Food Forward Blog
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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What is Food Justice?

I’ve been speaking with student candidates for our summer internship positions over the past couple of weeks, and have been talking a lot about Food Justice. One question that I’ve asked every student I’ve spoken with is: “If you were a fruit, what fruit would you be and why?” The other question that I’ve asked each candidate is:

“What does Food Justice mean to you?”

I think it’s really important that we ask and answer this question, not just once but on a regular basis. I’ve heard answers that tie the concept of ‘Food Justice’ to nutrition and health, to ‘food deserts’ and access, to hunger, to the environment, and everything in between. There are also many people who have never heard the term before, even though they may be very familiar with hunger, poverty, and environmental sustainability.

It’s not surprising that the idea of food justice would be so hard to define. We have a national network of courts, judges and lawyers that is constantly writing and re-writing the rules of criminal justice, so we shouldn’t expect food justice to be any easier to set out (or attain). Moreover, since food is so central to our daily lives, and since a good chunk of us are directly involved with producing and serving food on a daily basis as well, we should expect food to mean many things – often different – to many people.

Future Fruitanthropist
Future Fruitanthropist

I like this definition from the NYC-based organization Just Food:

“Food Justice is communities exercising their right to grow, sell, and eat healthy food.”

I like it because it’s simple, positive, and provides a path for action and advocacy. I also like that it empowers us all to choose what we want for and from our food. It recognizes that Just Food is impossible to nail down and cement with a one-size-fits-all approach, and that what’s important is that we all benefit from the food that we grow, make, and eat.

Say yes! to Food Justice

Once we reach beyond defining Food Justice, I hope that we can really begin to use food justice as a powerful strategy for achieving social justice. To me, a Just food system is one in which the ways we produce, distribute, and eat food is not affected by systematic inequality or oppression based on race, class, gender, ability, or anything else. It is most effective as a way to connect people around something we all share – food – and collectively say “yes, those folks who are growing and cooking the food that I’m enjoying should make a living wage” and “no, black and Latino Americans should not have less access to healthy food than anybody else.”

I got to attend the LA Food Policy Council’s Food Day summit back in October and listen to Angela Glover Blackwell place food justice in context with current social and racial justice movements. She reminded me that food justice efforts can be really effective ways to address racial and socio-economic issues that affect much more than food. At the same time, she made me realize how much we need to connect the food justice movement with other contemporary social justice movements. We can’t expect to provide equal access to healthy food without equal access to jobs, education, transportation, well-being and opportunity.

Pasadena Youth Build Harvests Fruit!
Pasadena YouthBuild, one of our Partner Organizations, brings students out to harvest fruit as part of their leadership development program, and takes the fruit back to their after-school programs.

So when we talk about what food justice means, I like to think about what food justice looks like. There are many, many good answers, and they’re all true. Each one gives us a goal and a plan for action, and when we accomplish that goal, we can reach for the next.

The Food Forward Team

– By Joe Bobman, Volunteer Coordinator

Read More: Posted in Community Action, Food, Los Angeles Volunteer
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Introducing our “Triple Crown” Award

Food Forward Volunteer of the Month

As part of Volunteer Week 2016, we thought it only fitting that we celebrate one of our incredible, dedicated, and passionate volunteers: Karen Mariglia. Karen is one of a very small number of Food Forward “Triple Crown” Volunteers: she is a Pick Leader at Fruit Harvests, a Glean Team Leader at Farmers Markets, and a Community Ambassador at volunteer fairs and outreach events. She’s led over 20 volunteer events in 2016 alone, and has helped us recover nearly 12,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables since she started leading volunteers early last year. As a Community Ambassador, Karen has been passionate about engaging students – especially at California State University in Northridge – and her own neighbors in Food Forward’s mission. In the thick of citrus season, we were constantly amazed at Karen’s dedication as she led multiple harvests, farmers markets, and tabling events – all in one week! This Triple Crown Volunteer truly embodies our efforts to harvest food, fight hunger, and build community.

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

While I was working in Athletics at CSUN, the student athletes volunteered with Food Forward. That’s when I first became aware of Food Forward and thought its mission was a stroke of genius, so I sought out Food Forward when I retired, in October 2014.

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

Food Forward gives the donors, the volunteers and the food banks all a win-win experience. That’s what keeps me excited about the Food Forward mission. So little effort is required by us volunteers to accomplish so much. I love sharing the Food Forward story and opportunity with everyone. The support of the office staff makes my small role easy.

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

When I don’t have my car loaded up with boxes and ladders hopefully it’s loaded with backpacks, a tent and hiking poles. The hubby and I love backpacking and get out there several times each year.

