Celebrating the 5th Anniversary of Farmers Market Recovery (Part 2)

September 1st, 2017

8.22.17 – Happy Birthday FMR!!! August 12th marked the 5th anniversary of the Farmers Market Recovery Program here at Food Forward. We want to extend a huge thank you to the most dynamic, devoted, and marvelous volunteers, receiving agencies, and vendors who have helped us recover over 1.9 million pounds since our inception in 2012! Read Part 1 here.

The second edition of spotlights will highlight the remaining markets in Los Angeles and Ventura counties. We have quite the group of volunteers, receiving agencies and vendors who help us achieve our mission. If you see these folks in the field, please don’t hesitate to recognize them for their work in fighting hunger!


For the Mar Vista Farmers Market, we are highlighting the sublime Lizanne WebbLizanne leads twice a month at Mar Vista and also sometimes helps with the distribution of food with one of our receiving agencies at the market, New Life Society.


How long have you volunteered with Food Forward, and why do you volunteer with us?

I started in 2014. I needed volunteer credit in an environmental concern of my choosing for the Environmental Psychology program at SMC. My concern was food waste. I continued with Food Forward because I had become aware of how directly my efforts positively affected the surrounding community and how little organizational overhead was involved.

What is the most satisfying part of gleaning?

Getting to actually see people receiving the food I helped collect; whether it be a meal or just a bag of produce to feed their families with. I have actually followed the produce to the end consumer. There are so many people in need out there … unseen. It’s a problem that runs deeper and is much more vast than just the homeless you see sleeping on the sidewalks.

What is your favorite memory while volunteering at the markets?

One day in 2015, we had filled up the van for New Life Society, and an SUV and a second car for St. Joseph with so many boxes of produce that they had to take it back to their storage facility and come back for more.  I didn’t mind waiting the extra 45 minutes. Talk about a bonanza!

What are your favorite types of produce?

Crisp cherries and white nectarines are my favorites. I grew up in a suburban/rural area along the shores of Lake Ontario, in New York. We were shopping the farmers markets at the actual farms long before a “farmers market” was a cool thing. The area had been founded in the 18th century by predominantly German, immigrant farmers.  This was the Seneca apple belt of New York State.  Neighborhoods like ours were interspersed with big farms known for their seasonal crops – especially pumpkins. And in the Summer and Fall you could ride your bike east along Lake Rd. and pass huge cherry, pear and apple orchards – most were both commercial and “pick-ur-own.”  Immediately to my south was grape country and in the Fall, the big deal was finding a roadside stand that would sell you a fresh-baked Concord Grape pie!  I miss those pies. When I moved downstate to work in NYC, I joined a Hudson Valley Coop Farm and did my share of farming.  It’s very different cooking with food you grew yourself or that was grown by someone you personally know.

What do you hope the FMR program achieves in the next 5 years?  

I hope they can grow this program throughout California and then expand to other agricultural areas in the U.S.  Food Forward has such a strong model that it could be applied to more than just produce.  I could see this program working in other countries as well.


For the Studio City Farmers Market, we are highlighting A Place Called Home. A Place Called Home pick up from the Brentwood and Studio City Farmers Market. They were nice enough to host us last year for our first staff volunteer day and we can’t stop singing the praises for what they do!


What does your organization do?

APCH offers children from the community (ages 8 to 21 years) educational programs, counseling, and mentorship. Year-round services include daily meal provision, tutoring and homework support, as well as a full spectrum of instruction in health and wellness (including nutrition, food preparation, gardening and athletics) and the arts (including dance, music, photography, and creative expression).  We currently service over 400 children daily, and we have a waitlist of approximately 750 youth in need of services.

How long have you been receiving food from Food Forward?

Since September 2013.

What role does fresh produce play in your organization?

Fresh produce allows the APCH kitchen to cook from scratch healthy, satisfying meals that are full of flavor.  This increases the odds that we can introduce our members to new flavors and textures and get them interested in asking for them outside of the agency.  Fresh produce also provides us the best possible materials for use in our food and culinary classes.  But we don’t limit the inspiration of fresh produce to the kitchen and dining hall.  We use fresh produce as inspiration for creative expression as well as in the dance studio and on the athletics field to illustrate how energy from the proper foods allow us to run and play for much of the day!

What are the main uses of food you receive and who do you serve?

We use the fresh fruits and vegetables to cook from-scratch meals for our members and staff on a daily basis, as well as for multiple special events throughout the year.  We also use it to improve our members’ relationship with food through our Nutrition & Urban Agriculture classes, which cover nutrition, food equity, sustainability and food preparation.  Lastly, we prepare grocery bags of fresh fruits and vegetables for distribution to members of our community.

How does receiving produce from Food Forward affect the work that you do?

Receiving this food allows us to save ~$80K in food cost, and gives us the ability to use those much-needed funds elsewhere.


For the West Hollywood Farmers Market, we are highlighting Seeds of Hope. Seeds of Hope are an amazing partner that receive food from all three of our programs and do a variety of projects that help so many different communities. They will also be highlighted in a post soon following produce from the market to the receiving agency!


What does your organization do?

Seeds of Hope is the food justice ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles which seeks to help congregations, communities, and schools turn unused land into productive gardens and orchards to provide healthy and fresh food in areas of need across the county.

We look to create and sustain gardens and garden-based programs throughout the Diocese of Los Angeles to promote physical and spiritual wellness for individuals and communities. In coordinating this diocese-wide approach to food production and distribution, we are able to benefit the hungry and undernourished in our churches and also within our broader communities.

Through garden workshops, nutrition education, and with creative collaboration with churches, we are working to cultivate wellness in Los Angeles to create stronger, healthier churches and communities!

How long have you been receiving food from Food Forward?

We began collaboration in March of 2014.

What role does fresh produce play in your organization?

Having fresh produce available to our participants has become an essential component, alongside our Cooking & Nutrition classes, for tackling unhealthy eating behaviors and eliminating the access and affordability barriers of acquiring wholesome foods. Our food pantries were able to transition from distributing mostly processed and packaged foods to giving out seasonal fresh produce to low income families in the neighborhood.

What are the main uses of food you receive and who do you serve?

We serve low income families all over LA County. We distribute the produce to our SNAP eligible participants that attend a Seeds of Hope Cooking & Nutrition class. We develop recipes to highlight one or more fruits and vegetables that show up in a Food Forward box for our class participants. The boxes are also distributed through our food banks.

How does receiving produce from Food Forward affect the work that you do?

Seeds of Hope works to fight food insecurity through many avenues such as gardens, nutrition education, food distribution, policy, and more. We’ve learned that not one of these components alone will do the job. In fact, we’ve seen the health and economic benefits of distributing fresh produce to our low income families with fewer resources. On an educational level, we love introducing new fruits and vegetables to our class participants and making a delicious and healthy meal out of it.


For the Larchmont Farmers Market, we are highlighting the Los Angeles City College Foundation. Open to all, LACCF stages pop-up food markets on campus every Sunday, but the last and help to feed some of the nation’s most food insecure folks- students! LACCF has been instrumental for us gleaning at the Larchmont Farmers Market and we appreciate everything they’ve done for us.


What does your organization do?

