A morning at the Produce Pit Stop

February 24th, 2020

It’s been over six months since the Produce Pit Stop, our first-ever warehouse space, opened. The Produce Pit Stop is located in Bell, CA, and provides refrigeration, dry storage space, dedicated workspaces, and a centralized hub to our Wholesale Recovery Program. To illustrate its impact, we recently brought a photographer, Jack Sutton, to capture a typical morning at the Pit Stop.

Wholesale Recovery Driver Simon Bergara unloads a pallet of yellow onions. 

One after another, five hunger relief agencies pull up to the Produce Pit Stop in Bell, CA, and load their trucks with watermelons, brussels sprouts, tomatoes, and more. Among them are Faro de Luz, a church in Huntington Park, and World Harvest, a Mid-City food bank. Pallet jacks and forklifts move produce in and out of the warehouse, as Daniel, our Warehouse Supervisor, engineers which fruits and vegetables are going to which agencies.

 

A Food Forward truck, full of recovered fruits and vegetables, backs into the loading bay at the Produce Pit Stop. 

Starting at 4 am, Food Forward’s trucks leave for the Wholesale Produce District to collect donations of surplus fruits and vegetables from wholesalers. By 10 am, they have picked up several truckloads and agencies are beginning to arrive. Over several hours, the warehouse was quite literally filled with produce for our partner agencies to pick up and take back to their communities. There are a lot of moving pieces to keep track of, and the pallets are moving in and out very quickly, with very little downtime. Throughout the entire morning, the Wholesale team remains a well-organized, efficient unit.

 

Members of the Wholesale Recovery team pose in front of Food Forward trucks. From left: Wholesale Recovery Program Driver Merced Giles Bonfil, Wholesale Recovery Program Supervisor Leo Paz, Wholesale Recovery Program Driver Antonio Velasquez, Wholesale Recovery Warehouse Supervisor Daniel Gallegos. 

Leo Paz, Wholesale Recovery Supervisor, and Daniel Gallegos, Wholesale Recovery Warehouse Supervisor, say that the Produce Pit Stop has “completely changed how we work. Before the Pit Stop, we had to convince an agency to take, say, six pallets of the same variety [before we could accept the donation]. Now, we can accept twenty pallets of produce and know that it will have a home, without having to figure out [the details] beforehand.”

 

Pallets of watermelon and other fruits and vegetables fill the dry storage space of the Produce Pit Stop.

The Produce Pit Stop can hold over 225,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables, and has greatly increased our capacity for produce recovery. In its first six months of operations, over 15 million pounds of produce touched down at the Produce Pit Stop! The Pit Stop also makes it possible for us to create “mixed loads” of different varieties of fruits and vegetables, increasing the diversity of fruits and vegetables our partner agencies receive. We are so excited to share how impactful the Pit Stop has been so far, and we look forward to seeing how this new warehouse will continue to support our efforts to prevent food waste and provide free fruits and vegetables to local hunger relief agencies.

 

All photos by Jack Sutton.

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Agency Spotlight: Friends in Deed

February 14th, 2020

Volunteers at the Pasadena Farmers Market pose with 325 pounds of produce, headed to Friends in Deed.

 

Bringing Community and Food Together

Food is not only a source of nutrition, it connects us to our friends, family, and neighbors. Many of us don’t have to worry about how we will pay for our next week of groceries, but for some of our neighbors (about 1 in 9 people in LA County), food insecurity is a major stressor. To help combat this stress, Friends in Deed provides hunger relief to low-income families in Pasadena, with an emphasis on community building. The amazing work of Food Pantry Program Director Tim Nistler, along with Friends in Deed volunteers, have directed surplus produce that would otherwise go to waste into the homes of many community members.

Friends and Deed has been picking up produce at the Pasadena Farmers Market since we first started recovering produce there in 2015. Every Saturday, volunteers from Food Forward “glean” the market, collecting donations of fruits and vegetables from farmers. They can be spotted in their khaki colored aprons, building boxes for market vendors to fill with surplus produce. At the end of the market, these volunteers collect and weigh the boxes from each vendor and help load them up to be taken to Friends in Deed. Since 2015, we’ve donated over 94,000 pounds from the Pasadena Farmers Market to them!

 

Friends in Deed also picks up fruit harvested from our Backyard Harvest program! 

