Food Forward holds 2,280 volunteer-powered events

December 31st, 2018

4,050 individuals volunteer with Food Forward in 2018, and give 23,240 hours of their time to help us fight hunger and food waste.

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CSUN Orange Harvest

December 1st, 2018

Join us for our largest harvest of the year at Cal State University Northridge on Sunday, April 28!

We will be collecting the beautiful fresh fruit that would otherwise go to waste, and donating 100% to local hunger-relief agencies. Join the Volunteer Harvest Team to help us pick as much fruit as possible from trees, and pack it into boxes to be donated. Volunteers should be comfortable picking and carrying boxes of fruit, but don’t need to worry about bringing equipment or transporting the fruit. This opportunity is open to volunteers 5 years old and older, though children under 16 years old must be accompanied by an adult.


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Food Waste, by the Numbers

December 1st, 2018

In 2012, the NRDC released a report titled “Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40 percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill.” This report had some of the first national statistics on food waste — it’s where that familiar “40% of all food produced is wasted” statistic comes from. The authors outlined the costs of food waste, from economic losses to resource inputs to greenhouse gas emissions. The report also helped to get a lot of people thinking about food waste, the choices we all make, and some solutions to the problem. Last year, the follow up to the 2012 report was published with new data, gaps identified, and solutions. We thought we would update our food waste resources with these new findings.


Beautiful vegetables sit in a dumpster at the LA Wholesale Produce Market. Up to 5% of food is
rejected outright by buyers at wholesale markets. 

New standards and goals

Since the 2012 report, much more research has been done on the topic of food waste, and the Food Loss and Waste Protocol created standards for quantifying food waste, making data comparison a possibility. Following the release of the report, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set a goal to cut food waste by 50% by 2030, nationwide. The EPA states that it plans to work with food system leaders across multiple sectors to promote action and improve tools for reducing waste. The EPA also put out a “Call to Action” to stakeholders and held a Food Recovery Summit, where 6 key activities were defined by participants. Two of the activities were to increase public awareness and build food loss and waste infrastructures, which Food Forward is proud to do everyday.

Impacts of food waste

“Wasted” focuses on the environmental consequences of food waste, and breaks it down by impact on our ecosystems and climate.

Water:  We use a significant amount of our freshwater supply to grow food in the United States, and because we don’t end up eating up to 40% of our food, a lot of water is wasted in food production. According to the report, 21 to 33 percent of U.S. agricultural water use goes to food that is ultimately wasted.

Land: Similarly, we need land to produce food, yet much of that food never makes it to a table. About 18 to 28 percent of our viable cropland is attributed to growing wasted food.

Landfills: Go to any landfill and you will see a lot of food that Americans throw away—21 percent of municipal solid waste, to be exact. We send more food to landfills and incinerators than any other material. On the individual scale, the average American tosses 210-250 pounds of food annually, or about 720 calories per day.

Climate: All throughout the production chain, we use energy, create fertilizer runoff, and emit carbon as we grow, process, and transport wasted food. Each of these links has consequences for our climate system, including the final destination of uneaten food. When food goes to landfills, it cannot decompose naturally (as it would in a compost pile), and releases highly potent methane gas. Wasted food is responsible for at least 11 percent of all landfill-generated methane emissions, a conservative estimate.


Food is wasted at every stage from farm to table. Up to 20% of food grown is never sold due to cosmetic or size standards.

Gaps and losses

The NRDC report also outlines where food is wasted at each stage in the production chain. It all starts on the farm: the USDA estimates that about 4 percent, or 66,500 acres of planted crops are left unharvested each year. And even more produce is rejected due to cosmetic standards. A study in Minnesota found that up to 20 percent of fruits and vegetables are too large, small, or don’t otherwise meet cosmetic standards, and thus aren’t viable.

Manufacturing and processing food (such as canning, freezing, drying, and precutting) creates about four percent in food losses across all types of food. Produce processing is actually quite efficient, and does not produce a significant amount of wasted food. In addition, many food processing operations divert their food scraps to become animal feed or other nonfood products, such as compost.

