Produce of the Month

June 1st, 2018

Produce of the Month: Endives!

6.1.18–This month, we want to highlight a perplexing and fascinating vegetable–the endive. With its many varieties, including the vampire-like Belgian endive, this vegetable deserves a closer look.

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Background + History

There are three main varieties of endive, each with their own distinct look and taste. Belgian endives, also known as witloof (white leaf in Dutch), is a pale, bullet-shaped vegetable with tightly packed leaves and a bitter taste. Curly endive, which is often mistaken for chicory in the U.S., grows in loose heads with curly, lacey outer leaves. Escarole is of the same genus and species as curly endive but has broad green leaves and is less bitter than the other two. Endives and chicory are often mistaken

Historically, endives were grown in large quantities in Western Europe for their roots, which were dried and used to make a dark, bitter drink similar to coffee. The story goes that sometime between the mid and late 1800s, a Belgian farmer headed off to war, leaving his crop of harvested chicory roots in a cellar. He returned to find that these roots had sprouted heads of blanched, yellowish-white leaves with a mild flavor. And thus the Belgian Endive was born.

Belgian Endive

If you’re looking for a field full of these pale yellow beauties, you’ll have to look again. The growing cycle of a Belgian endive is a strange and laborious one that begins out in the field like any normal vegetables, but with a twist. Seeds are planted in the spring and harvested in the autumn when the plants reach maturity. With the roots pulled out of the soil, the tops are trimmed off, and the roots are placed in a warm, dark space for the second period of growth. Grown in complete darkness, these endives grow from the roots as a tight bunch with a spooky, pale yellow look and a mild bitterness. Unlike vampires, these little guys are highly prized for their look and taste, and even referred to as white gold.

Recipe

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Endive Salad with Walnuts, Chopped Pear, and Blue Cheese
Adapted from Simply Recipes

Pre times: 10 minutes
Yields 2 to 3 servings

Ingredients
3 Endive heads, sliced first lengthwise, then crosswise in 1/2-inch slices
2 Tbsp chopped walnuts
2 Tbsp crumbled gorgonzola or other blue cheese
1 bartlett pear, cored and chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 teaspoons cider vinegar (balsamic is good too)
Sprinkle of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions
Place the chopped endive in a large bowl. Add the walnuts, crumbled gorgonzola, and chopped pears. Toss to combine. Drizzle olive over the salad. Drizzle cider vinegar over the salad. Toss to combine. Season to taste with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

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Ventura Branch Interns Shine Bright

May 28th, 2018

When you are enthusiastic about what you do, you feel this positive energy. It’s very simple. ~Paulo Coelho

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In the day to day busyness of our work, the special moments of inspiration and joy propel us toward something even greater than we could have first intended. This is the case with starting an internship program in Ventura. At first glance, this might seem like nothing out of the ordinary but, in contrast, the effort and staff resources that go into providing a meaningful experience for interns, while offering some relief to the staff, requires a certain finesse and luck. This spring, the Ventura Branch of Food Forward took on a monumental task of hosting three interns while also onboarding our newest staff member, Emily Redfield.

Monica came to us as an intern working on a certificate in Social Media Marketing, armed with creative ideas and boundless enthusiasm. Data entry, homeowner follow up, and logistics became her focus as she learned how we do what we do, and then her creativity took over as she brainstormed social media strategies to increase volunteer engagement. “Building community” is her favorite part of the job, because getting to connect with property owners, volunteers, and partner agencies is what keeps this cycle going, and reminds us that we are all in this together. The ability to do more and help others inspires her to pursue her educational and professional goals. She will be graduating from the Women’s Economic Ventures SET Course on May 30, 2018 and will be giving the commencement speech on behalf of her class.

Elise Doan is graduating this May from Pepperdine University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration and a Minor in Sustainability. However, previous to Pepperdine University, Elise attended De Anza College where she took her first class in Environmental Science and became passionate about changing the way we use Earth’s natural resources. While at community college, Elise volunteered at a local non-profit, Veggielution, and found her interest in food justice. Elise has a strong understanding of the relevance of food recovery in environmental protection and hopes to take some time off to travel and volunteer abroad in the future as well as eventually go back to school to pursue a masters in Sustainable Management. Elise is going to make a big difference in the world with her strength, warmth, and determination!