Friends in Deed is an interfaith organization dedicated to providing support and relief to people who are homeless or at-risk. They have served the community of Pasadena and the greater San Gabriel Valley for over 120 years through many programs, such as their Food Pantry, Women’s Room, Bad Weather Shelter, Homeless Prevention, and Street Outreach programs. Tim, the Program Director of the Food Pantry, envisions the future of the program to include more waste reduction techniques, like composting, and dreams of the day he’ll have unlimited produce for families to take home.

 

 

On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, Friends in Deed operates a food pantry and provides about 300 families with groceries to take home. The walls are lined with shelves of dry and canned goods, breads, meats, and dairy products, while the tables are filled with bags of fruits, vegetables, and desserts. Anyone who comes to the pantry can take home whatever items they want, limited only by their family size and needs. People shopping at the pantry receive a ticket and wait to be called in, and once inside, they are free to browse the shelves and shop in the market-style food pantry for free.

Many of the people shopping around the market were gushing about the amazing work being done by Friends in Deed. One participant named Gloria talked about how this food has impacted her and her family and friends. She said, “Coming here helps me to help other people, while also replacing some of the financial burden.” She uses the food to supplement some of her shopping, and with it cooks meals for her mother-in-law as well as her college-aged children and their friends.

 

Gloria checks out her finds for the day with a long-time volunteer at Friends in Deed.

Friends in Deed has been a place of solace for many, and continues to spread kindness and a sense of belonging. Friends in Deed not only deals with the issues of food insecurity, but also stands as a reminder to us to care for and connect with our neighbors and community. Gloria also mentioned that the program grants people “the opportunity to be kinder, gentler people, allowing us to care for people other than ourselves.” The team of dedicated volunteers and caring families remind us that we can all be a friend to those in need. We at Food Forward are grateful we can play a role in helping them bring dignity and respect to people in this community.

 

— By Farmers Market Recovery Intern, Rebecca Luna.

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Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) and Huanglongbing (HLB): Update

February 5th, 2020

 

It’s been two years since our last blog post about Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) & Huanglongbing (HLB) and we thought it was time to give you an update on the issue and what Food Forward is doing to prevent the spread of citrus greening disease.

In 2019, HLB quarantine boundaries grew and spread to new regions in Southern California over the past year, including into San Bernardino & Riverside Counties. This has caused much concern and has been a major area of focus here at Food Forward. We have been, and continue to be, in close communication with scientists and officials at UCANR and CDFA to ensure our citrus gleaning efforts are in line with their recommendations and in no way leading to the potential spread of this terrible disease.

 

The solarizing process, which consists of placing all leaves, stems, and branches in a plastic trash bag and leaving it in the sun to dry completely, kills any psyllid pests that could spread HLB.

Since Asian citrus psyllids, the vector of HLB, live on the leaves, NOT the fruit itself, we take very special care at our harvest events to remove all leaves, stems, and branches from all of the fruit we pick. We then solarize the green waste prior to putting it into yard waste cans for removal (see our previous blog post for more on the solarizing process). This practice of solarizing, which has been approved by agency officials, is very effective at preventing the potential spread of ACP & HLB.

 

But is it safe to move citrus from my property if I live in an HLB quarantine zone?


In December 2019, UCANR hosted a webinar, “UC Ag Experts Talk: Asian Citrus Psyllid for Backyard Growers“, led by Dr. Elizabeth Grafton-Cardwell, a leading scientist on ACP/HLB. The webinar addressed many questions surrounding this issue, including if it’s safe to harvest and move citrus fruit:

 

 

The bottom line when it comes to moving backyard citrus in quarantine zones (and really anywhere in Southern California) is to always remove any leaves, sticks or stems from the fruit while harvesting, do not immediately place the removed green waste into your yard waste can, and to brush or wash off the fruit before transporting. 

To view the current HLB quarantine maps, visit this site, https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/plant/hlb/regulation.html, and if you think you found the Asian citrus psyllid or HLB symptoms on your tree please call the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s hotline immediately, 1-800-491-1899.

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Doing what he can to help

January 24th, 2020

Meet our Volunteer of the Month, Harry Matsumoto! Harry is an Event Leader in three of Food Forward’s programs—he’s a Glean Team Leader, Pick Leader, and Community Ambassador! He’s been critical to keeping the Pasadena glean going over the past year or so, but especially since several of our Glean Team Leaders moved away this summer. He’s always willing to help, has agreed to lead at the last minute several times, and is always happy to be a part of any Food Forward event. The most impressive moment was in December, when Harry was shopping at the Alhambra farmers market and noticed that the Glean Team Leader hadn’t shown up. He called to let us know and offered to lead the glean right then and there!