Food is also wasted at the distribution stage, due to improper transportation and handling or outright rejection by buyers. Another 2-5 percent of all food products are lost because buyers reject shipments due to cosmetic imperfections, surplus, or other issues. At the downtown LA Wholesale Produce Market, our Food Forward team works to circumvent these losses by identifying these rejected shipments and pairing them with one of our regional hunger-relief agencies.

The food that has made it past all of these stages is ready to be sold in a supermarket—but 10 percent of it, or 43 billion pounds, will never make it off the shelf. For produce, about 12 percent of fruit and 11.5 percent of vegetables are never sold after making it to the grocery store.


Food Forward’s Wholesale Recovery Program rescues fresh fruits and vegetables bound for the trash.

What can we do?

There are many losses and inefficiencies throughout the production chain, and it can feel daunting to figure out how to have an impact on such a huge system. However, it turns out that individual consumers are responsible for the most food waste compared to all other actors in our food system. Consumers waste about 21 percent of all food produced, a total of 90 billion pounds in 2010. Not only is this a huge amount of food, but the resource footprint of food wasted at this late stage is much greater, due to inputs from growing, transporting, and storing the food. One study estimated that food wasted at the consumer stage carried eight times the energy waste of food wasted on the farm. So while there is a lot of food wasted before we even see it, we can make a huge difference by simply changing how we buy, store, and use food.

We can also be creative in how we approach the issue of food waste. At Food Forward, we are redirecting fresh fruits and vegetables from the landfill to people. Other organizations work to increase composting in their communities. There are many examples of products made from food headed for the trash.

40% is a big number, and the ramifications of that amount of food waste are clear. But within this issue of food waste there is so much possibility, so many opportunities to do more and be better. We can feed people, create closed loop systems, and bring communities together. We hope you’ll join us!


One use for food that doesn’t make it to the store? Free distribution to community members, like this
assortment of fruits and vegetables that went home with families in Inglewood. 


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Food Forward produce reaches 1,800 hunger relief agencies

December 1st, 2018

Now, 1,800 partner agencies across Southern California receive Food Forward recovered produce.

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Serving her Community On & Off the Clock

November 28th, 2018

This November, we would like to shine the spotlight on Suki Sir, one of our amazing Glean Team Leaders in Ventura. She is the Marketing and Fund Development Director for the Turning Point Foundation, one of our receiving agencies. As a volunteer, she leads regularly at our farmers markets in Ventura and Channel Islands. Suki also serves on the Ventura County Branch Advisory Council and is always willing to run by the office to pick up a box of fruit to distribute any time we have extras. Thank you Suki, for all you do for our community! 

So tell me, how did you get started with Food Forward?
I was always saddened by food falling off trees and not being eaten when there were hungry people in our community.  I also work with people that are mentally ill and homeless and we buy food from Food Share to feed them. I started by getting to know them for our agency, Turning Point Foundation. I started volunteering at backyard and orchard gleans and I was hooked!



What drew you to Food Forward’s work and mission?
I am a Master Gardener and edible gardens are my passion. Well, I guess food is my passion and I believe no one should go hungry in America.


What do you do when you’re not volunteering with Food Forward?
I work in my garden and make my plants happy!


What is your favorite part about volunteering with Food Forward?
Meeting with other volunteers and chatting with the farmers at the markets.


How would you describe the volunteer experience at the market?
Volunteering at the market is so awesome!  You get to see some produce that you’ve only read about and experience the change of seasons.


What was your first volunteer day like?
It was a blast! We were gleaning a 100-year old avocado tree right on 
Poli Blvd. in Ventura. I got to climb ladders and use those fruit pickers and wear the collection bag! I’m really corny and easy to entertain!



What have you learned from volunteering?
I can always give a little more.


Is there a particularly powerful volunteering moment you‘d like to share?
When I was dropping off a donation to the Veterans Transitional Housing Program, the vets were waiting at the window for me to pull up and were so excited that I had fresh vegetables and fruit for them!