Leslie Lopez graduates this June from California State University Channel Islands with a degree in nutrition and Latin studies.  She was instrumental in updating our partner agency contact list and conducting site visits. She hopes to also take some time off before returning to pursue a masters of public health with the intent to work for an organization like Sembrando Salud.  She helped us bring fresh food to the university pantry, opening the door to work with the CSUCI to increase access to fresh, locally-sourced food.

We were so grateful to get to know these lovely women and look forward to seeing great things from them in the future.

— Jill Santos, Ventura County Branch Manager

For current internship positions, please visit foodforward.org/internships

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Happiest When She is Helping Others

May 23rd, 2018

5/21/18– Our volunteer of the month for May is Monica Gray! Hailing from Ventura, Monica has quickly become involved in all manner of Food Forward programs as a farmers market lead, a backyard harvest pick leader, and community ambassador!

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Monica, right pictured with Jill Santos, Ventura County Branch Manager, left, at a community outreach event.

 

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

I needed to do an internship for my certificate in Social Media Marketing, and I wanted to work with Food Forward after I got the card at the fair and checked out the website.

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

Wanting to help reduce more food waste and feed hungry people, and to meet others passionate about the same things.

What is your favorite part about volunteering with Food Forward?

The connections I have made with other people are a huge bonus on top of feeling great about the work I am doing.

“Healthy food heals people,
and makes them feel cared for.”

How would you describe the volunteer experience in the office? In the field?

In the office, there are a lot of details to remember, data to enter, and a lot of picks to coordinate! At events, it’s nice to see people signing up to volunteer, and helping with the large distribution events is fun, too.

What was your first volunteer day like?

The scope of what Food Forward does is huge, and I had no idea how food redistribution is done, so there was a lot to learn. My first day involved a lot of note taking, and trying to get my bearings.

What have you learned from volunteering?

I have learned that my heart will always be happiest when I am helping others, and doing things that will help our Earth.

Is there a particularly powerful volunteering moment you’d like to share?

When we helped distribute produce in front of ReStore, a resident of a halfway house stopped and got some and expressed gratitude because eating healthier was helping him stay sober. That is the kind of thing that inspires me, and makes me grateful to be a part of Food Forward. Healthy food heals people, and makes them feel cared for.

Any words of wisdom you live by?

No matter how hard it can be, and how intense the pain and struggle is, life is beautiful.

 

Thanks, Monica!

 

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A Reason for Optimism

May 15th, 2018

5.15.18 — Food production creates more C02 than most countries do. So, it’s no wonder that addressing food waste could be a viable solution to the issue of climate change.

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You’ve likely heard it all before: The Earth’s atmosphere is warming at an alarming rate. 17 of the 18 warmest years in the 136 years since temperature records have been kept all occurred since 2001. Much of the news on climate change has focused on carbon dioxide (C02), but, in fact, there are a host of other more potent gases that, when combined, send the famous “hockey stick graph” off the charts. One of the major contributors to climate change, food production, would be the third-largest emitter of C02 if it were considered its own country. All of this may seem like rather dismal news, except that a coalition of scientists and researchers with Project Drawdown have ranked food waste as the third most viable solution to the climate crisis in an effort to assemble and present the best available information on climate change to make better decisions.

Solutions identified in the broader “Food” category that made it to the top ten include implementing silvopasture techniques (#9), leaning towards more plant-rich diets (#4), and reducing food waste (#3). Scientists conclude that if these measures could be implemented on a variety of scales in both developing and developed nations, the world could reduce C02 emissions by over 70 gigatons at a net cost of $0. Yes. $0. Well, the cost and savings are really too variable to be determined, but the point is we don’t need to invent some magical machine like they did in the movie Meatballs 2 to deal with food waste. We simply need to stop wasting food which really doesn’t cost a whole lot.

Recovering food that is already grown ensures that resource inputs like seeds, water, energy, land fertilizer, hours of labor, financial capital, and human capital don’t end up in the waste bin.

