put in the time and labor in order to ensure that others are fed. The act of working together on these tasks helps to facilitate in the act of building community. Volunteers are able to work at their own pace, yet the positive energy makes everything feel synchronous. As an added bonus, consciousness is continuously practiced as folks use separate bins to collect vegetable scraps for compost throughout the chopping process!



As the day goes on, the scent of stew, rice, beans, and fresh salad act as reminders that it will soon be time to head out.

The Meal

Once everything is ready, volunteers pack it up, put it in the back of the van, and head over to Pershing Square for distribution.

This part of the Food Not Bombs philosophy really appealed to me: “Food Not Bombs aims to prepare more than just food; we aim to prepare community. We ask our volunteers to wait in line as a member of the community and share a meal with someone they do not know. We try to meet new people and remember names. We have had people come back and serve as volunteers once they’re back on their feet.”

Out of respect for community members, I held off on taking too many photos during this part of the story line. I can assure you, though, that I was fortunate enough to meet a lot of wonderful people and shared in a great dinner time conversation all while surrounded by skyscrapers and a glittery art piece hovering in the air.


The site of folks holding space for each others conversation as they have their meals on makeshift tables speaks volumes about the need for widespread access to food. Food does not always take a linear pathway from the farm to the dining room table of a furnished home. Food travels in multiple directions to the tables of people whose stories should be acknowledged.

More information about Food Not Bombs can be found on their Facebook page.

Rene Paredes
Farmers Market Recovery Program Assistant (Summer 2016)

Read More: Posted in Farmers Market, Farmers Market Recovery, Urban Hunger, Volunteer Organization
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Gleaning in the SGV

Volunteer at Farmers Market

We’d like to introduce you to our Volunteer of the Month for July – Justin! Justin started volunteering with us at the beginning of this year, but has already volunteered at an astonishing 29 gleans. He started volunteering at the Alhambra Farmers Market and decided that his talents could also be used at the Pasadena Farmers Market. He started leading in April and has been more than willing to go above and beyond what is expected of him as a Glean Team Leader. He has been very flexible, filling in last minute at the markets where we needed him, and often dedicates his weekends to support our organization, doing double duty at multiple weekend markets.

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

I was looking on LA Works for volunteering opportunities that I could participate in when I found Food Forward, I read about Food Forward on the Food Forward website and participated in the Alhambra and Pasadena farmer’s market gleans. The efforts and passion of the other volunteers inspired me to continue volunteering with Food Forward and eventually becoming a Glean Team Leader. 

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

Having lived around the world and seeing the living conditions of the underprivileged, I truly believe in the fight against hunger and getting myself involved in the process of eliminating waste. Seeing the hard work that the Farmers at the markets put into cultivating their produce, it would be irresponsible for me as a member of this community to not make sure that the hard work of the farmers don’t go to waste.

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

I am currently a full-time student attending Community College, I am working towards transferring to UC Berkeley. In the little spare time I have, I like to skateboard, make spray paint art, and listen to Soul music.

What is your favorite part about volunteering with Food Forward? 

My favorite part about volunteering with Food Forward is the process of weighing the gleaned produce, it is oddly rewarding to see the collective efforts of the volunteers expressed in the poundage of fresh produce we are able to save from waste. 

Any words of wisdom you live by? 

“Stay away from “They” –DJ Khaled


Read More: Posted in Farmers Market, Farmers Market Recovery, Los Angeles Volunteer
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We Are Hiring: L.A. Harvest Coordinator

POSITION: Los Angeles Backyard Harvest Coordinator
ORGANIZATION: Food Forward (501c3 non-profit),

ORGANIZATION OVERVIEW: Food Forward’s mission is to rescue fresh local produce that would otherwise go to waste connecting this abundance with people in need, and inspiring others to do the same. This food helps feed Southern California’s most vulnerable: be they children, homeless individuals, veterans, those with HIV/AIDS, women, low-income families, immigrants, or beyond. We also aim to tap into an awareness and consciousness of sustainability and community building, and to become a bright voice on Southern California’s edible landscape around food security and food justice issues.

BACKYARD HARVEST PROGRAM OVERVIEW: The Backyard Harvest Program started in 2009 in the San Fernando Valley when two volunteers harvested from a single tree and harvested over 800 pounds of tangerines. To date, we have donated over 21 million pounds to over 60 local receiving agencies in Ventura and Los Angeles Counties (with some additional work done in Santa Barbara, Orange, and San Bernardino Counties). The Backyard Harvest Program administers a volunteer-based, systematized collection of produce that would otherwise go to waste from backyard fruit trees. 100% of this fruit is donated to agencies serving those in need.