Heidi D. Johnson is an alumna of LACC, founder and coordinator of the “Free Food Pop-up”. LACC’s campus has been the host of the pop-up since it was started in March 2013. This 100% volunteer run program, helps close the gap between those living in food deserts and recovery efforts of Food Forward. We educate the participants about the benefits of eating a healthy balanced diet, share recipes, as well as support sustainable models like composting

How long have you been receiving food from Food Forward?

Since March 2013

What role does fresh produce play in your organization?

The organic and pesticide free produce we receive from the market is essential to the survival of this program. We serve a large community who rely on the fresh food we provide weekly.

What are the main uses of food you receive and who do you serve?

Since its inception the “Free Food Pop-up” has served over 500 families in the Los Angeles area. Most of our participants are students as well as many families from the surrounding community who’ve fallen on hard times and don’t have money to buy food. We educate the participants about the benefits of eating a healthy balanced diet, share recipes, as well as support sustainable models like composting.

How does receiving produce from Food Forward affect the work that you do?

The partnership between Food Forward and the Free Food Pop-up at LACC has become a campus resource as well as a model for other programs in and throughout the area.


For the Long Beach Farmers Market, we are highlighting Food Finders. Food Finders have been an amazing resource and partner for the Long Beach area. They pick up every Sunday from the Long Beach Pacifica Farmers Market and help us fight hunger!


What does your organization do?

Food Finders is a food rescue organization. We keep good wholesome food out of landfills and on the plates of people in need! Our food donors include grocery stores, LA produce market, farmers markets, event venues, restaurants and hotels, just to name a few.

How long have you been receiving food from Food Forward?

We have received food from Food Forward for the past year.

What role does fresh produce play in your organization?

Fresh produce makes up about 75% of what partner agencies receive from Food Finders. It is the number one donated and requested item.

What are the main uses of food you receive and who do you serve?

Donated food is delivered directly to one of our 330 partner agencies for distribution or use same day or next. We are also provide food for special events such as senior days, domestic violence conferences, veteran homecomings.

How does receiving produce from Food Forward affect the work that you do?

The Food Forward partnership falls in line with our mission of eliminating hunger and food waste. It allows us to provide nutritious food to our partner agencies.


For the Alhambra Farmers Market, we are highlighting one of our biggest donors at the market, Hier Cheemeng. They donate a wide variety of produce that bring smiles to the faces of our receiving agencies. We appreciate their weekly donations and support in helping feed neighboring communities.

hier-cheemengWhat is the history of your farm?

We are a family farm operated by a father, mother, and son trio and based in Fresno, CA. The father has been farming for about 25-30 years and the son for about 16-17 years since he was about 4 years old.

How long have you been selling at farmers markets, and how many markets do you work each week?

We have been selling at farmers markets about 8 years: Alhambra, Burbank, and Buena Park Farmers Markets and donating to Food Forward at both the Alhambra and Burbank Farmers Markets.

How long have you been donating produce to Food Forward?

We have been donating to Food Forward for about 2 years.

Why do you donate produce to Food Forward?

We have been donating to Food Forward because we like helping those in need and providing fresh excess produce for such purpose.

What are your favorite types of produce?

Our favorite types of produce are bok choy, Thai basil, white flower mustard, and eggplant.


For the Culver City Farmers Market, we are highlighting Jeff Feldman. Jeff is a legend within our program and has coordinated the equipment pick up and drop off for the Culver City Farmers Market week to week since we first started gleaning at the market. He has been instrumental to the success of our market gleans and is a champion for food recovery!


How long have you volunteered with Food Forward, and why do you volunteer with us?

I have been volunteering for about 4 or 5 years I think. I started volunteering with my friend and colleague Tanya when our company became a receiving agency. We were asked to store the equipment since the market could not, and we decided to volunteer every week as well as pick up food for snacks at some of the schools we worked in in lower income areas.

What is the most satisfying part of gleaning?

I like knowing that all the food we glean is not going to waste. I also love meeting the farmers, other volunteers, and the people from the different receiving agencies. Everyone in the process has interesting stories to share as well as a passion for helping others.

What is your favorite memory while volunteering at the markets?

I have two favorite memories. One is when I got interviewed for a segment on NBC about Food Forward. The other was doing a glean with just me and Tanya in the pouring rain. It was hard but fun.

What are your favorite types of produce?

I really like zucchini. It’s really versatile. Besides the regular roasting, you can make it into pasta, lasagna, chips, etc.

What do you hope the FMR program achieves in the next 5 years?  

I would like to see FMR program grow into many more markets. I would love to see a booth at the farmers market that taught people about food waste and also how to cook with produce that others would just throw away.


For the Torrance Tuesday Farmers Market, we are highlighting Ken’s Top Notch. Ken’s Top Notch provide our receiving agencies with the most amazing fruit and we are grateful for their donations at markets around Los Angeles.


What is the history of your farm?

We have been farming since 1993. We now have 250 acres and grow 150 varieties of peaches, plums, nectarines, grapes and citrus. Everything we grow is organic.

How long have you been selling at farmers markets, and how many markets do you work each week?

I have been selling at farmers markets for the last 24 years and our farm is at 25 farmers market a week.

How long have you been donating produce to Food Forward?

Ever since it was created.

Why do you donate produce to Food Forward?

Food Forward has an amazing mission and is a good cause.

What are your favorite types of produce?

Our favorite type of produce is stone fruit.


For the Thousand Oaks Farmers Market, we are highlighting United Methodist Church of Thousand Oaks who not only pick up food from the market, but provide Glean Team Leaders for the glean! We really count on them and love the partnership that has developed over the years!


What does your organization do? 

The Harvest Program at the United Methodist Church in Thousand Oaks collects donated food six or seven days a week and provides these donations three mornings a week, MWF, to food insecure persons/families in the community.  The program started in 2012 as part of the Darden Restaurant Harvest program under the Food for America program.  In 2014 the program became a registered pantry under Foodshare in Ventura.

How long have you been receiving food from Food Forward?

In October 2015 we became aware of the activities of Food Forward in Ventura and began to participate in receiving donated produce, helping pick and deliver produce, and participate in leading at the Thousand Oaks Farmers Market.

What role does fresh produce play in your organization?

The produce that we receiving from Food Forward is the best source of fresh produce available to the program.  We and our clients have benefited from the efforts of Food Forward leaders, Ally Gialketsis and Jill Santos, to provide produce from backyard picks, from large orchards west of Moorpark, from farms in the Oxnard plain, and from picks in the San Fernando valley.

What are the main uses of food you receive and who do you serve?

We are serving on average 418 individuals a week which includes 121 children.  We distribute 197 milk crates of food per week with an average of over 5,000 pounds.  The weight figure, however, does not include, the weight of donations from Food Forward which frequently add another 1,000 pounds to our distribution

How does receiving produce from Food Forward affect the work that you do?

Without the donations from Food Forward, our 100 families that pick up food every week would get lots of bread but not necessary produce.  Food Forward definitely helps us assist our community and encourages our participants who pick up donations, process them, and distribute to our clients to enjoy their contributions as they observe smiling families leaving with boxes and bags of food.


For the Santa Monica Wednesday Farmers Market, we are highlighting St. Joseph Center. St. Joseph Center pick up from the Mar Vista and Santa Monica Wednesday Farmers Market. Their vehicle is often packed to the brim with produce and they have been very helpful in helping offload the mountains of produce we receive at the market.


What does your organization do? 

