Food insecurity during the holidays
The holiday season is a magical time—the colorful lights everywhere, the energy of excitement around giving, and the anticipation of getting together with loved ones to eat delicious holiday treats. Unfortunately, many families face a huge economic burden during the holidays, and stress related to food insecurity can get in the way of enjoying the holiday season. These financial burdens have ripple effects on what families can afford to eat, and influence both immediate and long term health.
Photo by Jeff Henderson.
Children and Food Insecurity
During the school year, the USDA National School Lunch Program provides children who qualify, based on their family’s income, with nutritious meals that are either free or offered at a reduced price. (1, 10) When schools close for winter break, these meals disappear, which can add an extra financial burden on families. (1) Often, according to Feeding America’s research, “parents and grandparents skip meals to make sure their children have food to eat.”(1) In order to feed their children, some families give smaller portions, dilute beverages, and buy whatever they can afford. By opting for the most affordable options, these families often end up with cheaper food that is highly processed and nutrient deficient. (1) Not only does food insecurity often lead to hunger, but it can also result in negative long term health implications. Children who primarily consume highly processed food at a young age are at high risk for “developing obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other health problems.”(6) While food insecurity often worsens for families during the holidays due to the closure of schools, many families struggle to afford healthy food all year round.
Seniors and food insecurity
Seniors are another demographic group that are at higher risk for food insecurity. (3) With the high cost of medication coupled with hurdles associated with traveling to a food pantry, such as mobility issues or lack of access to transportation, low-income seniors face several challenges that may impact their ability to access meals and maintain their health. (12,13) Additionally, Feeding America found that 60% of seniors have to choose between buying food or paying their utility bills, a decision that gets even harder during the cold holiday months. (13) Here are some of the ways in which seniors deal with food insecurity, typically at the cost of another vital aspect of their life. (3)
How you can help
The holiday season is a time for us to reflect, practice gratitude, and find opportunities to be generous. From making a donation to volunteering with local hunger relief organizations, such as Food Forward, there are plenty of ways for you to give back. Here at Food Forward, we work to bridge the gap between food waste and food insecurity to help those who face hunger, all year round. Though food insecurity may be more prevalent around the holiday season, it is more than a seasonal issue. Over the last ten years, we have rescued over eighty-five million pounds of produce, which have reached people across Southern California through our receiving agencies partners. Whether it be volunteering in your neighborhood when you have extra time or training to lead backyard harvests once a month, there are plenty of ways to make a difference. With your help, not only in the holiday season but throughout the year, we hope to continue to serve those facing food insecurity. Join the Food Forward family today to keep the holiday magic going all year long!
Photo by Tess Elizabeth.
This post was written by Food Forward intern Tara Agahi.
Agency Spotlight: Antelope Valley Food Hub Collaborative
These potatoes, celery, pomegranates, squash, and more were recovered from the Wholesale Produce Market and distributed to 17 member agencies of the Antelope Valley Food Hub Collaborative.
Across the country, most households have consistent access to healthy, nutritious food, but for many Americans, food security is not a guarantee. A 2018 study by the USDA’s Economic Research Service found that 11.1% of U.S. households are food insecure.1 Though California and Los Angeles County are slightly below this nationwide average, LA County is still home to roughly 1.1 million food-insecure individuals,2 and food security varies greatly at the local level. The Antelope Valley faces one of the highest rates of food insecurity in the state, with more than 50% of all households experiencing low or very low food security. In the Antelope Valley, 34.4% of households reported low food security, the highest rate in LA County. The Antelope Valley also had the second-highest incidence of very low food security (16.3%), surpassed only by the Downtown/Metro area (16.9%).3 Research has continued to reinforce that food insecurity is a public health crisis, and healthcare providers are increasingly recognizing food security as a key social determinant of health.
Antelope Valley Partners for Health staff (including Pick Leader Adel Domingo) and Food Forward staff pose for a group picture after a bountiful harvest!