Any words of wisdom you live by?
A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.

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‘Tequio’: Community Building with MICOP

November 20th, 2018

11.20.18 — ‘Tequio’ in Mixtec culture is defined as community obligation, or a spirit of working together to assist and uplift one another. 

Today we’d like to highlight one of our agency partners, the Mixteco/Indigena Community Organizing Projecto (MICOP). MICOP is an organization working to strengthen and empower Mixtec and indigenous immigrant communities in Ventura County. Reaching around 6,000 people each year, MICOP champions a range of services such as language interpretation, health outreach, food distribution, and cultural promotion.


Community members select Food Forward produce, gleaned from the Oxnard Farmers Market.

Who makes up the Mixtec community?

Indigenous to Southern Mexico, the Mixtec people are a linguistic and cultural group with roots predating Spanish colonization. The Mixteca region covers most of the state of Oaxaca as well as some neighboring states. Mixtec culture is significantly different from “Spanish/Mestizo” Mexican culture — and there are minimal resources dedicated to preserving this rich cultural and linguistic history. About one-fifth of Mixtec people will live in the United States at some point in their lives, many out of economic necessity. Soil erosion dating back to European exploitation has decimated much of the region’s agricultural land, making migration the only viable option for many Mixtec people. There are an estimated 20,000 indigenous people from Oaxaca living and working in Ventura County today.


Community members gather before receiving fresh produce.

MICOP’s work in the community

Many Mixtec people are strawberry farmworkers and speak neither Spanish nor English, but one of many indigenous Mixtec languages. This language gap often leads to discrimination, exploitation, and poverty. MICOP aims to fill these gaps by organizing Mixtec community members and providing basic services, youth leadership programs, literacy and education classes, and a community-supported radio station that broadcasts in indigenous languages. MICOP empowers the community to draw on their tradition of “tequio,” or community obligation, to support each other and overcome barriers. They celebrate traditions like Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), and Guelaguetza (a regional dance festival celebrating all indigenous groups) to build community strength and pride, and add to the cultural diversity of Ventura County.


Kids sitting together while their parents wait to pick up fresh fruits and veggies!

Food Forward + MICOP

Food Forward is proud to support MICOP with donations of fresh surplus fruits and vegetables from the Oxnard Farmers Market. Donna Foster, Operations Manager at MICOP says that “Food Forward has been a valuable partner in assisting the community to access fresh local produce each month at no cost. Our families greatly appreciate receiving this bounty!”

We are grateful to partner with MICOP and support the amazing work they are doing in Ventura county. And we are grateful for your support, which allows us to continue providing produce to our community members from all corners of the world!


Arts and crafts at a produce distribution event!

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Supporting Our Neighbors Affected by the Wildfires

November 15th, 2018

11.15.18 — Hundreds of thousands of people across Southern California are being impacted by the Woolsey and Hill Fires. Read on for resources and ways you can support those affected by these devastating wildfires.

Volunteers with Bakers Kneaded (including our friends Michelle Lainez and Clemence Gossett) prepare sandwiches for first responders. Photo from Tehachapi Grain Project on Instagram.


It feels like 2017 all over again with the fierce Santa Ana winds and fires burning rapidly through our woodlands. The Hill and Woolsey Fires started on November 7 and, to date, have burned approximately 102,500 acres, displacing hundreds of thousands of people and threatening thousands of homes and structures. Nearly everyone in our region has been affected directly or indirectly in some way, but many people in the Food Forward family have been severely impacted by these wildfires. We keep all of you in our hearts and minds during this trying time.

For real-time emergency information, visit Ventura County Emergency Information.


If you can donate:

Before you donate items or money, please do your research. These New York Times and Ventura County Star articles include helpful information about organizations that are working on the frontline of the fire relief and can use your support.


If you can help:

The United Methodist Church of Thousand Oaks could use help with their food distribution program. They are helping those affected by the fires as well as their normal clients in need. You can contact them here.