St Joseph Center was established in 1976. Our oldest program is the Food Pantry. We serve low-income families and individuals.  Our programs range from helping people get housed to managing their money.  We also have some educational programs for instance: we have Code Talk which is a coding program aimed at getting low-income women of color into the tech industry, another is our Culinary Training Program which helps place people in the restaurant industry throughout L.A.  In addition to the Food Pantry we also have a “soup kitchen” named Bread and Roses.  This is a restaurant style kitchen that exclusively serves homeless individuals.

How long have you been receiving food from Food Forward?

The relationship with Food Forward dates back to the start of the program.

What role does fresh produce play in your organization?

The produce we serve in the pantry is what our clients look forward to the most.  They get to walk in and select their produce like in a grocery store.

What are the main uses of food you receive and who do you serve?

The unique produce we receive from the farmers’ markets help introduce our clients to food they may otherwise not purchase at grocery stores; either due to the lack of availability at their local stores or the price.


For the Ventura Saturday Farmers Market, we are highlighting Stephen Cavola. Stephen Cavola is another stellar volunteers who spends his time leading gleans and picks!


How long have you volunteered with Food Forward, and why do you volunteer with us?

I have been volunteering since September 2015. I volunteer because I want to help eliminate some food waste, feed hungry people, for the people that run the Ventura County branch Ally, Jill and in memory of Jim.

What is the most satisfying part of gleaning?

I like seeing the different variety of produce that is donated, and meeting the agencies that are receiving the donations.

What is your favorite memory while volunteering at the markets?

I have so many. The first day of the Ventura downtown market, gleaning in memory of Jim after he passed, and the first day of the channel islands market to name a few.

What are your favorite types of produce?

I love stone fruit myself, but as far as receiving donations I like when we get something we don’t receive like strawberries or grapes.

What do you hope the FMR program achieves in the next 5 years?  

I hope to see it continue to grow and expand into new communities.

This ends our celebration for the 5th anniversary of the program. We look forward to 5 more years of memories, food recovery, and feeding people. Thanks for reading!

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Fig Fiesta!

August 23rd, 2017

8.23.17 — It’s fig season! Here is all you need to know about harvesting the “Fruit of the Gods,” along with some fun fig facts!

Hang out with Food Forward long enough and you may develop what we like to call Fruit Goggles. The next thing you know you’re completely in-tune with the seasons and exactly which fruits and vegetables are growing around you. That is why it would come as no surprise if all of you fruitanthropists out there have already spotted what comes next on the Food Forward fruit calendar.

That’s right! Figs are here and we want to talk about it!

Whether you are an experienced Food Forward Pick Leader, volunteer, or homeowner dealing with the “Fruit of the Gods” this season, Food Forward would like to throw some fun facts and tips that hopefully will make you look at this fruit in a whole new way.

First things first, if you’re getting ready to harvest figs this season, do you know what to look for? How do we know a fig is ripe and ready to be harvested? Whether you’re harvesting Golden figs or sweet Mission figs, here is a list of tips to help you FIGure this one out!

– When plucked, fruit should not drip white sap (fig latex)

– Make sure the stem holding the fig to the branch is limber

– How a fig hangs can often be a better ripeness indicator than color

– When ripe, figs will droop forming a J-shape between fruit and stem

– Fruit should be soft


It is important to keep in mind that not all of the fruit on a fig tree becomes ripe together (unlike citrus) so, for those of you who like to pick a tree clean every time, figs may not be your cup of tea, although we hear tea made from fig leaf is both good for your health and very tasty indeed! Back to the issue at hand… while this unsynchronized fruiting can make our work here at Food Forward a bit more challenging, it is important to only harvest the fruit that is ready to be picked and wait until the next batch matures in a few days or weeks. For this reason Food Forward volunteers often harvest the same fig tree multiple times during the short fig season

One of the reasons it is really important to know when a fig is ready to be picked or, more importantly, when it is NOT, is because of the potential skin irritation that some people can develop when coming in contact with the white sap present in unripe figs. Known as fig latex, the sap contains an enzyme called ficin that can be a skin irritant to some people. So next time you’re out picking figs, leave the green unripe fruit to be harvested a different time, and be sure to wear gloves and a long sleeve shirt, just in case. With that said, it’s not all bad news when it comes to ficin. The same enzyme is also a main contributing ingredient that makes the fig a powerful laxative.

Here are some additional fun FIG-Facts we thought you’d enjoy:

– Figs are highly perishable so should be consumed within a day or two of harvest/purchase.

– The natural sugar content in figs is 55 percent, which makes them the sweetest fruit in the world.

– Because figs can hold moisture, they are a great substitute for butter or oil in baking. Don’t forget to bring us some if you try this!

– Fossil records date figs back to between 9400 – 9200 B.C

– 98% of the figs produced in the U.S come from California

– Figs are rich in potassium and fiber, which are said to help lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure

– Figs thrive in Mediterranean climates like Greece, Spain and, of course, Southern California!

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Get Ready for Zero Waste LA!

July 24th, 2017

7.24.17 – Get ready Los Angeles, your trash system is changing! Read on to learn what the Zero Waste LA Franchise is, where it comes from, and what it means for you and your trash. Written by Sam Royall, our amazing Volunteer Program Assistant from Occidental College.

The Zero Waste LA Franchise and What It Means for Los Angeles

If you live in Los Angeles, you may have heard of something called the Zero Waste LA Exclusive Franchise, and have maybe even gotten notice about some changes to your waste disposal services starting July 2017 – exciting stuff! Before this new system goes into effect, here’s what you need to know about the the Zero Waste LA Franchise and how it will impact you, your trash, and all Angelenos!

Fact Sheet on Zero Waste LA Franchise

History of Zero Waste LA:

Los Angeles’s Waste Disposal System before the Zero Waste Franchise

Before the announcement of the Zero Waste LA Franchise, waste disposal in Los Angeles was as an open-market system. Any number of waste disposal hauling companies could operate in any neighborhood. So, even though it was mandated to divert waste going to landfills, the city had little power to regulate hauling companies. This made it difficult to implement waste diversion standards, and to establish fair wages for waste disposal workers.

Furthermore, the nature of this inefficient open-market system means that multiple trucks from multiple hauling companies could service the same neighborhoods, and even the same streets, in the same day. This would cause heavy wear-and-tear on LA’s roads, and increased air pollution (one trash truck is estimated to have the impact of 9,343 SUVs!). The Zero Waste LA Exclusive Franchise aims to streamline LA’s waste disposal system, mitigating the negative community and environmental impacts that have resulted from LA’s open-market system.

A Los Angeles Alternative Fuel Trash Truck from 2009

The Don’t Waste LA Coalition

In 2010, Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) – an advocacy organization committed to establishing a new economic approach founded on “good jobs, thriving communities, and a healthy environment” – formed the Don’t Waste LA Coalition. The coalition, comprised of over 35 community, environmental, faith-based, and labor organizations, as well as more than 200 small businesses, had the goal of cleaning up and streamlining LA’s waste disposal system to ensure that all Angelenos have access to clean air, good jobs, and recycling services (and later, compost!).

With years of research, and the strength of a diverse coalition, Don’t Waste LA worked to promote the city’s adoption of the Zero Waste LA Exclusive Franchise–a program that would situate the City of LA as a leader in green waste disposal, while making LA’s franchise system a model for “greater recycling; fair rates; quality service; clean trucks and safe jobs.”