Antelope Valley Partners for Health is one such organization that has stepped up to address food insecurity in their community. AVPH became a Food Forward Receiving Agency in the fall of 2017, even going so far as to have several staff members train as Pick Leaders for the Backyard Harvest Program. The fruit that they received (and often picked themselves!) was used in their weekly emergency meals program as well as their biweekly food pantry, but AVPH was determined to do even more to increase the resiliency of their community. AVPH wanted to create a network of hunger relief organizations all working to address food insecurity in one of the least food-secure regions in LA County, and use this network to connect these organizations to fresh produce rescued by Food Forward’s Wholesale Recovery Program. This idea ultimately became the Antelope Valley Food Hub Collaborative, a partnership coordinated by Antelope Valley Partners for Health, sponsored by Antelope Valley College, and supported by donations of fresh produce from Food Forward.
Food Forward’s Field Coordinator Michele Chase poses with folks from Antelope Valley College.
Just before sunrise every second and fourth Thursday of the month, a Food Forward Wholesale Recovery Program truck pulls into the parking lot at Antelope Valley College to deliver ten pallets of fresh produce. In a flash, an Antelope Valley College forklift operator unloads the truck and lines up the pallets for AVPH staff to prepare for their member agencies to pick up. Through the continued hard work and dedication of the AV Food Hub Collaborative partners, Food Forward has been able to share an abundance of fresh produce with an incredible network of organizations in the Antelope Valley. Since the first delivery in February of 2019, the AV Food Hub Collaborative has grown to 17 such member agencies, and this network redistributes roughly 30,000 pounds of Food Forward produce every month. Collectively, the AV Food Hub Collaborative serves about 3,500 households a month.
One Collaborative member is Antelope Valley College itself, which operates the ASO Hearts & Hands Pantry as well as the Marauder Market. Every week that the AV Food Hub Collaborative receives a delivery, the college hosts the Marauder Market, a pop-up food pantry at the Student Center Patio on campus. As soon as the AV Food Hub Collaborative distribution ends, Antelope Valley College staff shuttle their share of the produce to the Marauder Market where students, faculty, staff, and community members alike are able to select from their choice of fruits and vegetables at a free farmers’ market-style event. The Marauder Market engages an average of 450 people each month, creating reliable access to fresh, nutritious produce in a welcoming environment.
Health Educator Kassah Kantiok (right) demonstrates how to prepare a healthy rice pilaf utilizing vegetables recovered from the Wholesale Produce Market.
Another event supported by the AV Food Hub Collaborative is the Food Pantry at Antelope Valley Partners for Health. In October, three Food Forward staff members joined the crew of volunteers that help support the twice-monthly AVPH Food Pantry, and they were able to get a close-up view of the impact that AVPH has in their community. Just before the pantry opens, a cooking demonstration is hosted where AVPH staff feature a recipe made from produce that will be available that day. During Food Forward’s volunteer day, Health Educator Kassah Kantiok prepared two types of rice pilaf for everyone to sample, and the crowd in attendance was so engaged and involved that they were all swapping cooking tips—from how to keep from crying while cutting onions to how to properly chop vegetables without losing a finger! At the pantry, AVPH features produce from Food Forward as well as donations from local and regional partners Fire Island Grill, Prime Time Nutrition, Stater Bros, Trader Joe’s Palmdale, LA Regional Food Bank, Leah’s Pantry, and MEND Pacoima, and every month they distribute produce (and culinary know-how) to an average of 1,120 people. AVPH Health Educator Karina Lopez says that “The AVPH Food Pantry has grown immensely and we could not do it without partnering with Food Forward. They have helped support our healthy food pantry goal by supplying fresh produce to our community and we, and our clients, are extremely thankful.”
Students, faculty, staff, and community members receive produce at Antelope Valley College’s Marauder Market.
Every month, the AV Food Hub Collaborative ensures that rather than heading to a landfill, twenty pallets of surplus produce are instead distributed to hunger relief agencies in the Antelope Valley. These free fruits and vegetables reach thousands of people living in one of the most food insecure areas of our state. Ashley Orellana of AVPH noted that “The food pantry has helped me recognize that not only it helps feed a community, but behind the scenes it helps bring people together.” Time and again, the Antelope Valley Food Collaborative demonstrates that by working together to address food insecurity, we are all greater than the sum of our parts.
2. Gundersen, C., A. Dewey, M. Kato, A. Crumbaugh & M. Strayer. Map the Meal Gap 2019: A Report on County and Congressional District Food Insecurity and County Food Cost in the United States in 2017. Feeding America, 2019.