This is why Food Forward’s mission is so simple, yet so powerful. Recovering food that is already grown ensures that resource inputs like seeds, water, energy, land fertilizer, hours of labor, financial capital, and human capital don’t end up in the waste bin. It’s easy to see how addressing food waste could literally help initiate a huge climate game-changer. There are numerous ways to improve food systems both in the developing and developed worlds. Some suggestions include improving cold storage, processing, and transportation (which, not surprisingly, is something badly needed in our own food system here in Southern California). And, for developed nations, implementing major interventions in retail and consumer systems, along with enacting policies regarding food waste can have untold positive repercussions.  

For more information on Project Drawdown, visit http://www.drawdown.org/. For more information on how you can help reduce food waste at home, visit https://www.epa.gov/recycle/reducing-wasted-food-home.  

 

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Food for Thought Pops Up in Inglewood

May 8th, 2018

This week, we want to highlight one of Food Forward’s newest initiatives, the Food for Thought produce distribution, a partnership with the Social Justice Learning Institute (SJLI) and community organizer, Erica Dent. Together, the team has created a once a month “pop-up” distribution of fresh fruits and vegetables, serving the Inglewood community.

 

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Many Inglewood neighborhoods can be considered “food deserts”—areas where fresh food is inaccessible due to not enough or not affordable grocery options. It’s also an area of high poverty, with one in five residents of Inglewood living in poverty according to the U.S. census bureau. To help fill the fresh food gap, Food Forward partnered with Social Justice Learning Institute with the goal of providing nutritious produce for families and community members to supplement their diets.

 

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Here’s how it works: Early in the morning, Food Forward’s Wholesale Recovery Program staff collects surplus fruits and vegetables from wholesale produce vendors in downtown Los Angeles. Then, a truckload of produce is dropped off at the distribution site in Inglewood, including around 8 different types of fruits and vegetables. Food Forward and SJLI volunteers work side-by-side to sort, clean, and assemble overflowing bags of produce. More than 10,000 pounds of apples, bell peppers, tomatoes, mangoes, plums, peaches – and more! – are distributed, benefitting hundreds of individuals, families, and students in the Inglewood community. This whole process is done in the same day, in just a few hours.

 

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Food for Thought produce pop-ups are held the 3rd Friday of the month at Morningside High School in Inglewood and will continue through June 2018.

Want to help make the next Food for Thought possible? Volunteer at our next produce pop-up. We can always use more hands!

 

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Produce of the Month: Mangoes!

May 1st, 2018

5.1.18— Mango sticky rice. Mango smoothies. Mango salsa. Mango lassi. Is your mouth watering yet? This delicious tropical fruit is the golden delight that rightfully deserves its title as the King of Fruits.

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background + history

The mango originated around 5,000 years ago in Southeast Asia and India, where it is still widely grown and eaten today. With such a long history, mangoes have strongly shaped the culture of these regions–according to legend, the Buddha himself was offered a mango grove to rest and meditate in. Buddhist monks were the first to spread mangoes throughout Malaya and East Asia in the 4th and 5th centuries B.C. and in the 15th century, Portuguese traders brought the mango to South America, the Philippines, and West Africa.

Mangoes are reportedly the most commonly consumed fruit in the world and are central to the cuisines of many tropical regions where they are widely cultivated. Popular mango recipes include mango lassi, mango curry, and mango chutney. They remain extremely important in India, where the season lasts from approximately late March through June and where mango preference is heatedly debated and hotly contested.

 

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Fun Facts

– There are more than 500 varieties of mango, which range in look and taste. For example, the Champagne mango is a small, kidney-shaped golden variety while the Tommy Atkins variety is a large, round mango with a red blush

-Speaking of Tommy Atkins, this is the variety you’re most likely to encounter in an American grocery store, as it’s the most commonly grown commercial variety, in part due to its disease resistance and long shelf life

– Mangoes are the national fruit of India, Pakistan, and the Philippines, and the national tree of Bangladesh

– California mangoes are grown in the Coachella Valley, where the warm and dry conditions allow for commercial production

– 70% of mangoes consumed in the U.S. are grown in and exported from Mexico

– In 2016, worldwide mango production was 46.5 million metric tons, with more than 40% coming from India alone

 

Recipe

Mangoes are delicious sliced and eaten on their own, but the number of mango recipes and uses are endless. If you’re looking for a tried and true classic, fire up something spicy, and enjoy the soothing sweetness of a mango lassi! 