A Long Haul through LA City Council

Don’t Waste LA worked closely with members of LA City Council, including Councilmembers Jose Huizar (14th Council District) and Paul Koretz (5th Council District), who introduced the Zero Waste LA Exclusive Franchise System to the City Council as a motion in 2010.

As the chair of LA City Council’s Energy and Environment Committee at the time, Councilmember Huizar continued to stress the multifaceted impacts of the Zero Waste Franchise plan: ensuring fair waste disposal rates for Angelenos, improving conditions for those working in the waste disposal industry, and helping to meet LA’s zero waste goals. Also known as the Solid Waste Integrated Resource Plan (SWIRF), LA’s zero waste goals call for diverting 90% of LA’s solid waste from landfills by 2025.

In September 2014, Mayor Garcetti and LA City Council voted to approve LA’s division into 11 different waste “hauling zones,” and to assign a different waste disposal company to each of the zones for the duration of a 10-year contract. This ordinance, known as the Citywide Exclusive Franchise System for Municipal Solid Waste Collection and Hauling Ordinance (Ordinance 182986) served as the political foundation of the Zero Waste Exclusive Franchise.

In an open-bidding process that went from June to October of 2014, 15 waste disposal companies submitted proposals to operate within the franchise system. The LA Bureau of Sanitation spent the next year reviewing and evaluating the 15 proposals, and began negotiating with the selected waste hauling companies.

In September 2016, Councilmember Nury Martinez (6th Council District) replaced Councilmember Huizar as the Chair of the Energy and Environment Committee. A strong advocate for environmental justice (many of LA’s waste disposal facilities are located in her district in the Northeast San Fernando Valley), Councilmember Martinez was a steadfast champion of the Zero Waste LA Franchise, and a meaningful ally of the Don’t Waste LA Coalition throughout the franchise approval process.

Immediately following her appointment as the Energy and Environment Committee Chair, the LA Bureau of Sanitation reported their recommendations for the franchise system to the Board of Public Works, which unanimously approved the recommendations.

By December 2016, Mayor Garcetti and the full LA City Council unanimously voted to approve the adoption of the Zero Waste LA Exclusive Franchise, placing LA as a leader of environmental sustainability, and situating Zero Waste LA as a national model for green waste disposal systems. As a result of this historic accomplishment, the franchise system will increase Angelenos’ access to compost and recycling services, clean-up the historically dangerous waste disposal industry, and reduce food waste within the city of Los Angeles. Furthermore, the Zero Waste LA Exclusive Franchise also recognizes the importance of reducing food waste as a means of mitigating both hunger and greenhouse gases.

Councilmembers Paul Koretz and Jose Huizar in support of Don't Waste LA

Councilmembers Paul Koretz (left) and Jose Huizar (right) in support of the Don’t Waste LA Coalition

Timeline of Events Leading up to the Franchise

2010: LAANE forms the Don’t Waste LA Coalition; Councilmembers introduce the Zero Waste Exclusive Franchise

April 2014: Mayor Garcetti and LA City Council approves the Citywide Exclusive Franchise System for Municipal Solid Waste Collection and Hauling Ordinance (Ordinance 182986), designating 11 different “hauling zones” and an exclusive franchise system with a different hauler for each zone

June-October 2014: The city accepts proposals from waste haulers in an open-bidding process

2015-early 2016: LA Bureau of Sanitation review and evaluate the 15 hauler proposals

September 2016: LA Bureau of Sanitation recommends haulers to the LA Board of Public Works

December 2016: Mayor Garcetti and LA City Council approve the Zero Waste LA exclusive franchise system

Late 2016-early 2017: The city negotiates contracts for approved haulers

July 2017: Zero Waste LA Franchise system set to go into effect; customer transition begins

Zero Waste LA Policy Specifics

Dividing the City of LA into 11 different hauling zones, the Zero Waste LA Franchise will expand LA’s current residential waste and recycling services to all businesses. The LA Bureau of Sanitation defines the Zero Waste LA Exclusive Franchise as

“a new public private partnership designed to address the 3-million tons of waste disposed annually by businesses, consumers and residents. This innovative franchise system establishes a waste and recycling collection program for all commercial, industrial, and large multifamily customers in the City of Los Angeles… With a single trash hauler responsible for each zone, the franchise system will allow for the efficient collection and sustainable management of solid waste resources and recyclables.”

The specific environmental outcomes and service mandates, as stated by the LA Bureau of Sanitation, are as follows:

  • Reduction of landfill disposal by 1,000,000 tons per year by 2025;
  • Transparent and predictable solid waste and recycling service rates for the next 10-20 years;
  • Quality customer service standards with LASAN monitoring and enforcement;
  • Franchise hauler accountability for program outcomes and customer satisfaction through a series of measures implemented by LASAN, up to and including liquidated damages;
  • Compliance with environmental regulations, including mandatory commercial and organics recycling;
  • Investment of over $200 million in new and improved solid resources infrastructure;
  • Clean fuel vehicles

Because of the extent to which the Zero Waste Franchise addresses so many issues: waste reduction, universal access to recycling (and eventually organic material disposal) services, increased worker protections, and decreased food waste, the Zero Waste LA Franchise has been characterized as the plan to lift all boats.

Map of Los Angeles with Zero Waste LA Franchise ZonesZero Waste LA Franchise Map of Haulers

Map of hauling zones and approved waste hauling companies


Environmental Justice

Historically, low-income communities of color are disproportionately impacted by the waste disposal industry in Los Angeles. For example, in the Northeast San Fernando Valley where the landfills and waste disposal facilities that serve Los Angeles are overwhelmingly concentrated, the majority of residents are low-income immigrants of color. This means that the city’s waste disposal systems most heavily affects some of LA’s most vulnerable communities, who are more likely to live nearby, and work in, the industry.

In examining the racial/ethnic and socioeconomic implications that LA’s “open market” system has had on very specific communities, it becomes clear that LA’s waste disposal industry disproportionately impacts low-income communities of color, and can therefore be characterized as an issue of environmental racism or environmental injustice. In an article defining environmental justice, Renee Skelton and Vernice Miller of the Natural Resources Defense Council note that,

Environmental justice is an important part of the struggle to improve and maintain a clean and healthful environment, especially for those who have traditionally lived, worked and played closest to the sources of pollution. Championed primarily by African-Americans, Latinos, Asians and Pacific Islanders and Native Americans, the environmental justice movement addresses a statistical fact: people who live, work and play in America’s most polluted environments are commonly people of color and the poor. Environmental justice advocates have shown that this is no accident. Communities of color, which are often poor, are routinely targeted to host facilities that have negative environmental impacts — say, a landfill, dirty industrial plant or truck depot. The statistics provide clear evidence of what the movement rightly calls ‘environmental racism.’ Communities of color have been battling this injustice for decades.”

In understanding the legacies of environmental racism and injustice, it is important to note the ways in which the Zero Waste LA Franchise, by streamlining LA’s waste disposal system, will address the adverse impacts that LA’s waste disposal industry has on local low-income communities of color. By minimizing the amount of trash and number of garbage trucks traveling through the Northeast Valley, and enforcing strict workplace health and safety guidelines, the Zero Waste LA Exclusive Franchise will likely improve living conditions in the Northeast Valley, contributing to Don’t Waste LA Coalition’s goals of clean air, good jobs, and recycling for all.