Our friend, Joseph Shuldiner
It was a real gut-punch to hear of the passing of our friend Joseph Shuldiner last week.
Joseph came into his own as a catalyst in LA’s alternative food scene around the same time Food Forward was just proving out its concept in 2010-11. As Food Forward took flight, his Institute for Domestic Technology found its eager audience. We shared the fun and struggles of building organizations from whole cloth and cheered each other on at many points along the way.
Of all the memories of our times together, maybe the one I cherish most is an evening in 2014 with Sarah Spitz where we shared a wonderful tasting menu composed solely of foraged ingredients. Held at the Zane Grey Estate, the meal was created by Pascal Baudar and Mia Wasilevich when the scene of food makers/doers we were entrenched in was hitting its zenith. The food was ridiculously creative and equally delicious, but the courses were slow in coming. The evening stretched on and the wine pairings of nearly-extinct varietals filled the gaps. The three of us indulged, and then indulged some more. At some point Joseph took a hollow reed that had garnished a recent course and, becoming a hilariously stoned bespectacled Jewish Pan, he began to serenade Sarah. His whimsy and sense of being in a moment shone through then as always.
Joseph was generous in his own unique way – offering a way in for Food Forward, be it collaborations, beneficiary events, even pulling lovingly curated packages together for the Spring Melt auction.
We didn’t see each other often, but every time we met up there was an immediate kinship, something fostered by our time together at Burning Man in 2015. He blindly committed to a two-week stint in Black Rock City, not simply to party, but to be part of setting up a camp, then striking it – without really having any idea what he’d signed up for. Though it was one of the coldest and dustiest years on the Playa, we met up several times for tea, lamb stew, or just to commiserate and laugh. Through all the uncertainty that event forced upon him, he earned major props for remaining joyous, intrepid, and radically self-reliant for its full run.
It was only over the near-decade I knew him that I got to understand and appreciate his impressive range of talents: teacher, artist, leader, taste-maker, student, author, curator, giver and taker of laughter… As I’ve read remembrances in the last few days, I continue to learn more about this gifted man who always had a smile in his eyes and yearning to make the world a more beautiful and connected place.
One of the most brutal things about his loss is that the last time I saw him was just over a year ago at the funeral of Ernie Miller, another member of our tribe we lost way too early. Joseph and I peeled off after paying our respects and sat outside the chapel for a good hour catching up. He took me into his confidence about his recent battle with brain cancer which he believed he had come through the other end of. He was weakened by the struggle but optimistic about the future: more consulting gigs, another book now in the hands of his publisher… Even into his illness, he seemed to never stop.
If anyone needs a reminder of just how potent a power Joseph was, all they need to do is glance at his website and see the myriad classes he offered – one after the next sold out.
Sending my deepest condolences to Joseph’s life partner Bruce and their family, I take solace knowing my friend will light up whatever kitchen, gallery, market, dinner party or intentional community is lucky enough to host him next.
Going where he’s needed
Meet our Volunteer of the Month this November: Neil Newman! Food Forward’s Development Director, Emily Parker, spells out what makes Neil great: “Neil is the best kind of volunteer—one who says yes to whatever we need help with! He’s been a volunteer since 2011. In that time he has harvested oranges, juiced 100’s (1,000’s?) of pieces of citrus for jam and then led the jam making classes, cleaned ladders, been a lead on the Spring Melt Auction Committee, sorted produce at our Pick-Ups, worked tirelessly as a member of our Earned Income Committee, and made many hundreds of holiday candles. And, I’m sure I’m forgetting something! I am eternally grateful for his unflappably positive attitude and all the time he gives to Food Forward. He’s the best!”
So tell me, how did you get started with Food Forward?
A friend told me about them soon after they started and I began volunteering on backyard picks. I’m also a graduate of the “Can It” Academy.
What drew you to Food Forward’s work and mission?
If Rick hadn’t invented it, I might have! It checks a lot of boxes for me: it’s feeding people, it’s agriculture. It’s chefs and food producers. It’s a uniquely Los Angeles organization because of the proximity to the Port of LA, Mexico and the Central Valley. It offers you the chance to see different sides of Los Angeles that you might not otherwise get to see.