POSITION OVERVIEW: We are looking for a 30+ hr/week Los Angeles Program Coordinator to assist with the Backyard Harvest Program. This person will work directly with the Backyard Harvest Program Manager and the San Gabriel Valley Harvest Coordinator. This position provides an opportunity to become deeply involved in the urban food justice community, while working for a prominent and growing nonprofit. Program Coordinator will work to improve outreach efficiency and deepen the program’s reach in the Los Angeles area. This person will work with property owners who have fruit to donate by gathering essential harvesting and logistical information for our database to organize and coordinate picks. Tasks will include communicating with property owners who have fruit trees, scheduling harvesting events, and coordinating event details for each harvest. The Program Coordinator will also play a key role in managing 1-2 program assistants and is the main point of contact for 40+ Super Volunteers.

● Communicating with 40+ Pick Leaders and homeowners to schedule and coordinate all logistics for 40+ unique harvesting events every month
● Main point of contact for homeowners, receiving agencies, and Super Volunteers
● Maintaining relationships with 1000+ homeowners and with 150+ receiving agencies (food pantries or donation centers)
● Managing, updating and improving a database of over 2000 properties and 2300 harvesting events (since 2009)
● Training, overseeing, and onboarding Super Volunteers: Pick Leaders and Property Scouts
● Tabling and presenting at community events, council meetings, universities, etc
● Frequent written and verbal communication with property owners and receiving agencies
● Writing up to date training manuals and workflows
● Creating a harvest calendar to include large picks, regular trainings, and volunteer appreciation events

Ideal candidate will have a strong interest in hunger and food justice issues. We are looking for an extremely detail-oriented person who enjoys organizing and collecting data and information. He/she can work efficiently and comfortably on a website to manage large amounts of detailed information. The candidate should be personable and able to communicate with various personalities and temperaments. The Backyard Harvest Program is constantly evolving, and an ideal candidate will support the growth of the program. The candidate should have a strong knowledge of local fruit tree varieties and fruit tree care. The candidate should be highly versed in Los Angeles and San Fernando Valley geography and reside in the Los Angeles area, ideally within close
proximity to our offices in North Hollywood.

Other qualifications include:
● Bachelor’s Degree in a related field (Environment Science, Urban Planning, Public Policy)
● Proven effective data management skills
● Strong Excel skills
● Strong people and public speaking skills
● Experience in event planning
● Ability to communicate with various temperaments and populations
● A flexible team player who is able to work well under pressure and time constraints
● Experience working in a fast paced environment- start up or non-profit desired
● Knowledge of locally grown tree varieties, including harvest seasons, tree size and shape, fruit qualities
● Strong knowledge of LA geography, neighborhoods, and streets
● Experience in food justice work desired
● Proactive and willingness to improve on program strategies, workflows, and documents
● Strong knowledge and comfort with WordPress, Facebook, and other Social Media
● Comfortable lifting 40 – 60 pound boxes and harvest equipment
● Ability to sit, stand, walk, climb stairs and ladders, bend, lift, twist, kneel, crouch, crawl, pull, push, carry, grasp, reach and stoop as needed
● Comfort and skill being on ladders and in the trees
● Ability to drive large utility-style vans and trucks in compliance of traffic and safety laws
● A valid driver’s license
● Available to work weekends as needed

HOURS: 30 / Week
WAGE: $13 – $16 / Hour

How to Apply:
Applications are due by Tuesday, July 22, 2016. Send a cover letter that includes where you heard about this position, in the body of the email and attach your resume in a PDF version to The subject line should read, LA BYH Program Coordinator – (Your Name). No phone calls please. Please follow these instructions to insure that we process your application.

Read More: Posted in Backyard Harvest, Job Opportunity
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Food Forward is hiring a Development Associate!


Organizational Overview: Food Forward’s mission is to rescue fresh local produce that would otherwise go to waste connecting this abundance with people in need, and inspiring others to do the same. Our donated produce will reach those in need across virtually all social service sectors: homeless outreach, domestic violence shelters, street youth homes, veteran services, LGBT teen/adult/senior services, after-school programs, the mentally disabled, low-income college programs, and many more. With the volunteer-power of over 7,000 registered volunteers and a small staff, we will help feed over 1.25 million Southern Californians in need with healthy, nutritious, otherwise wasted produce this year.