Bakers Kneaded is preparing, packaging, and delivering food to the firefighters on the frontline. Learn more and get involved by visiting them on Instagram. 

World Central Kitchen is looking for volunteers with kitchen experience. Sign up here.


If you have resources to share or ways people can help, please email us. Food Forward will have more updates on our efforts to support communities impacted by the fires in the coming week.

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All About the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act

October 31st, 2018

10.31.18 — Did you know that there are state and federal laws that protect food donations? Read on to find out more about the Good Samaritan Food Donation Acts that encourage food recovery work like ours!

 As a volunteer with Food Forward, you are protected from liability by
the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. Glean on! 

What is the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act?

In 1996, Bill Clinton signed the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, a federal law that protects people and organizations who donate food in good faith from liability. The breakdown: when you glean oranges with Food Forward and those get donated to a food pantry, you, Food Forward, and the pantry are protected from civil and criminal liability.


Ok, but what exactly does this law do?

The law provides a few key protections: it protects any business or gleaner from civil or criminal liability due to the age, packaging, or condition of wholesome foods or grocery products donated in good faith to a nonprofit organization. In the bill, food is defined as any raw, cooked, processed, or prepared edible substance, ice, beverage, or ingredient…for human consumption,” and grocery product is defined as “a nonfood grocery product, including a disposable paper or plastic product, household cleaning product, [or] laundry detergent.” Both categories of items must be “apparently fit” in order to be covered by these protections, this means that the item must meet federal, state, and local standards for quality and labeling. 

The Good Samaritan Food Donation Act also protects nonprofit organizations who directly distribute this donated food to individuals from civil or criminal liability arising from the quality of the food. These two protections exist as long as there is not “gross negligence” from the individual or nonprofit – meaning the donors knew the food was unfit for consumption but donated it anyway. 


Perfectly good lemons, tangerines, and grapefruits, ready to be donated.

If the Federal Law exists, why do we need a California law?

Despite the protections offered by the 1996 legislation, many potential donors were not donating to food banks and other food distribution organizations due to liability concerns. A survey conducted in 2016 found that among restaurants, manufacturers, and retailers, 25-44% cited fears over liability as a top barrier to donating food. In order to encourage more food donations, California legislators and food waste and hunger relief advocates collaborated to simplify and strengthen the existing protections.

In 2017, Governor Jerry Brown signed the California Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, a bill which expands on the state’s existing legal protections for those who donate food. The bill was authored by Assemblymember Eggman and includes the following provisions: it reaffirms the protections from civil and criminal liability outlined in the federal bill, with the additional statement that donations of food fit for consumption which has exceeded its labeled shelf life date are protected by the law. Additionally, the law provides an important change to the Health and Safety Code by requiring health inspection officers to promote recovery and donation of suitable food during inspections. Prior to this clause, no state had ever mandated outreach and education for food donation laws. 


 These laws enable our agency partners, such as the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust
(pictured here), to safely distribute fresh fruits and veggies to members of our community.

What this means for Food Forward

These laws are a big part of what makes our work possible, but we don’t take them for granted. Food Forward believes that all people deserve access to fresh, healthy, and delicious fruits and vegetables — so even though we are recovering food that would have normally gone to waste, nothing we donate is actually trash-worthy. In our Backyard Harvest program, our volunteer leaders are trained to pick fruit when it’s ripe to ensure freshness. Our Farmers Market Recovery program receives the extra produce that vendors have left-over, so these fruits and vegetables are market quality. And, our Wholesale Produce Recovery team carefully vets each pallet to make sure we are only taking the best of what we are offered. Our agency partners expect and deserve fresh, high quality produce, and we take pride in ensuring that they receive it.


Awesome! What can I do?

Even with these laws in place, so much perfectly good food is wasted every day. Many businesses, organizations, and individuals are afraid of the potential legal risk of donating food, so it ends up in a “safer” place—the trash. But thanks to the federal law and several state laws such as California’s, there’s no reason not to find a better home for all of that perfectly good food. If you know a person or business who could donate their unused produce, prepared food, packaged food, or household products, tell them about the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. You can also share this post on social media to get the word out! Lastly, support our work, come volunteer with us, and be an active member in fighting hunger and food waste in your community.