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

I don’t have a favorite memory from my experiences with Food Forward, because I have fun at all of my Food Forward events. I love that Food Forward gives me the opportunity to meet and talk to new people; I greatly enjoy the camaraderie with my fellow volunteers, the fact that so much good can be accomplished while having fun, and the physical work of picking and gleaning. I love seeing those boxes filling up!

Any words of wisdom you live by?

‘Nothing stays the same forever,’ ‘every day is a gift,’ and trying to live by the golden rule: these ideals work for me.

Karen leads a Harvest with LA Works

Read More: Posted in Backyard Harvest, Community Action, Farmers Market, Los Angeles Volunteer
Maya’s Mitzvah March Madness!

Mitzvah Volunteer Project

Meet Maya, our Volunteer of the Month for the month of March. Maya is a truly special young lady that possesses a dedicated spirit and drive to help others, qualities not often seen among others her age. She has done a fantastic job motivating her friends and family to get involved fight against hunger and waste through her efforts as a Food Forward Ambassador at her local temple and as a Pick Leader at harvests throughout the West San Fernando Valley.

For her Mitzvah project, Maya decided that she wanted to harvest 1,800 pounds of fresh fruit to donate. She passed her goal a long time ago and has already collected and donated 2,803 pounds! We are extremely proud of her efforts with our organization and as an overall positive example ​to her community!

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

I spent a lot of time thinking about how and where I would like to volunteer. When I heard about how Food Forward started, it inspired me to volunteer as part of my mitzvah project for my bat mitzvah. So far, I have led picks that have recovered and donated 2,603 pounds of fruit.

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

I was inspired to volunteer with Food Forward because it sounded fun, and picking all of the fresh fruit benefits thousands of people.

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

When I am not picking fruit for Food Forward I enjoy dancing, acting and singing. I also like playing with and training my dog, creating art, cooking, and spending time with my family.

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

Volunteering with Food Forward is fun and it’s very satisfying to count the number of boxes that have been filled at a pick. It’s amazing to think about how many servings of fruit are provided each time the fruit is donated.

Bat Mitzvah Volunteer

Read More: Posted in Backyard Harvest, Los Angeles Volunteer
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We Are Hiring: Ventura County Branch Manager

POSITION: Ventura County Branch Manager
ORGANIZATION: Food Forward (501.c.3 non-profit)
HOURS: 40 hours / week
LOCATION: Ventura County


The VC Branch Manager will report to the Operations Director and will be responsible for the continued growth, development, and oversight of Food Forward Ventura County. The ideal candidate is passionate about hunger/food justice issues, high energy, charismatic, has an entrepreneurial spirit and is connected to the food and produce cultivation community of Ventura County. The candidate will become an Ambassador for Food Forward, identifying and engaging community partners, volunteers, civic leaders, corporate leaders, farmers, students and others interested in Food Forward and our work. S/he must have prior management experience and able to multitask .


  • ● Manage Backyard Harvest & Farmers Market Recovery operations which include but are not limited to:
    • ● Homeowner and orchard owner relations, cultivation and growth
    • ● Volunteer recruitment, training & retention
    • ● Maintain and grow receiving agency/community partnerships
    • ● Ensure adequate number of events are successfully held each month
    • ● Equipment and equipment hub oversight
    • ● Ensure timely and accurate reporting of key performance metrics
  • ● Manage VC Coordinator
  • ● Onboarding of new programs in partnerships w/FF program managers
  • ● Tabling and speaking engagements to promote FF in the region to create awareness
  • ● Document policies & procedure as well as best practices

Minimum Requirements:

  • ● 3-5 years Managerial experience in fast paced environment
  • ● Working knowledge of Ventura County geography and demographics
  • ● Keen passion and understanding of food justice issues and trends
  • ● Understanding and ease of execution with coordination of multiple outdoor events on a monthly basis, held at numerous locations, with several dozen stakeholders
  • ● Ability to pick fruit, lift boxes and transport fruit should the need arise
  • ● Play well with others (volunteers, homeowners, farmers, donors, community partners, etc.)
  • ● Connected to the food and farming community of Ventura County
  • ● Available to work weekends
  • ● Very Proficient in Microsoft Office and Google Docs
  • ● Valid California drivers license

Compensation: DOE

How to Apply: Send a cover letter in the body of the email and attach your resume in a PDF version to The subject line should read, VC Branch Manager – (Your Name). No phone calls please. Please follow these instructions to ensure that we process your application.

Read More: Posted in Job Opportunity
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