San Gabriel Valley Harvest Coordinator, Dory Bennett, often leads big picks alongside Harry. She mentioned that right as she’s getting tired and overwhelmed, she’ll look up and sees Harry’s smiling face with orange juice for the team! 

 

 

So tell me, how did you get started with Food Forward?  
I got started when I became an health/life insurance agent authorized to offer AARP Medicare plans. This gave me access to the AARP website, which listed various volunteer opportunities. I searched the opportunities and I found an opportunity through LA Works about collecting produce for a good cause. LA Works forwarded me to Food Forward for the opportunities.

 

What drew you to Food Forward’s work and mission?
I thought the work and mission of Food Forward is a very important matter. Trying to solve food insecurity through produce recovery and redistribution to the less fortunate is a good cause to strive for.

 


What do you do when you’re not volunteering with Food Forward?
When I am not volunteering with Food Forward, I am a self-employed Information Technology Consultant, Health/Life Insurance Agent and a Notary Public. As a volunteer, I am the Construction Director for Friends of Faire at the Original Renaissance Faire in Irwindale, CA and other volunteer opportunities (i.e. church office support and events).

 

Photo Credit: The Sundial/John Hernandez

What is your favorite part about volunteering with Food Forward? 
My favorite part about volunteering are the people that are involved with the different events. They are fun to work with. It is relaxing to do the work.

 

How would you describe the volunteer experience at a market?
The experience at a market glean is a slower paced collection environment for the volunteers than at a pick.  Doing a glean at a farmers market or a harvest pick, both give me a sense of accomplishment that we are making a difference.

 

What was your first volunteer day like?
The first volunteer day was kind of like any other first day of doing a job.  I was a little nervous about what the task would be to volunteer at the event.

 

What have you learned from volunteering?
Volunteering with Food Forward has shown me how much food insecurity that is out there in the local area. Also volunteering at a food pantry, showed me how much organization goes into collecting and distributing to the ones that need the items.

 

 

Is there a particularly powerful volunteering moment you’d like to share?
The most powerful moment for me was the one time that I volunteered at the food pantry and the gratitude that the people receiving the care packages showed.

 


Any words of wisdom you live by?
Do what you can to help with food insecurity and reduce food waste.

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2009 – 2019: A look back at Food Forward milestones

January 21st, 2020

See a snapshot of Food Forward’s major milestones, year by year, from 2009-2019! For a more detailed look at Food Forward’s history, check out the timeline we created for our tenth anniversary here.

1. 2019

The Produce Pit Stop, our first refrigerated warehouse facility, is open!

 

2. 2018
Food Forward recovers and donates 50 million pounds ⁠(now we’re over 87 million!)

 

3. 2017
We pilot the Produce Pick-Up program in partnership with WLCAC, which is now in 4 sites across LA & VC

 

4. 2016
Food Forward volunteers give 21,000 hours of service since our founding. We couldn’t do what we do without them!⁠⠀

 

5. 2015

Food Forward wins our first EPA Food Recovery Challenge award for our work to prevent food waste⁠⠀

 

6. 2014
We launch the Wholesale Recovery Program, and greatly expand the volume of food we can recover and donate⁠⠀

 

7. 2012 
The Farmers Market Recovery program is launched at Santa Monica Wednesday. It’s now at 25 weekly markets in LA & VC⁠!⁠⠀

 

8. 2011

Martha Penhall, a Food Forward volunteer, starts our Ventura County branch⁠⠀

 


9. 2010

Food Forward serves some of our first partner hunger relief agencies, MEND (pictured) and SOVA. ⁠⠀

 

10. 2009

It all begins with our first Backyard Harvests and some fruit-loving volunteers! ⁠

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2019 Good Food News Round-Up

January 17th, 2020

We like to start off the new year by celebrating some of the best stories in the food justice world from 2019. From new programs and legislation to reduce food waste, to victories for local food sovereignty, there’s a lot to recap! Here are our picks for the top 5 good food stories from last year.

 

 

1. Brooklyn food pantry doubles as community nutrition education center

Reverend Melony Samuels realized that it wasn’t enough just to make healthy food more accessible in her Bed-Stuy neighborhood of Brooklyn. She set out to make sure her community knew how to incorporate fruits and vegetables into their diets, so she expanded her food pantry to include cooking workshops, wellness programs, and more. The result? 75% of cooking workshop participants have changed their diets to include more whole grains and fresh produce.