Jobs and Workers’ Rights

While a common criticism of the Zero Waste LA Franchise system is that it will reduce jobs in the waste disposal industry, LAANE has spent years researching the economic impacts of the exclusive franchise system, and has found that the franchise will ultimately be extremely beneficial to working Angelenos.

LAANE found that, despite initially cutting jobs from the waste disposal companies that did not receive a franchise bid, the Zero Waste Franchise could create: nearly 16,000 jobs in the reuse and remanufacturing, and manufacturing sectors; upwards of 7,000 jobs in waste processing and collection; and around 2,000 jobs in composting. Furthermore, the exclusive franchise system will allow the city to better regulate working conditions and establish fair wages for the more than 6,000 workers currently employed by LA’s waste disposal industry.

City Council Members and LAANE organizers in support of Zero Waste LA

Coalition of activists, organizers, and City Council members in support of Don’t Waste LA

Moving Forward

Following the adoption of the Zero Waste LA Franchise, the LA Food Policy Council and members of their Food Waste Rescue and Prevention Working Group (including Food Forward’s Farmers Market Recovery Program Manager, Leah Boyer) published a guide entitled “Reducing Food Waste: Recovering Untapped Resources in Our Food System” to provide waste haulers and stakeholders in the community and non-profit sectors with more information about the food recovery efforts taking place across LA County. (Scroll to pages 16-17 of their guide for Food Forward’s spotlight, and browse the rest of the guide to learn about the various food recovery work occurring in the LA area!)

In understanding the history and breadth of the Zero Waste LA Exclusive Franchise, it is clear that we can make significant progressive changes at the local level, and that the community-based work of grassroots organizations are fundamental to shifting both policy and practice when it comes to food waste and food recovery. This process of community-based outreach and political mobilization has resulted in the adoption this revolutionary waste disposal system–addressing the needs of all Angelenos, and helping to protect LA on the whole.

So get ready for the implementation of the Zero Waste LA Exclusive Franchise, coming this July, and check-out these resources for more information!

For more information:

“Final Program Environmental Impact Report for City Ordinance: City-Wide Exclusive Franchise System for Municipal Solid Waste Collection and Handling,” (2014).

“Zero Waste LA: A New System for Waste and Recycling,” (2015).

“Zero Waste LA Franchise Ordinance: Transforming the Waste and Recycling System for the Commercial and Multi-Family Sectors,” (2015).

“Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: 2014 Fact Sheet,” (2014).

“Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resources Summary Report,” (2013).

“From Waste to Resource: Restoring Our Economy with Recycling Careers,” (2014).

“LAANE Wins: Good Jobs and a Clean Environment for the 21st Century,” (2016).

“Zero Waste LA – Franchise: What is the ‘Zero Waste LA Franchise System’?”

“Reducing Food Waste: Recovering Untapped Resources in Our Food System,” (2017).

“The Environmental Justice Movement,” (2016).

“Los Angeles’ Franchise Zones Are Aimed to Help the City Work Toward its Zero Waste Goals,” (2016).

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Creative Cooking with Farmers Market Donations

July 17th, 2017

7.17.16 – Follow the journey of produce from the Larchmont Village Farmers Market to PATH (People Assisting the Homeless) in Central LA. One of our amazing student interns, Michaela, joined the glean team one Sunday and followed the boxes of produce to the chefs who use them.

Following Produce From the Larchmont Village Farmers Market to Central Los Angeles

Connecting Farmers Market Produce to Hunger-Relief Agencies

Each week, Food Forward volunteer “gleaners” meet at farmers markets across Los Angeles and Ventura County. They work together to collect surplus produce from vendors, and donate 100% to hunger-relief agencies that serve food-insecure populations. If you come out as a volunteer, you may help collect thousands of pounds of produce in one day of gleaning! The volunteers pack everything up into boxes of vegetables, fruits, and herbs that our partner agencies pick up at the end of the market.

Volunteers assemble Food Forward boxes at the Larchmont Farmers Market

What happens next? When you follow the produce from the farmers market to Receiving Agency, you’ll find our amazing partner organizations and incredible stories of how they connect fresh, organic produce to those in need.

Larchmont Village Farmers Market: The Gleaning Process

The Larchmont Village Farmers Market takes place every Sunday from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm on Larchmont Blvd, and is bustling with community members exploring various foods from local vendors. At 1:30 pm, Food Forward volunteers convene right outside the market entrance to prepare for the glean.

First, the Glean Team Leader—a “super volunteer” who started off as a volunteer and now leads the gleaners—explains Food Forward’s mission and gives instructions on what to do. Then the Glean Team enters the market with a stack of empty boxes, giving each vendor as many boxes as they’d like for their surplus produce.

After the vendors have filled their boxes, the Glean Team will collect, weigh, and hand off the produce donations to staff or volunteers from the receiving agencies. On Memorial Day weekend, we collected 540 pounds of produce!

A Volunteer from PATH picks up the donation at the Larchmont Farmers Market

Darius, a dedicated volunteer at PATH, picks up produce donations from the Larchmont Farmers Market.

A Partnership with PATH (People Assisting The Homeless)

One of the receiving agencies that picks up from the Larchmont Village Farmers Market is PATH (People Assisting the Homeless), an organization that provides services for homeless individuals and families to help them successfully transition into long-term homes of their own.

Based out of their Los Angeles Center, the PATHWays Housing program offers a temporary place for adults to stay while they find employment, save money, and work with staff to find a permanent home. For the team of chefs at PATH, receiving Food Forward’s weekly produce donations is essential for creating fresh and healthy meals for people in transitional housing.

PATH Sous-Chef Miguel Llorente Chops Food Forward Cilantro

Sous Chef Miguel Llorente chops cilantro that came from Food Forward donations the previous day.

Creating Fresh & Flavorful Dishes

The produce donations from Food Forward’s volunteer gleaners allow PATH to provide people in interim housing with fresh, organic food. “If you wouldn’t serve it to your family or your kids, we wouldn’t serve it here,” said head chef Johanna Martinez, who has been cooking at PATH for more than seven years. Her team of chefs prioritize preparing meals that meet individual’s dietary needs or restrictions and serve, on average, 60-80 people every day.

It also gives the chefs the opportunity to be more creative in the cooking process. “We are so excited when we get herbs, because we use them to bring flavor to our dishes,” said sous chef Miguel Llorente. The chefs at PATH use Food Forward’s produce donations as valuable ingredients, allowing them to serve up flavorful dishes every day.

Whether it is prepping lettuce for salads, sautéing carrots and kale, or using herbs to flavor sauces, the chef’s at PATH find joy in creating dishes for individuals who don’t always have access to nutritious, savory meals prepared from scratch. “Seeing people’s positive reaction to our food, that makes my day,” said chef Johanna.

“Seeing people’s positive reaction to our food, that makes my day.”

The Chefs at PATH (People Assisting the Homeless)

Head Chef Johanna Martinez (left) and Sous Chef Miguel Llorente (right) stand at the prepping station in PATH’s kitchen.

That night, PATH’s clients looked forward to Machaca for dinner. Upcoming meals for the month also included paella, poached salmon, pasta Bolognese, fish tacos, and moreall mixed with herbs and sides of vegetables from Food Forward’s donations. Reflecting on PATH’s partnerships with Food Forward, chef Johanna remarked that, “We are in a beautiful place when it comes to serving good food.”