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Mango Lassi
(adapted from thewanderlustkitchen.com)

Prep time: 5 minutes

Ingredients

-1 cup diced fresh mango
-1 cup plain non-fat yogurt
-1/2 cup of milk
-2 tablespoons sugar
-dash of cinnamon (optional)

Instructions

Add all of the ingredients to blender and puree until smooth. Serve immediately and enjoy!

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Making the Most of Her Sundays

April 19th, 2018

4.19.18 — In honor of National Volunteer Week, we’re excited to introduce you to our Volunteer of the Month for April! If you’ve been to the Hollywood Farmers Market this year, you’ve probably met this rockstar Glean Team Leader, Tracy Marquez. She’s a dedicated and passionate leader who brings her enthusiasm to each and every market.

 

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

I found out about the program through the LA Works website. After checking out the Food Forward website I appreciated the mission and goals and the various programs on offer. I love the idea of not wasting food from places I wouldn’t even think of collecting from while giving directly back to people in need. On my first day volunteering, I remember I got lost, but as soon as I found the team they were very helpful in training me and the other volunteers were friendly.

What is your favorite part about volunteering at the market?

I really enjoy meeting new people while helping others, and I can only speak for the Hollywood Farmers Market, but because it’s one of the biggest markets it’s great to see how much food we are able to collect each week.

What have you learned from volunteering?

I learned to appreciate the value of my time. Prior to doing this I felt like I was wasting my Sundays not being productive, but now as Glean Team Leader, not only am I making the most of my time but I also get to help others in need.

Are there any particularly powerful volunteering moments you’d like to share?

There isn’t one defining moment but my favorite thing that happens is seeing how eager the volunteers are and how they start off as strangers but then come together to get the job done. I always appreciate the ones who put their all in it and I always make sure to let them know that.

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

Besides the usual, going to the movies, reading books, and hanging out with friends, I’m a development assistant at a production company. I also host a monthly self care workshop, Handle with Care, at an art space in Hollywood. Oh, and I love attending drag shows!

Any words of wisdom you live by?

So many but my favorites are: It always works out in the end and if it’s not working out, then it’s not the end. Also, a positive attitude doesn’t get rid of your problems but it’s the most effective way in dealing with them.

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Thank you, tracy!

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National Volunteer Week

April 17th, 2018

April 17, 2018 — National Volunteer Week is April 15-April 21, 2018 and we’re taking time this week to show some extra appreciation to all of our amazing volunteers!

23,000 hours!

That’s how many hours our volunteers collectively gave in service in 2017. Those hours were spent gleaning all sorts of produce (and bread!) at farmers markets, poking pickers into the highest branches at our backyard harvests, and sorting through pallet-loads of produce at our direct distributions.

 

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Last year, our volunteers covered vast swaths of Southern California, harvesting and gleaning as far north as Santa Barbara and as far east as Riverside. They powered an average of 175 produce recovery and gleaning events per month, and these events ranged in size from our annual Cal State University Northridge orange grove picks with 400+ volunteers to small groups of 3 and 4 at farmers markets to solo harvests.

We’ve said it before but we really couldn’t do what we do without the help of all of our volunteers.

This week, we want to highlight some quotes and stories from volunteers.

 

I volunteer because…

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Remhai volunteered for the first time at our direct distribution free farmers market at the Watts Labor Community Action Committee. She says, “I volunteer because I want to be one person that contributes to making the world better. There are so many people that need help, and not enough people helping.”

 

 

 

 

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Kathy is a long time Farmers Market Glean Team Leader and Backyard Harvest Pick Leader, mostly leading backyard harvests in the Valley. She says that after volunteering for the first time with Food Forward, she was drawn back because it “felt that it was really productive [when] we actually had something to show for our work.”

 

 

 

 

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On his motivation to continue volunteering with Food Forward, Olu says, “It gives me such an incredible joy to know that we’re doing something that makes somebody happy.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Bianca volunteered with her company and says, “Volunteering just sort of fills my well and rejuvenates me to get back to regular work.”