What do you do when you’re not volunteering with Food Forward?
I help with my husband’s entertainment marketing agency, Cakewalk Entertainment. And I’ve just started as a botanical volunteer at the Huntington Library Rose Garden.
Neil melting down wax for the making of this year’s Ojai Tangerine candles!
Could you tell us about the many ways you’re involved with Food Forward?
I go where I’m needed. I’ve made hundreds of our famous Ojai Tangerine scented candles for sale on the website; I help solicit auction items for The Spring Melt; I serve on the Earned Income Committee trying to find fundraising/marketing partnerships with local businesses. I’ve repaired hundreds of fruit pickers and even installed baseboards and lighting fixtures at The Produce Pitstop!
What is your favorite part about volunteering with Food Forward?
I’m always astounded by everyone’s commitment to getting the job done and their professionalism. And their love of all things FOOD!
You’ve been participating in a lot of our Produce Pick-Ups, especially the one in Watts. How about you describe the volunteer experience?
Michele, Pearson, and Christian run the event so professionally. You just can’t believe the volume of food that can be sorted and distributed in such a short amount of time. By touching the food that’s given away, you’re reminded of exactly why Food Forward is so important and necessary in the lives of our hungriest neighbors.
Neil is a frequent volunteer at our Produce Pick-Ups—here he is in Watts showing off a beautiful butternut squash.
What was your first volunteer day like?
As I recall my OCD kicked in and I tried to harvest every last orange on whatever tree we were picking. Teacher’s Pet Wanna Be!
What have you learned from volunteering?
Humility. It’s not about you, it’s about the bigger picture. That and learn to accept “good enough” and not “perfect.”
Is there a particularly powerful volunteering moment you’d like to share?
They’re all powerful, just as long as you show up in the first place.
Any words of wisdom you live by?
Be Kind. Have Fun. Is there chocolate?
Volunteer with us this Holiday Season!
updated 11.6.19 – Harvesting food to fight hunger feels especially relevant this time of year. As we take time to share food with friends and family this holiday season, we also love to give time to share food with our Southern California family. We have tons of volunteer opportunities coming up this holiday season, and we hope that you join us in the coming months to share a little bit of your holidays with us.
Holiday Volunteer Opportunities with Food Forward!
We just finished the last piece of our Halloween candy, and that means that the rest of the holidays are just around the corner. As an organization devoted to food, we could not be more excited for all of the dinners, pies, and cookies that we will soon get to share with our friends and families.
Because food plays such an important role in making the holidays, well, the holidays, these next two months are also a great time to connect with Food Forward volunteer opportunities. We’d love to have you share a little bit of your holidays with us!
Fighting Hunger this Holiday Season
Here at Food Forward, we like to take extra time during the holidays to think about how our work impacts folks across Southern California. While we’re busy year round working to Harvest Food, Fight Hunger, and Build Community, our mission feels especially important to us as we celebrate (and eat!) food with our own families and friends.
And we’re not alone! Like big meals, school vacation, and visits from relatives, volunteering during the holidays is an important American tradition. According to VolunteerMatch, Americans will volunteer 15-20% more during these next two months than the rest of the year.
Our Farmers Market Gleans are a fun way to spend your holidays giving back!
Upcoming Holiday Volunteer Opportunities
Fruits and veggies don’t stop working during the holidays, and neither do we! Our volunteers will still be picking fruit and collecting produce at harvests and Farmers Markets all through the next two months. We love being able to provide fresh and local produce to sit on the table beside the stuffing and gravy.
Here are some of our upcoming volunteer events around Thanksgiving and December holidays:
New Volunteer Orientation – Saturday, December 7th from 1 pm – 2 pm
New Volunteer Orientation – Saturday, January 11th from 11 am – 12 pm
Volunteer Opportunities for Families
November and December are full to the brim with family events, dinners, and celebrations. They’re also the perfect time to give back as a family and share a really special experience volunteering together. Most of our events are perfect for families and small groups, and parents are welcome to bring children along with them (see our events calendar for information about age restrictions).
One of our stellar volunteer families from the Santa Monica Farmers Market wrote that they “are looking forward to volunteering again during the holiday season as a family. We have a lot to be thankful for, and it seems right to show that during Thanksgiving weekend.”