Soup made at PATH with Food Forward donations

Join the Glean Team at the Market!

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A Multitude of Melons

July 10th, 2017

7.10.17 – It’s July and it’s hot, which means melon season is here! Most people know about watermelons, cantaloupes, and honeydew, but there are actually dozens of other varieties found all over the world.



Melons originated in Africa and southwest Asia and gradually made their way in Europe. A recent discovery of melon seeds in Nuragic sacred walls were dated between 1350 and 1120 BC, which suggest the Nuragic civilization (of Sardinia) were the first people to cultivate melons in Europe. Today, melons are one of the most widely cultivated fruits across the world. Watermelons are especially popular on July 4th in America. In 2016, $83 million worth of watermelons were purchased on Independence day. In Japan, a pair of Yubari melons, the Cadillacs of melons, once sold for ¥2.5 million (about $22,000).

Helpful Tip

Choosing a melon can be tricky. The best indication of a melon’s ripeness is its scent. A ripe melon will have a sweet aroma. The melon should feel heavy for its size but not have any major bruising.


Melon Varieties



It’s a vine-like flowering plant. It has thick green skin (which is edible) along with a yellow, red, or orange fleshy center. Watermelons are about 90% water. When ripe, they are very sweet and juicy.



One of the most widely known melons. Their name comes from Cantalupo, which is a region near Rome where this fruit was cultivated. Cantaloupes have a rough, web-like skin and a dense, orange fleshy center. When ripe, this melon can be as sweet as candy.


Horned Melon

This melon has unique horned skin. Horned melons have a tart interior that have a jelly-like texture somewhere between a zucchini and a cucumber. It has yellow-orange skin and a bright green interior.


Crenshaw Melon

This is a hybrid melon. It is a mix between a Casaba melon and a Persian melon. It is considered one of the sweetest melons. It has yellow-green skin and a pale, sweet fleshy interior.


Honeydew Melon

This melon has a sweet and juicy taste although its flavor tends to be more subtle than other melons. It is a popular dessert ingredient. It has very smooth, pale skin and a green, fleshy interior.


Bitter Melon

This melon originated in the Indian subcontinent. It is called a “pare” in Indonesia. This melon has a very bitter taste (go figure) and is usually treated more like a vegetable in recipes.


Canary Melon

This is a huge, bright yellow melon. They get their name from the brightly colored, Canary bird. It has an elongated shape with pale green or white flesh. Canary melons are primarily sweet.


Santa Claus Melon

This melon has a thick, green-striped rind. It is very sweet like a cantaloupe. This melon is actually at its peak in December so you will have to wait to try it. It would pair well with a holiday dinner.



Melon Salsa


  • 1 cup chopped cantaloupe
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 red onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup freshly torn cilantro
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/4 tsp salt


Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix. Let sit for at least 20 minutes before serving to allow for the flavors to meld.


Frozen Watermelon-Lime Agua Fresca


  • 1/2 large watermelon, seeded and cubed (about 4 cups)
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tsp freshly grated lime zest, plus extra for topping
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 cups ice

For serving:

  • lime wedges


Place the watermelon, lime juice, zest, sugar, salt and ice into a blender. Blend until mixture is a slushy consistency. Taste for sugar and add more if desired. Pour into glasses  and top with lime wedges and extra zest. Enjoy immediately!


Watermelon Gazpacho with Feta and Mint


  • 16 ounces seedless watermelon, cubed
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, hulled and quartered
  • 1/2 cucumber, seeded and chopped
  • 2 tbsp sliced shallots
  • 1/2 Serrano chile (omit if you don’t like heat)
  • 4 fresh basil leaves, roughly torn
  • 1 1/2 tbsp champagne vinegar
  • 2 tbsp high quality olive oil
  • salt and peper to taste
  • 4 ounces fresh feta, crumbled
  • 2 tbsp fresh mint, chopped


Cut the watermelon into cubes, reserving bite-sized pieces for garnish. Hull and quarter the tomatoes, and add them to a bowl along with the cucumber, shallots, and Serrano chile. Pour the vinegar over the vegetables and let them soak for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring once or twice. This helps bring out the vegetables natural flavors

Add the marinated vegetables and the basil leaves into a food processor and pulse until well blended (the mixture should look like a finely chopped salsa). Add about 75% of the watermelon, plus the olive oil, salt, and pepper to the mixture and pulse again until completely puréed. Add the other 25% of the watermelon cubes and pulse until the soup has reached your desired consistency ( like a few small chunks of watermelon in mine). Taste for seasoning and add more salt or pepper if needed. Chill in the refrigeraotr for 30 to 60 minutes.

When ready to served, place the reserved watermelon cubes into four bowls and ladle the gazpacho over them. Sprinkle the crumbled feta over the soup and finish with a sprinkle of the chopped mint. Serve immediately and enjoy!



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Congratulations to our Super Volunteer Student Graduate!

June 26th, 2017

6.26.17 – Congratulations to our Volunteer of the Month and recent graduate! McKayla has been an awesome Ventura County volunteer – leading picks and gleans with huge crews of Pepperdine student volunteers. McKayla always brings a smile to events and is memorable for her amazing positive energy that inspires every volunteer to do their best…as well as her vibrant clothing. McKayla came to us through the Pepperdine Volunteer Center where she worked as the Hunger and Homelessness Coordinator for over two years. McKayla has now graduated from Pepperdine with a degree in Religion, and she is is off to new adventures. We hope that if McKayla makes her way back to this region, she will join us as a leader again. We wish her the best in this next chapter of her life! 

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

This past April, I graduated from Pepperdine University (woo hoo!). My junior year, I worked at the Pepperdine Volunteer Center as the Volunteer Coordinator for Hunger and Homelessness in Ventura County. I was assigned to work with 4 local non profits to coordinate and lead volunteer opportunities for students. Food Forward was 1 of my 4 organizations. I spoke on the phone with Jim and Ally and their enthusiasm for all things fresh motivated me to get more involved in the fight against food waste.

My first volunteer day was so much more enjoyable than I imagined it would be! It was filled with laughter and true connection with the other volunteers. Volunteering is chill, productive, and fun. I find that new volunteers are always surprised at how little work it takes on our part to prevent so many pounds of lovely food from being wasted.

I attended a Glean Team Leader training and just knew that I was going to become infinitely more invested in Food Forward. Sure enough, even when my position with the Pepperdine Volunteer Center ended, I continued to grow deeper in my involvement with Food Forward, training as a Backyard Pick Leader and Community Ambassador.

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

It’s so simple: when you have an excess of something, you are to share it with people who do not. I love that Food Forward presents such a simple solution to the crazy-complex problem of poverty. I also love how humbling the work is. Our society loves instant gratification, but in volunteering with Food Forward, you rarely meet the folks who will be benefiting from the food you glean… and I’m all about combatting problematic societal norms. I also love the emphasis on building community and sharing, which runs quite counter to our society’s emphasis on the individual and celebration of taking and consuming.

I’ve learned the importance of being present with all people. Some of the most inspiring and alive conversations I’ve ever had have taken place under a kumquat tree or farmers market tent. Yes, we have a job to do: we have tons of fresh food to collect, but we are doing the job together in community. We mustn’t forgo community building for the sake of efficiency.