 

 

 

 

Going Above and Beyond

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Our volunteers go above and beyond to get the job done! Food Forward Ventura Branch Supervisor Ally shared these stories about volunteer dedication and hard work:

John, who has been running a few community garden plots at Cornucopia Community Garden for Food Forward since May of 2016 (and volunteering at farm gleans and solo pick prior), has harvested over 4,000 lbs of fresh produce that he has grown by hand. All of the produce that John has grown has gone to serve Project Understanding, one of his local food pantries.

Joyce harvested 10 boxes of grapefruit in the rain, shoved them into her small SUV and delivered them to her local pantry. This was during just one of the 15 events she has led since the beginning of 2018.

 

d9713b39-32db-4857-a39a-4497169a6f18-croppedAnd volunteer Leticia braved some prickly tree climbs to harvest more than 80 pounds of lemons and tangerines by herself!

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Big Thank you!

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We will be sharing volunteer stories on Instagram and Facebook this week so make sure to follow along!

Thank you again to all of our wonderful volunteers for bringing their time, energy, and passion to all of our events. We couldn’t do it without you!

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Earth Day is almost here!

April 3rd, 2018

4.3.18 — April is finally here, and we’re looking forward to Earth Day on April 22nd for a whole range of environmental awareness activities and volunteer opportunities.

History of Earth Day

The idea for Earth Day was conceived in 1970 by then-U.S. senator Gaylord Nelson. After witnessing the catastrophic consequences of the 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, CA, Nelson pushed for a day that would bring issues about water and air pollution to the forefront of the national conversation through a “national teach-in on the environment” modeled on Vietnam War protests. More than 20 million Americans took part in protests and rallies across the nation, and by the end of the year, this increased public pressure led to the creation of the first U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. 

Now nearing its 50th anniversary, Earth Day has spread to 193 countries worldwide and is often celebrated as Earth Week to encompass even more activities calling attention to environmental issues.

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Why is Earth Day important?

Earth Day is an opportunity to bring global awareness to issues that affect the planet that we share, from deforestation and polluted waterways, to energy consumption and resource use and beyond. Earth Day gives individuals, companies, non-profits, and organizations a day to call attention to these issues and push for policy changes that will benefit the environment.

 

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Ways to honor Earth Day

Here are some simple ways to honor Earth Day this month and all year-round!

Recycle your e-waste: Got old printers? Phones? Batteries? The EPA calculates that e-waste is quickly becoming the largest waste-stream in the world. Find a responsible e-waste recycler in your area to keep these items out of landfills.

Invest in some reusable bags: The focus of Earth Day 2018 is ending plastic pollution. You can help by switching from single-use plastic bags to reusable fabric bags to tote your groceries home.

Leave the car at home: Find ways to take alternative transportation such as walking, biking, or public transit to get to your destination and leave your car at home for a day. An added bonus: you might get to see parts of your city you don’t normally explore.

Get out and explore: If you’re in the Los Angeles region, the Santa Monica Mountains and San Gabriel Mountains offer plenty of opportunity for hiking, playing, and exploring to take in the beauty of the natural world and remind us what we’re fighting to protect. Find a way to get outside in your own town!

Curb food waste: In 2017, Food Forward’s programs offset 6,996 tons of CO2 by rescuing produce that would otherwise have ended up in a landfill. Volunteer with Food Forward at a fruit pick, farmers market glean, or produce distribution to get your hands dirty and fight food waste. 

Learn more!

https://www.epa.gov/earthday

https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/earth-day

https://www.earthday.org/

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The State of Hunger

March 20th, 2018

“…the suffering inherent in hunger is preventable and unnecessary in a society well supplied, oversupplied with food.” – Janet Poppendieck, Sweet Charity

In this post, we’ll break down hunger in the United States today from a policy & practical perspective, with three main topics:

1) What the White House is doing and saying about hunger right now
2) Current facts & statistics about food insecurity in nation, state, and county
3) Food Forward’s fight against hunger in Southern California

 

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White House Hunger Policy

Last month, the White House unveiled its budget proposal for 2019. The proposal would make sharp cuts to domestic programs, while at the same time increasing military spending and enlarging the federal deficit by $7 trillion (Source: New York Times).