Three generations of Persimmon Pickers
Have family or old friends coming into town? Bring them along too! For more fun family volunteer ideas, check out our blog post from one of our own Board of Advisors Sarah Spitz, who threw her own birthday party at several of our Farmers Market Recovery Gleaning events a while back! If you want to sign up to volunteer as a family, email us at email@example.com.
“We have a lot to be thankful for, and it seems right to show that during Thanksgiving weekend.”
– A Food Forward Volunteer Family
Holiday Meals at Food Banks and Pantries
The holiday season can be the busiest time for our Receiving Agencies, who bring in more food and more clients than any other time of year. All the extra effort is worth it to be able to share a food-filled and festive experience with folks who might not be able to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal at home this year.
Most Food Banks and Pantries offer special holiday grocery distributions and cooked meals for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Hanukkah. Many even give turkeys and other traditional foods.
Volunteers cooking Turkey at MEND Poverty
Check out some of these holiday volunteer opportunities at our partner Receiving Agencies! They inspire us year round, and the work they do around this time of year will make you feel warm inside:
The MEND Christmas Basket Program: Our friends over at MEND Poverty are looking for volunteers to help visit families, sort toys, and deliver food to folks throughout the holidays.
Temple Israel of Hollywood’s Christmas Dinner: Join Temple of Israel on or before Christmas Day to help them serve a mighty Christmas Dinner.
Giving Thanks and Giving Back
We hope that you have wonderful holidays this year filled with family, friends, and food. With the abundance of Southern California’s fruit trees and farms all around us, we have a lot to be thankful for. Most especially, we are thankful for the opportunity to share that abundance with others.
Happy giving thanks,
– The Food Forward Team
A view from a Food Forward “Friendsgiving” Lunch in years past
Climate Change & Food Security
We often talk about food security—whether or not a person has access to enough nutritious, culturally appropriate food to live a healthy life. But food security is not just about individuals, it’s also about our collective future. In a broader sense, global food security refers to our ability to grow enough food to feed, well, everyone. Currently, we produce enough food for the global population, but not everyone has equal access to food, due to income inequality, geopolitical conflicts, and other factors. In fact, we produce (and waste) so much food that if we prevented just 25% of global food waste, which totals at 1.3 billion tons annually, we could feed all 870 million people suffering from chronic undernourishment.
Besides geographic and economic inequality, there is another looming threat to our global food security — the climate crisis. Climate change affects our agricultural system in many ways and threatens to cause significant decreases in crop yields. Firstly, a warming climate means changes in temperature, which leads to an increased risk of heat stress. Heat stress causes plants to conserve their energy, and put less of it towards growing and reproduction. Hotter temperatures also increase evaporation from both plants and the soil, negatively impacting the moisture content in plants. Another key aspect of climate change is more extreme precipitation—and for agriculture, drought is a huge risk. Rising temperatures will cause soil to dry out, and reductions in precipitation will mean that there is less rain when it is most needed. More extreme precipitation patterns may also result in more intense and frequent flooding in certain regions, which can destroy crops and devastate farming communities. Sea level rise will contaminate coastal freshwater aquifers with salt water, affecting agricultural production in those regions. And a changing climate means changing seasons and patterns—disrupting the cycle of agriculture. Indigenous agricultural knowledge of when to plant crops and when to harvest will be eroded.
The above graph shows projected increases and decreases in agricultural production as a result of climate change, for the year 2080. Red and pink denotes decreases in productivity, and green represents areas where yields may increase due to increased carbon in the atmosphere. This graph makes clear that the Global South, which is already disproportionately impacted by low food security, will be most negatively affected by climate impacts on agriculture.
There are many solutions offered up to address the impending impacts of climate change on global food production. They range from technological fixes, such as genetically engineering crops for increased yields, to ideas like regenerative agriculture, which aims to restore soil for better agricultural production and healthier ecosystems. These and other solutions should be diligently researched as we prepare for the effects of climate change. But, there’s another simple solution right in front of us—reducing food waste. We already produce enough food for everyone, but because of gaps in harvesting, storing, transporting, and purchasing of food, much of this food is wasted. Making more of this food available would not only improve food security, it would also mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, thus lessening agriculture’s own contribution to the climate crisis. For small-scale farmers in certain parts of the world, less food waste means better business, and could also lead to better economic opportunity.