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Celebrating a Food Waste & Hunger Warrior

October 24th, 2018

Our October Volunteer of the Month is Marsha Brown! Marsha is our longest tenured Glean Team Leader at the Torrance Tuesday Farmers Market, having been a leader now for 4 years. Marsha is passionate, reliable, and very committed to helping those who need it most. She is on pace to lead the most events this year for the Farmers Market Recovery program. Marsha is also a frequent volunteer at our Produce Pick-Up events and helps us spread the word about Food Forward as a rockstar Community Ambassador. We are indebted to her for the countless hours spent volunteering with our organization and are in true admiration of her tremendous dedication to fighting hunger and food waste!


So tell me, how did you get started with Food Forward?
When I retired from a long career at UCLA I wanted to get involved in volunteer work that didn’t involve being in an office. I was having lunch with a friend who happened to be on the Food Forward Board of Directors. She told me about the organization and its mission and I was so impressed I decided to give it a try. Thank you Carol Goldstein!


What drew you to Food Forward’s work and mission?
I also heard Rick Nahmias speak in a class at UCLA about food insecurity and Food Forward’s mission of fighting food waste and getting surplus food to people in need. I was inspired by his story of how picking his neighbor’s fruit tree and donating the fruit led to the development of this organization that has now donated over 60 million pounds of food that would otherwise go to waste.


What do you do when you’re not volunteering with Food Forward?
I’m an avid reader, beach bum, and knitaholic.




What is your favorite part about volunteering with Food Forward?
I’ve met lots of wonderful people, I love the atmosphere of the farmers markets, the colors and smells, and being outdoors.  And it’s gratifying to see all of the produce that would be going to waste make its way to people in need. 


How would you describe the volunteer experience at a market?
Casual, easy, and friendly.


What was your first volunteer day like?
I don’t really remember — but I liked it and kept coming back!



Is there a particularly powerful volunteering moment you’d like to share?
Two things stand out:
I have come to truly appreciate the amount of work it takes to get food from farm to market.  Many of the farmers are up at 3 or 4 am to get to the market when it opens and the second the market closes they are packed up and ready to hit the road and do it again the next day. They are all kind and generous with their donations and they love sharing ideas of how to prepare the food.

When I volunteer at the MudTown Farmers Market in Watts I see the truckloads of produce that would otherwise get thrown away. It is hard to imagine until you see it.  It does take some work to sort and distribute but it’s so worth it to see that food not going to waste and feel the gratitude of the people who receive it.

Any words of wisdom you live by?
“You are what you are and you ain’t what you ain’t” (John Prine)


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The Growing Presence of Hunger on Campus

October 9th, 2018

10.9.18 – The familiar trope of a college student eating ramen while pulling an all-nighter reveals a troubling truth – around 40% of students cannot afford enough healthy food. These students often have to make difficult decisions, like whether to pay for tuition or groceries.   

cropStudents at UCLA take home produce gleaned by Food Forward volunteers


What’s the issue?

On college campuses across the country, a growing number of students are unable to afford the quantity and quality of food they need to be healthy and succeed academically. According to numerous studies, about 40% of students qualify as food insecure, meaning they lack reliable access to enough affordable and nutritious food.¹ This number is striking, especially when compared with the 12.5% of the general population who are food insecure.² Food insecurity among college students is often overlooked because people assume that being a “broke college student” is a rite of passage. However, lack of access to quality food is a serious issue for college students and one we should pay more attention to.


Who has the highest risk of experiencing food insecurity in college?