Position Description: The Development Associate will report to the Director of Development. S/he will be involved in nearly all aspects of organizational fundraising: grant writing, individual donor cultivation, events, and much more. The ideal candidate is passionate about hunger/food justice issues. People new to fundraising should not shy away from applying. But, s/he must be a self-starter who has an acute interest in learning non-profit fundraising. The candidate must possess exceptional organizational, communication, written, and critical thinking skills. These, along with ambition and a willingness to learn, are non-negotiable traits. Food Forward has been rapidly expanding since inception, and this position has great potential for growth!

Minimum Requirements:
• Bachelor’s degree, advanced degree a plus
• Keen passion for food justice is desired
• Strong organizational skills and attention to detail
• Must be a conceptual, strategic thinker
• Possess excellent communication skills, both written and verbally, for interaction with donors, stakeholders, and others within the organization
• Ability to manage time and work effectively under pressure to meet deadlines
• Fundamental understanding of budgeting and/or proficiency in basic bookkeeping is preferred
• Skilled in Microsoft Office
• Experience working with Salesforce and/or other CRM or donor software is preferred

• Prep grant applications and reports for the Grant Writer and Development Director
• Conduct research to identify new grant opportunities
• Assist the Executive Director and the Development Director with preparation for meetings with funders
• Generate financial reports from Salesforce to relay up-to-date income information to executive staff, board, and staff bookkeeper
• Maintain donor correspondence and acknowledge gifts
• Keep CRM database (Salesforce) current
• Assist in general communication outreach for all development department needs
• Maintain electronic attachments of funder and program files
• Assist with Food Forward’s annual spring fundraiser and other smaller donor events
• Ability to lift 40 pounds, sit, stand, walk, climb stairs, bend, lift, twist, kneel, and crouch.

Hours: 40 hours a week
Wage: $15-$20 hr. DOE
Benefits: Health & vision insurance and paid vacation

How to Apply:

Applications are due by Tuesday, July 5th. Send a cover letter in the body of the email and attach your resume in a PDF version to

The subject line should read, Development Associate – (Your Name). No phone calls. Please follow these instructions to insure that we process your application.

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Camarillo Volunteer leads Farm Gleaning in Ventura County!

Volunteers Gleaning at Organic Farm

Our Volunteer of the Month for May, Carol Gravelle, is an instrumental voice for our Ventura County Program and for Food Forward as a whole. Carol has been volunteering with us in Ventura County ever since we began working there in 2011, but she has taken on a huge role in leading the program in the past two years. She has become our committed Farm Glean Leader, leading volunteers in harvesting organic vegetables from McGrath Family Farm and Abundant Table Farms in Camarillo, and helped us secure a local storage site as well. We cannot emphasize enough how important her leadership has been to our young and rapidly growing Farm Glean efforts. Carol also offered up her services as a talented graphic designer, creating a flyer for distribution through our partnership with Laemmle Theaters.*

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

Three or four years ago I happened upon the group and what you do, I don’t recall how, probably through social media. I saw there was an orange harvest near me, and that was my first pick.

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

I saw, and continue to see, it as the perfect win-win-win. Reducing food waste, aiding those who benefit from donated fresh produce, and at the picks, enlarging my community of people who feel those things are important.

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

I’m a freelance graphic designer, organic gardener, hiker, and I volunteer regularly with Channel Islands Restoration to help restore native habitat on the islands.

What is your favorite part about volunteering with Food Forward?

I really enjoy the people I meet on the picks and hearing what led them to volunteer.

Any particular memories you’d like to share?

A memory that lingers: Jim Mangis, who was Food Forward’s Ventura County Manager, became a friend and his sudden passing is a great loss. I remember at my first pick Jim gave instructions to the volunteers, requesting that any blemished produce be left in the field, that only grade A goes into the box. At first I thought this was wasteful. But the larger message was that the people receiving the produce, our fellow community members, whatever their circumstances, deserved the best the fields and our efforts could offer. It was a gentle message about social justice and food justice, compassion and dignity that I carry with me.

Any words of wisdom you live by?

“The level of our success is limited only by our imagination and no act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.” – Aesop

Volunteer leads team at Camarillo Farm Glean

* Check out your local Laemmle in the next weeks to see Carol’s generous contribution and fine work!

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