It’s important to note that food waste looks different in different parts of the world—in Global North, or “developed” countries, food waste primarily occurs at the consumer and retail level. Food is wasted due to cosmetic standards, overstock, and purchasing habits of consumers. However, in Global South, or “developing” countries, food is mostly wasted at the harvest and storage stage. The Global North is also responsible for a greater share of food waste than the Global South. In the Global North, education is needed to help consumers waste less and shift our collective mindset of what “good food” is, while in the Global South, investment in infrastructure to better harvest and store food (such as refrigeration technology) is critical. Much can be done to prevent food waste from happening in the first place—and more infrastructures should also be built to rescue and redistribute surplus food.
In the Global South, better practices and infrastructure for harvesting and storing food are needed to mitigate food waste, while in the Global North, most food waste occurs at the retail and consumer level, and education is needed to encourage businesses and consumers to reduce their waste.
We also need to recognize that food is a basic human right and continue to work towards equitable access to enough nutritious food for all people, no matter their nationality, race, gender, age, sexuality, gender identity, ability, or refugee status. Mitigating food waste will make more food available, but it will not guarantee that it is equitably distributed. To do that, we must continue to fight for food justice, and share the abundance that is around us. You can take action to support our efforts to share abundance by donating your fruit or funds, or, if you live in Los Angeles or Ventura, by volunteering with us!
Spreading the ‘gospel’ of fighting food waste and hunger
Meet our Volunteer of the Month, Miriam Cantor! Miriam has been involved with Food Forward for a long time and is one of our fantastic Community Ambassadors. She enthusiastically represents Food Forward at community service fairs, food events, and more! Miriam has a love of fruits and vegetables and a wonderful energy, both qualities that make her a perfect ambassador for our work. We’re so grateful for all of Miriam’s hard work and support over the years, and hope you enjoy learning more about her!
So tell me, how did you get started with Food Forward?
I heard about Food Forward from my synagogue’s Green Team. I was very concerned about the food waste that I saw at my synagogue and at my husband’s office. One of the first things I did when I retired from teaching special needs children was volunteer with Food Forward.
What drew you to Food Forward’s work and mission?
I did a workshop for educators in the Central Valley and saw food literally falling off the trees because there were not enough resources to pick it all—just like in John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. I was overwhelmed and saddened at the challenge of addressing the disconnect between available food and those who desperately needed it. When I learned about Food Forward, I saw an answer to that challenge.
Love of produce runs in my family as much as reading newspapers—my grandfather was in the produce business. My mother told me how much pride he took in the beauty of what he sold, and how much joy she and her siblings took in putting whatever they wanted in the “basket” once a week. My mother didn’t just say “Eat your vegetables” but “Eat your nice fresh green beans.” My aunt said “Everyone loves produce; it’s vibrant and exciting!” I went to college in the cornfields of Illinois. I loved watching the growing cycles.
What was your first volunteer day like?
When I first volunteered the organization was approximately 5 years old, occupying 2 rooms in an office in the industrial part of the San Fernando Valley. There were maybe no more than a few staff people. In my initial interview to decide how I could best participate, it was suggested that I become a Community Ambassador. It’s a perfect fit for me!
How would you describe the volunteer experience at a tabling event?
I call it “Preach & Teach”—I feel that I am “spreading the gospel” of what Food Forward does – reducing food waste and increasing available food for those who need it. I’m also a bit “shameless” in my Community Ambassador work, calling out to people, making eye contact to bring them “into the fold” of what can easily be done to feed people, with what would otherwise mess up the sidewalk and go to waste. I also explain how Food Forward operates, describing the different ways food is gathered and distributed.
What is your favorite part about volunteering with Food Forward?