According to Feeding America’s 2014 Hunger in America report, around two million of its 46.5 million adult clients are full-time college students.³ Contrary to popular stereotypes, most food insecure students are working, receiving financial aid, and many are enrolled in meal plans.⁴ Penn State reported that those most at risk of being food insecure in college included students of color, students who experienced childhood food insecurity, lower-income students, students receiving financial aid, employed students, students without access to vehicles, financially independent students, and first-generation college students.⁵ And with the rising costs of tuition, books, and housing, more and more students are facing food insecurity.


26903347732_b30f18895a_oBurdened by the rising costs of tuition, books, and housing, many students cannot afford enough nutritious food (photo by John Vande Weg and Taya Kendall)

Those most at risk of being food insecure in college included students of color, students who experienced childhood food insecurity, lower-income students, students receiving financial aid, employed students, students without access to vehicles, financially independent students, and first-generation college students.

How does food insecurity affect the lives of college students?

Students are supposed to be worried about their final exams or their post-grad plans – not whether or not they can afford to buy food. Being food insecure impacts students in many ways, adding stress onto their busy schedules and negatively affecting their mental health and ability to focus.

In order to cope with food insecurity, students have reported skipping meals, purchasing inexpensive processed foods, asking family or friends for money, stretching food to make it last longer, working at least one part-time job, and making trade-offs between food and other basic necessities. As tuition and other costs of university study go up, students are increasingly making the hard decision to financially support their studies over their well-being, as nutrition simply becomes an “unaffordable luxury”.⁶

Aside from not regularly consuming three meals a day, food insecurity in students is also linked with disordered eating behaviors. In addition, food insecure students often have increased levels of stress, poorer levels of sleep quality, poorer physical and mental health status, and experience more headaches. Academically, they often have difficulty studying, lower grade-point-averages, and higher rates of failed courses and withdrawing from college altogether.⁷ One student articulated this relationship perfectly when she said, “Trying to do homework when you haven’t eaten for the past seventy hours is not going to happen.”⁸


screen-shot-2018-10-05-at-3-46-40-pmFood pantries, food recovery programs, and dining hall donations are all ways campuses can provide equitable access and reduce food waste


What can you do?

If you are: a student experiencing food insecurity in the United States at this very moment, find your nearest food bank through Feeding America or There are also popular programs that specifically cater to college students, such as Swipe Out Hunger or The Campus Kitchens Project.⁹

If you are: looking to improve food security on your campus, some solutions that have worked for universities include introducing on-campus SNAP retailers, campus food pantries, food recovery programs, dining center meal donations, campus community gardens, and campus farmers markets.

If you are: a policy maker or voter, you can help fight college food insecurity by getting state and university governments to collaborate on meal plan scholarships for low-income students to address hunger discreetly. In addition, supporting and passing laws that support donations of produce or leftover food will continue the fight against food insecurity.

And anyone can volunteer with Food Forward and donate to support our work! Currently, we donate produce to several campuses and college programs in the LA area, including Rio Hondo College, Santa Monica College Students Feeding Students, Los Angeles Valley College, Swipe Out Hunger at UCLA, Harbor College, Los Angeles City College, Cal State University Northridge, and Cal State Long Beach. Your involvement helps us get fresh produce to these students, which means they have more time and energy to focus on their futures.


1 Dubick, James, et al. “Hunger on Campus.” College and University Food Bank Alliance, 2016, pp. 1–47, Hunger on Campus; Diamond, Kate & Stebleton, Michael J. “Do You Understand What It Means to be Hungry? Food Insecurity on Campus and the Role of Higher Education Professionals.” The Mentor, Penn State, 11 April 2017, 2 “What Is Food Insecurity in America?” Feeding America. 3 Yavorski, Kimberly. “The College Students Who Are Starving in Silence.” Pacific Standard, Pacific Standard, 6 July 2017, 4 Tomar, David, et al. “Hungry To Learn: Food Insecurity Spreads On Campus.” The Best Schools,, 2018, 5 Diamond, Kate & Stebleton, Michael J. 6 Dubick, James, et al. 7 Ibid. 8 Diamond, Kate & Stebleton, Michael J. 9 “Resource Library.” Challah for Hunger, Challah for Hunger, 2018, 

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