2. New California law allows restaurant-goers to bring their own containers for leftovers

In an effort to cut down on packaging waste, the California state legislature passed a law that would allow restaurants to opt-in to participate in filling customers own containers with their leftovers and take out. The law requires the restaurant to have a written policy for preventing cross-contamination, and to keep the containers away from the serving area or sanitize the area after filling the containers. This new law and the guidelines allow the restaurants to reduce food and packaging waste while avoiding liability issues due to cross-contamination.

 

 

3. South Korea recycles 95% of food waste

The South Korean government banned sending food waste to landfills in 2005 (there was simply not enough space for more waste facilities), and in 2013, began requiring residents to dispose of their food waste separately, in biodegradable bags. Residents purchase as many bags as they need to capture their excess food, creating a financial incentive to create less waste—and compost at home—which is contributing to a growing urban farming movement. In Seoul, food scraps are turned into animal feed or fertilizer, and the liquid that accompanies it is fermented into biogas or bio-oil.

4. A Rethinking of the term “food deserts” and the policy surrounding it

For a long time, the logic of food deserts has been that when communities aren’t nearby or otherwise don’t have access to supermarkets that sell fresh food, people eat less healthy.  But recent studies have shown that poverty and high food costs—not proximity—are primary barriers blocking access to nutritious food. Making fruits and vegetables accessible could be as simple as making them more affordable.

 

 

5. The South LA Community Farm opens, transforming a vacant lot into productive land.

A collaborative project between The All Peoples Community Center and American Friends Service Committee’s Roots for Peace Program, the South LA Community Farm was first conceived by high school students in 2009. 10 years later, the 6,400 square foot urban farm was built, creating opportunities for food sovereignty and hyper-local produce. Throughout the 10-year process, the students surveyed their neighbors and developed the Food Growers Network, an urban agriculture community focused on addressing inequities in our food system.

 

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Winter Citrus Tree Care 101

January 3rd, 2020

Winter is the season that citrus gives their biggest crop, so unless your trees are recently planted, your fruit bowl should be full of all varieties of citrus! Local fruit tree expert and founder of Fruitstitute, Joanna Glovinsky, shares some knowledge and care tips with the Backyard Harvest team on the winter citrus season.

If your winter citrus crop is looking abundant, reach out to the Backyard Harvest Program (harvest@foodforward.org) for assistance coordinating a DIY or volunteer-powered fruit pick to prevent your surplus from being wasted.

DONATE YOUR FRUIT

 

You can also sign up for our Backyard Fruit Donor Updates newsletter to receive more helpful tips!

SIGN UP

 

 

In the winter there are fewer daylight hours and temperatures are colder, which means evergreen trees, like citrus, are undergoing minimal photosynthesis and their growth rate is slowed. We refer to winter as the slow-growing season for citrus and all other evergreen trees (whereas for deciduous trees, winter is the dormant season). In the slow-growing season, evergreen trees are using energy, sugars created through photosynthesis during the active growing season (the summer), stored in their trunk and roots. As such, if a tree did not have enough leaves during the summer to photosynthesize and store sufficient energy then fruit production this winter will be reduced.

 

Pruning is essential for a healthy, happy tree. 

 

For citrus trees, your job in the winter is to ensure your tree does not become overburdened by too much fruit. If a branch seems to weighted down by the fruit, that fruit needs to be removed to ensure the branch does not break and that the tree does not become depleted in energy from overbearing. Other than keeping your tree from overbearing, winter is a good time to do your annual pruning on citrus trees as pests and disease populations are suppressed by cold temperatures.

 

 

We hope you find this information helpful as you care for your citrus trees this winter! For more, see all of our fruit tree care resources here, and check out Fruitstitute and their services here.

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We close out the year by recovering 26 million pounds!

December 31st, 2019

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A Super Troop of Fruit Harvesters

December 20th, 2019

Juliet is one of the Backyard Harvest Programs’ newest Pick Leaders! Since finishing her Pick Leader training, she has led harvests across all of San Gabriel Valley and East LA. Juliet is the leader of her daughter’s Girl Scout Troop, who are currently working towards their Silver Award! The Silver Award gives girls scouts the opportunity to address an issue in their local community, and the troop decided to focus on hunger. Juliet brings her passion and kindness to each harvest event and we’re grateful for her hard work and enthusiasm. Juliet and the troop have been a wonderful addition to the Food Forward family! This blog post features responses from Juliet and the members of the troop.

Juliet and the troop pose with their bounty of persimmons (and a furry friend). 