There was one moment when we were collecting the donations from a vendor at the market and as we were walking away, the vendor bestowed a huge, beautiful box of berries upon us. He said, “That way, everybody eats.” His generous and intentional spirit reminded the other volunteers and I of why we were doing what we were doing.

He said, “That way, everybody eats.” His generous and intentional spirit reminded me and the other volunteers of why we were doing what we were doing.

What is your favorite part about volunteering with Food Forward?

All the wonderfully diverse people I get to meet! I’ve befriended everyone from an art therapist to a maintenance manager. It’s so cool hearing people’s different reasons for volunteering. Getting to know such wonderful volunteers inspires me to strive to do even more good in this life.

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

I absolutely love live music and frequent local music venues and house shows. I also love a good ocean swim or thrift store visit, and am an avid tea-drinker and veggie-eater.

Any words of wisdom you live by?

James 2: 14-17: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

McKayla and a Pepperdine Crew Harvest Fruit

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Cool as a Cucumber

June 21st, 2017

6.21.17 – This widely known idiom meaning calm and composed may be based on the fact that in hot weather, the insides of cucumbers remain cooler than the air. Feeling thirsty during the heat wave? Grab a cucumber to help hydrate yourself because they are, in fact, 95% water!




Cucumbers are part of the Cucurbitaceae family, which also includes melons, squashes and gourds. Cucumbers have three main varieties: slicing, pickling, and “burpless.

  • Slicing Cucumbers are long, straight cucumbers that are the variety you are most likely to find in a supermarket. They have thin, non-bitter skin and small seeds.
  • Pickling Cucumbers are shorter, plumper, and have more textured, drier skin that soaks up the pickling brine.
  • “Burpless” Cucumbers are slicing cucumbers that have been bred to be less bitter and not release gas in the stomach. They are most commonly grown in greenhouses and are usually marketed as seedless.


Today, cucumbers are one of the most widely cultivated plants in the world but their origin actually traces back 4,000 years to ancient India. Around 2,000 years ago, cucumbers started to spread through the Middle East and Europe but it is the Roman Empire that truly embraced this plant. Other than eating, Romans also used cucumbers medicinally to remedy over 40 different ailments including bad eyesight, scorpion bites, and improving fertility. Emperor Tiberius (14-16 AD) famously demanded to eat a cucumber every single day of the year. In the 16th century, Europeans brought cucumbers to North America and Native American tribes quickly capitalized on the plant’s potential by integrating it into their own farming. In 2017, cucumbers are grown across the world and they are even fairly easy to grow in your own yard in Southern California’s climate.

Fun Facts:

-According to Guinness’ World Records, the heaviest cucumber ever recorded was 23 lb. 7 oz. and was grown by David Thomas in the UK in September 2015.

-Cucumbers have eye-soothing abilities. Their high water content will help hydrate skin while the cool temperature will contract blood vessels, both of which will help reduce swelling. Put a cucumber in the refrigerator for few hours to cool it down. Once cooled, cut two thick slices. Find a relaxing spot to lay back and place the cucumber slices over your eyes for 10-15 minutes. 

-Cucumber can actually cure bad breath. The phytochemicals found in chemicals have the potential to kill the bacteria that cause your breath to smell.  Press a slice of cucumber on your mouth for 30 seconds to test it out!



Cucumber Agua Fresca


Ingredients (serves 8):

-4 ½ cups coarsely chopped, deseeded and peeled cucumbers (about 4 medium)

-4 cups cold water

-2 cups ice cubes

-1 cup sugar

-2/3 cup fresh lime juice

-2 large pinches of salt

-Additional ice cubes


  1.     Combine cucumbers, water, 2 cup ice cubes, sugar,  lime juice, and salt in blender. Blend until sugar dissolves and mixture is smooth but slushy, about 2 minutes. Transfer mixture to pitcher. Serve with additional ice cubes


Greek Salad


-1 hothouse or English Cucumber, sliced 1/2 inch thick and into quarters

-1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

-1/2 red onion, thinly sliced in half-rounds

-8oz feta cheese, sliced into ½-inch cubes (not crumbled)

-1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved


-2 garlic cloves, minced

-1 tsp. dried oregano

-1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard

-1/4 cup red wide vinegar

-1 tsp. kosher salt

-1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

-1/2 cup good olive oil


  1. Place the cucumbers, tomatoes and red onion in a large bowl.
  2. For the vinaigrette, whisk together the garlic, oregano, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Still whisking, slowly add the olive oil to make an emulsion. Pour the vinaigrette over the vegetables. Add the feta and olives and toss lightly. Set aside for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Serve at room temperature.


Quick Pickle


-4 small, firm cucumbers such as Kirby or Persian, peeled or scrubbed, sliced 1/8-inch thick

-1 tbsp. sugar

-1 ½ tsp. fine sea salt:

-1 tbsp. rice vinegar


  1. Slice cucumbers 1/8-inch thick using a mandoline or a sharp knife. Toss with the sugar and salt and leave in a colander to drain for 20 to 30 minutes. Rinse well and drain.
  2. In a bowl, toss cucumbers with the vinegar, tasting and adding more as desired. Store in a container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Photo courtesy of Andrew Scrivani at the New York Times

Photo courtesy of Andrew Scrivani at the New York Times









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June 22 is Community Giving Day at your local Whole Foods

June 14th, 2017


The numbers are in! Whole Foods donated $120,194.05 in sales from 5% Day, allowing Food Forward to recover an additional 1,335,500 pounds of fruits and vegetables this year.



Thursday, June 22, Whole Foods Market stores across the LA area will donate 5% of their net sales to support Food Forward’s work in the region.

You can make a difference by shopping at
any of these participating stores: Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Fairfax, Downtown Los Angeles, Glendale, Long Beach, El Segundo, Pasadena (Arroyo Parkway), East Pasadena (Foothill Blvd.), Playa Vista, Northridge/Porter Ranch, Redondo Beach, Santa Monica (23rd & Wilshire, Montana Ave., 5th & Wilshire), Sherman Oaks East, Sherman Oaks West, Silver Lake, Tarzana, Thousand Oaks, Torrance, Valencia/Santa Clarita, Venice, West Hollywood, West Los AngelesWestwood, and Woodland Hills markets.


Better yet, swing by a
 DIY Harvest Drop Off at one of the 6 participating stores to donate your backyard produce! We’ll be accepting fresh, excess produce from your backyard tree or garden from 11am-2pm at the Downtown LA, East Pasadena (Foothill Blvd.), Woodland Hills, Thousand Oaks, El Segundo, and Long Beach Whole Foods Markets.


DIY Harvest FAQ

  • What can I bring?
    • Any fresh, uncut fruits or vegetables that you yourself would eat! Please leave any green/unripe, damaged, or broken produce at home.
  • How do I bring it?
    • In a bag, box, or in your hands — even one or two lemons can be a welcome delivery at a local agency! We’ll box it up for you at the drop-off.
  • Where will this produce go?
    • Your excess produce will be dropped off to one of our existing partners, such as a food pantry, in the immediate area of this Whole Foods Market. How’s that for acting locally?
  • I don’t have a backyard to harvest from, but I’d still like to help. How can I?
    • You’re welcome to donate any fresh, unprocessed produce that you buy at Whole Foods Market today. Grab-and-go pieces of fruit that require no refrigeration — like apples, oranges, and slightly underripe bananas — are best! We also welcome you to register to volunteer or donate to support our work.
  • I can only reach a few pieces of fruit. Can you help me harvest the rest?
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What Leadership Looks Like

June 12th, 2017

6.12.17 – Food Forward’s new initiative in South LA, made possible through a partnership with Watts Labor Community Action Committee, provides a compelling example of what’s possible when the “abundance” that’s all around us gets channeled through community based leadership.