I love being part of Food Forward! It is incredibly rewarding and exciting to see Food Forward continually growing and expanding in ways to provide available food to those who need it . I proudly like to describe how Food Forward has grown bigger, more complex, and extensive in addressing food waste over the years, from simply picking up a neighbor’s fruit and bringing it to a nearby food bank to getting into the Wholesale produce market, one of the biggest sources of food in the nation, perhaps the world. I was excited by the first van Food forward got, and then by the trucks to carry more. I saw the number of rooms within the Food Forward offices to expand, a great room for parties added, a warehouse, as well as community partnerships with schools and various other organizations. I tremendously admire Director Rick’s vision and creativity; I love how the staff continues to expand with people who come, stay and contribute their vision to Food Forward. On top of that, they are all fun to be with!
What do you do when you’re not volunteering with Food Forward?/
Personally, my favorite sport is reading—all kinds of things. I save book reviews, and have acquired many more books than I have yet read. I am a third-generation obsessive newspaper reader. I also like to garden but I am lazy at it. I have friends who are good gardeners, they give me clippings and I stick them in the ground, give them mostly recycled water, and watch them grow. My neighbors walking by tell me they think my garden is pretty; I tell them about the friends who gave me the clippings!
Harvest Change expands across SoCal
Food Forward’s “Harvest Change” campaign grows to 20 chefs, bakers, and makers across Ventura and Los Angeles Counties. Participants engage the public in the issues of food waste and food insecurity by highlighting one fall fruit: pomegranates. Read more here.
Connecting the dots between farmers and food agencies
Meet our Volunteer of the Month, Dee Reid! Dee is a Glean Team Leader at the Ventura Farmers Market and a wonderful addition to our team. Dee is very detail-oriented and super dependable as a volunteer leader. She is personable and engaging with the volunteers, and enthusiastic about our work, which makes her a great Food Forward ambassador at the Ventura Farmers Market! Dee is also is very positive and looks on the bright sides of things, which makes volunteering with her that much more enjoyable. 🙂
So tell me, how did you get started with Food Forward and what drew you to our work and mission?
Before moving to Ojai, I lived in a small town in North Carolina, where I blogged about the amazing sustainable agricultural movement there. I wrote about local organic farmers, food co-ops, and farm-to-table eateries. But I noticed an important gap in our noteworthy food chain: not everyone in our community had access to this bounty. So I began volunteering at one of our farmer’s markets where we collected donations to purchase food directly from farmers, which would then be donated to a weekly free community lunch where everyone was welcome, no questions asked. Bingo! By supporting both the people who grow healthy food and the people who most needed it, we began closing at least part of the gap in our food system.
When my husband and I retired and moved to Ojai last year, I began looking for a volunteer opportunity where I could again connect farmers with people who lack access to fresh food. I found Food Forward online and loved the story of how it all began when a young man noticed unharvested oranges growing in his neighborhood that were going to waste, while the food banks were overwhelmed by people who needed food. The idea of providing hungry households with fresh local food really attracted me. Food Forward immediately responded to my query and informed me that I could quickly be trained as a volunteer gleaner at the Ventura market, not far from where I live.
What was your first volunteer day like? How would you describe the volunteer experience at a glean?
Food Forward made it easy to become a market gleaner. They provided all of the information, materials and training. I was so impressed with how organized they were. My first day, I was volunteering with others who already knew what to do. It was easy to ask the farmers if they wanted to donate to Food Forward; all of them already knew our mission and many were happy to give us fresh food that might otherwise go to waste. By the end of my first day at the Ventura Farmer’s Market when we handed off a large load of fresh food to a local food agency, I knew I would stay involved. Now I love leading the glean team, each time working with an eager crew of volunteers of all ages. It’s both fun and rewarding.
What is your favorite part about volunteering with Food Forward?
I like meeting our generous farmers and glean volunteers, and the amazing people who work at our local food agencies. My favorite part of our two-hour shift is when we have collected and packed up hundreds of pounds of fresh food and we get to hand it directly to the good folks from our local food agencies. They come to pick up what we collect, so they can distribute it the very next day to a throng of people who really need it and will appreciate it.
I can’t think of any other job where I could directly feel that I had accomplished something so much in such a short period of time. Connecting the dots between farmers and food agencies makes my day every time.
I also love being part of an organization that is building a stronger community of people connected to healthy food and making sure it gets distributed across the wider community. By addressing hunger and food waste, we are also addressing climate change because food left in the field or sent to the landfill emits greenhouse gas emissions. That’s important to me.