This blueprint from the executive branch comes as no surprise: In the first year of the Trump presidency, Americans have seen attacks on access to food, food safety protections, school nutrition standards, healthy and sustainable farming practices, and rights for workers in the food industry (Source: State of the Plate). Many Americans live with uncertainty and fear about the state of our nation’s social safety net. This administration also repeats common myths about hunger, including the myth that government food assistance rewards laziness. In reality, the average benefit of SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or “food stamps”) works out to only $1.40 per person, per meal and includes work or volunteering requirements (Source: MAZON).

In this latest budget proposal, the While House suggests cutting SNAP funding by over 30% in the next decade, increasing work requirements for those receiving government food benefits, and limiting SNAP recipients’ ability to choose the food they buy (Source: New York Times). The White House states that SNAP reforms will “target benefits to the neediest households” without explaining who is actually going hungry in our communities, or considering the root causes of hunger (Source: The White House).

 

We’d like to talk about all of the people, ALL around us, who experience food insecurity.
Who are the people going hungry?
And what does that mean for
Food Forward’s work here, in Southern California?

 

How many people are hungry in the U.S.?

The United States Department of Agriculture reports that in 2016, the most recent year for which data is available, 12.3% of Americans (over 41 million people) were food insecure, “meaning they lacked access to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members” (Source: USDA). This statistic is right around where it was in 2015: 12.7% (Source: USDA).

 

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Who are the people experiencing high rates of hunger?

Households with children experienced higher rates of food insecurity, at nearly 17% (Source: USDA). There were other kinds of households that experienced higher-than-average rates of food insecurity, too: households with incomes near or below the poverty line; households with children headed by single women or single men; women or men living alone; Black- and Hispanic-headed households; and households in rural areas OR principal cities of metropolitan areas (like Los Angeles, in the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area) (Source: USDA).

In the U.S., other groups experiencing disproportionately high food insecurity rates include LGBT adults (29% of whom have struggled to feed themselves or their families); veterans (27% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have struggled to put food on the table); college students (approximately half of whom are food insecure); and community college students in particular (nearly two-thirds of whom struggle with food insecurity) (Sources: UCLA School of Law, Journal of Public Health and Nutrition, Broton & Goldrick-Rab, and Wisconsin HOPE Lab).

 

How many people are hungry in California?

Food insecurity varies widely by state, between 8% and 19%. In California, food security hovers slightly lower than the national average (Source: USDA).

According to Feeding America’s annual Map the Meal Gap project, 12.5% of Californians, or 4.9 million people, were food insecure across the state in 2015 (Source: Feeding America). More than 1.2 million people are going hungry Los Angeles County, where Food Forward is based (Source: Feeding America). Los Angeles County is home to the most food insecure children of any county in the country—over 480,000 children (Source: Feeding America).

 

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What does all of this mean for Food Forward’s work?

The body of research on hunger shows that all kinds of people are hungry – those in rural and urban areas; people in single households and households with children; people of color; those who have served in the military; and many, many more.

In 2017, Food Forward donated surplus produce to 225 primary hunger relief partners across the social service sector in Southern California. These local direct service agencies are uniquely situated to fight hunger in the geographies we serve because they understand the needs of their own communities best. By forging relationships with a variety of agencies, Food Forward supplies nutritious produce to the diverse communities of Southern California through a wide array of hunger relief models.

Although the February White House budget proposal is just that — a proposal — enacting food assistance cuts on the scale suggested would necessarily result in nonprofits and charities filling the gaps in America’s safety net. Creating meaningful partnerships to serve communities most impacted by food security would become more important than ever. Food Forward believes that access to fresh, healthy food is a human right, and will continue to forge partnerships to make food assistance possible.

 

Ways to help:

Volunteer with Food Forward

Donate surplus fruit

Support food recovery

 

Resources on hunger in the United States:

Food Policy Action Education Fund’s State of the Plate

USDA: Household Food Security in the United States in 2016

Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap (current data from 2015)

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