WLCAC team posing with fruit and art

The Watts Labor Community Action Committee (WLCAC) team on “launch day”.

Answering a Call

This isn’t expressly a story about hunger, food insecurity, food deserts, or even poverty.  It isn’t about proving the legitimacy of those problems to get people to care or to get people to do something.  It’s about people who do care, who have done something, because those issues are obviously real, and are an intimate part of their everyday lives.  This is a story about how those realities start to change.

It really feels like it’s happened overnight. South LA Collective and 500 plus households are already receiving produce on a weekly basis. The Watts Labor Community Action Committee receives a truckload of produce from the Wholesale Recovery Program every Wednesday and acts as the hub which distributes the produce through a network of 9 community based orgs. But WLCAC is more than just the “hub”, Sheila Thomas and her indomitable team of case workers from the Family Source Center are the hosts, orchestrators, and the driving force behind this new initiative.

“We were the ones to answer the call,” as Sheila puts it, in describing the moment the opportunity presented itself to partner with Food Forward on this initiative.  And what made WLCAC the perfect collaborator?  According to Luis Yepiz, Food Forward Wholesale Recovery Manager, and the one to first approach WLCAC with the opportunity, it was “the willingness to do the work.”  He explains, “everybody wants to feed people. It’s warm and fuzzy, but at the end of the day it’s a lot of hard, physical work, and it’s tough to sustain.  They didn’t shy away.  You could tell their understanding of the need was powerful.”

Portrait of Shelia Thomas posing with the produce arranged for their first distribution

Sheila Thomas, Director, WLCAC Family Source Center

Building Trust

Which brings up an essential piece to this picture coming together.  The struggles in the daily lives of the members of their communities isn’t an abstraction to the staff of WLCAC or the other 9 orgs that have jumped at the chance to make a difference.  Their understanding of the need isn’t an idea, it’s rooted in real lives, it has faces and names, and they have an emotional connection to it.  So since it wasn’t an idea, they weren’t interested in coming up with the right idea to solve it.  They were just looking for an action to take.

The members of Sheila’s team spend their days finding shelter for their homeless neighbors, helping victims of domestic violence take the difficult steps to move forward and start lives anew, presenting youth with avenues other than gangs, helping people navigate the immigration system, and so on.  “I’ve given someone my lunch before because they didn’t know where their next meal was coming from” says Suzie, one the case managers.  When she was asked how the team responded when presented with the choice to organize a weekly free farmer’s market, meaning to take up a whole new challenge, one they’d never done before, and one that was going to require effort above and beyond what they were already doing, Suzie said the choice was easy.  “No one hesitated.  We all love the community, and we see what it needs.  And we know this builds trust, and trust is what it takes for people to let us help them move forward.”

“This really does build up the community.  People want to be here, they’re working, but it’s just not enough.  People need nourishment… believe me,” says Ms Martin, a retired school teacher of 45 years, who’s one of 250 people picking up two bags of produce each at the “free farmer’s market”one Wednesday.  She’s taking back food for her whole household that includes her son, daughter in law, and two grandkids.  Her son works for an org on Skid Row feeding homeless folks, but is bringing home just minimum wage.


Man smiling as he receives produce from the Mudtown Farms Free Farmer's Market

A happy WLCAC produce recipient filling up his two bags at the market.

By the Community, For the Community

Fifty or so people at a time wait in line, but the mood is light.  WLCAC’s space is open, airy, and colorfully filled with locally created art.  People laugh, chat, everyone is patient.  Ten people are allowed through the “market” at a time, and are able to fill two bags full of produce each.  Today they’re selecting from lovingly sorted and stocked bins of peaches, peppers, watermelon, cabbage, tomatoes, lettuce, squash, cucumbers, and onions.  Vans and pickups come from the 9 other orgs to take their share back for their own distributions.  There is a general air of comfort and belonging here week after week.  “It’s great to see everyone coming together like this” remarks Jose, a member of the nearby Willowbrook Community Garden.

“You know, this is a throwback to the 70s when it was all the community was helping the community” Sheila comments.  “I think the fact that this is by us and for us gives people a sense of hope and shows there’s more we can do.”  


Kid smiling while he eats a peach he just received from the Mudtown Free Market

One of the many kids who now gets to enjoy fresh fruit in South LA.

Sharing Abundance

Food Forward works at the intersection of food waste and hunger, trying to reconcile the fact that 40% of the food produced in this country each year goes to waste, and at the same time 1 in 6 Americans face hunger.  What is it going to take to connect that food “abundance” with those in need?  I certainly think the passion, commitment, and leadership of Sheila and her team of Chimere, Azucena or “Suzie”, Mayra, Paulette, Danielle, Leslie, Kenneth, Marsela, Ruby, and Bonnie, provide a compelling example to follow.

As do the other members of the collective, who are helping people to grow their own food, are feeding families, seniors, homeless folks, and youth, and generally making it possible for people to sustain themselves in the communities of South LA.  They are: Parents of Watts, Willowbrook Community Garden, Kid’s Castle, Grant AME Church, the Heart of Watts Garden, First to Serve, Girls Club of LA, Hale Morris-Lewis Manor, and the LA Neighborhood Land Trust’s Fremont Garden.  Because it’s exactly this kind of community self-determination that we want support.

The fact that this initiative has come together virtually instantly, utilizing only available resources, should serve as a reminder of the “abundance” that’s around us right now.  And the fact that it started with only 1 org and now includes 10, who all learned about the project through word of mouth, should serve as a sign of the as of yet unexhausted supply of “can do” out there.  But for anyone still unmoved… well, I’ll let Sheila have the last word. When asked to give some advice to those interested in working to address hunger and food insecurity in their own communities who just haven’t taken that first step yet, she offered simply, “Stop overthinking it.”


By:  Luke Ippoliti, Food Forward Agency Relation Manager, Luke@foodforward.org

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A proposal that could impact our most vulnerable

June 8th, 2017

6.8.17 – A proposed budget for 2018 would cut $193 billion from SNAP (aka food stamps) over the next ten years.



Following the November election, we made the explicit commitment to raise our voices when we felt it would truly count: on issues that impact our partners, allies, and our community’s most vulnerable, particularly around food security. When the news of a proposed budget for 2018 came out with a 25% cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (aka SNAP or food stamps), it was clearly time to speak out.

The proposed budget would cut $193 billion dollars from SNAP over the next ten years, a program that nearly one in seven people in this country depend on to put food on their table on a regular basis. Cutting this program as proposed will reduce the ability of individuals and families to meet a basic human need of access to food.

In her cogent editorial in ‘The Forward,’ MAZON CEO (and long-time Food Forward friend), Abby Leibman, points out that those impacted by the proposed cuts are “people who already must make impossible choices between life’s necessities: food, medicine and rent. They are children, seniors, people in rural communities, people with disabilities, and veterans.”

We encourage you, the Food Forward family, to take action against this proposed budget item by reaching out to your representative to speak up. You have our commitment to keep you appraised as this situation develops, but your voice is essential in letting the government know it is NOT OK to cut SNAP!

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