Dee with her trusty (carbon free) electric bike!
What do you do when you’re not volunteering with Food Forward?
I volunteer at student food gardens at two elementary schools in Ojai, where the kids learn all about growing, harvesting, and enjoying healthy food. When the garden dries out, they save the seeds and store them in personally decorated packets for the school’s seed bank and next year’s garden.
I am also an avid hiker and bicyclist, enthralled by the local trails and mountains. In fact cycling is my primary means of transportation (we use our one car mostly for long-distance trips). I often ride my electric bike from Ojai to the Ventura Market, a scenic 30-mile round-trip made easier by battery support. I co-chair a local bike-to-school program, where we encourage kids to walk or bike to school, and we provide safe group rides to escort them. This year we worked with more than 200 students and had a throng of students and adults of all ages cycling together with us in the Ojai Fourth of July Parade. Recently we collected about 20 gently used bikes donated by the community, which we will tune-up and distribute to kids who need them in time for Bike to School Week Sept. 30-Oct. 4.
A common thread among all of these interests, is my love of the great outdoors and my concern about climate change. Growing and eating local food is good for our health, the environment, and the climate. And biking has cut my transportation carbon footprint in half. Just for fun, I have started a Twitter news feed (@ClimateMovers) to track best practices for addressing climate change in communities across the world.
Any words of wisdom you live by?
A self-centered life is no life at all. My secret for a good life has always been to reach beyond my own little bubble to work with others to strengthen the wider community. I have learned that by doing this you might just make a difference and you will probably make some new friends.
Produce of the Month: Pomelo
Pomelos can grow to be pretty big, as demonstrated here by Los Angeles Harvest Supervisor Jason Landers!
What is a pomelo?
The pomelo, or pummelo, is a citrus fruit native to South and Southeast Asia. Its scientific name is citrus grandis, a reference to its size—it is the largest citrus fruit in the Rutaceae family! It is one of the original citrus species and has been hybridized to create many of our favorite citrus fruits (like the mandarin orange and the kumquat). Pomelos are similar to grapefruit, but typically much larger and with a thicker rind. Some pomelos are even as big as a basketball! When ripe, the fruit is a pale green to yellow color on the outside and the inside is typically white, but sometimes pink or red (which means its more sour!). Pomelos are eaten on Chinese New Year because they are said to bring continuous prosperity, and the more pomelos eaten means more wealth in the new year!
Where and how they grow
Pomelos are exported in large quantities from the Philippines and Australia, but are also grown in the United States from November through June. Pomelos are mainly grown in Florida, California, Arizona, and Texas, as pomelos grow best in a dry, semi-tropical climate. A pomelo tree can reach 50 feet high! There are pomelo trees growing right here in L.A., and Food Forward even harvests pomelos through our Backyard Harvest program. If you’re interested in pomelos, you can sign up to come pick them with us!
There are also many health benefits attributed to the pomelo. They contain Vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber, magnesium, and vitamin B6. The pomelo is attributed to boosting the immune system, aiding with digestion, regulating blood pressure, preventing cramping, improving bone health, promoting wound healing, and even holding anti-aging properties!
Try a pomelo recipe!
The peel of a pomelo can be used to make a delicious marmalade among other sweet treats. Below is a candied pomelo peel recipe from Elizabeth Schneider’s “Uncommon Fruits and Vegetables: A Commonsense Guide” (William Morrow, 1998):
Deeply score a small to medium cleaned pomelo (2 pounds) in eighths. Remove peel and trim ends. Cut peel lengthwise into 1/4- inch strips. These should measure 4 cups total. Place peel in a large pot of boiling water and boil 1 minute. Drain and repeat two more times, the last batch for 8 minutes. Drain and set aside. In a 3-quart saucepan, combine 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar, 1 1/4 cups dark corn syrup, 1 1/4 cups water and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Bring to a soft boil. Add the drained peel and simmer for approximately 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. When most of the liquid is gone, carefully remove the peel and place on a sheet pan that has been covered in sugar. Sprinkle more sugar on top and gently toss to coat. If desired, use organic cane sugar, which has larger crystals. Place peel on a baker’s rack and allow to dry for a day or two. Store in an airtight container.