So tell me, how did you get started with Food Forward?
I found out about Food Forward through my Girl Scout Troop. We were 
looking for an event to do with the troop and we wanted to do 
something to help other people for our Silver Award. We decided to 
work with Food Forward for our award because we would be able to help
 other people in need, using the things that most people don’t use.
 -Olive


What drew you to Food Forward’s work and mission?
It seemed like a nice thing to do and it would be benefiting others in 
need, and it’s nice being able to help other people by giving them
 food that others aren’t using. I’m always glad to be able to help 
others in need, and just the idea of helping other people is great. 
-Olive

What do you do when you’re not volunteering with Food Forward?
When I’m not volunteering with Food Forward and co-leading our Girl
 Scout troop I work in mental health. Research shows that volunteering
 is beneficial for mental health and well-being. Thanks Food Forward 
for this opportunity!
 -Juliet

 

 

What is your favorite part about volunteering with Food Forward?
It’s fun! I really like being outside, harvesting fruit and working
 together with my troop mates to help others!
 -Kaia

What was your first volunteer day like?
I was excited to go pick fruit and I was eager to start. I paid a
 lot of attention to the rules, and was literally jumping up and down 
when we started (not a safe idea!!!)
. -Isla

What have you learned from volunteering?
I have learned a lot about my community around me, especially when we
 learn where the fruit that we pick is going to go. I have become even
 more aware of the hunger issue, and have learned so much about food
 waste. I am now very self-conscious of food waste (we feed our fruit &
 veggie waste to the thousands of worms we have) and am always telling
 my friends not to throw away a good apple or pear, because there is
 always someone who would love to have that fruit. I learn something 
new at every harvest and have a great time learning about it. 
-Isla

 

 

Is there a particularly powerful volunteering moment you’d like to share?
The girls working together and being so engaged and excited about the 
project has been exciting and powerful!
 -Juliet

Any words of wisdom you live by?
Girl Scouts promotes helping others and being of service, using 
resources wisely and making the world a better place.
 -Juliet

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What will your New Year’s resolution be?

December 20th, 2019

As the new year approaches, we at Food Forward find ourselves reflecting on the successes we have had in the past decade. Above all else, we are most proud of the amount of produce we’ve recovered and donated in just ten years. With the help of our dedicated volunteers, Food Forward has recovered and donated more than 85 million pounds of fresh produce to local hunger relief organizations. This is a truly staggering amount of produce that would otherwise go to waste. With the new year upon us, Food Forward is resolved to continue fighting for a more just and equitable food system. But we need your help to do it! 

 

 

You can prevent food waste and feed people in your community by joining Food Forward’s team of volunteer Pick Leaders! Volunteer Pick Leaders are a vital part of Food Forward’s work to harvest food, fight hunger, and build community. Pick Leaders harvest perfectly edible produce that, without Food Forward volunteers, would otherwise get thrown into the trash or rot on the ground. We harvest fruit trees from properties across LA and Ventura Counties. 100% of the produce harvested is donated to hunger relief organizations serving the most vulnerable members of our community.

 

Volunteer Pick Leader Roland A says: “Becoming a pick leader was an excellent choice for me because it allowed me to help serve those in need while enjoying my free time outside.”

 

Our work is unique because it solves two pressing issues—food insecurity and food waste—with one simple solution. Food Forward’s mission is to share the abundance that already exists with those who don’t always have access to it. Los Angeles and Ventura Counties have a long legacy of agriculture and orchards, which is why there are still many fruit trees throughout the city. Ventura County is still an agricultural hub and produces many high-value crops. Unfortunately, much of this nutritious, fresh, local produce ends up going to waste and contributing to climate change. And despite LA’s rich agricultural legacy and plenty of active farmland in Ventura County, many of our neighbors cannot afford the high cost of food.

 

 

Food insecurity refers to a lack of access to enough good, healthy, and culturally appropriate food. According to Feeding America, food insecurity affects 1 in 9 people or roughly 1.1 million people in Los Angeles, and 1 in 13 people or roughly 65,000 people in Ventura County. It’s heartbreaking to know that so many of our community members are experiencing food insecurity in a region that has such an abundance of fresh, local, and healthy produce. As a Pick Leader, you can bridge the gap between abundance and those experiencing food insecurity. This year alone, Pick Leaders have helped recover and donate nearly 350,000 pounds of fresh local produce to more than 160 different hunger relief agencies! And there is much more fruit that we could harvest and donate to those agencies—but we need more folks to join us!

 

 

As a Pick Leader you get to choose when you harvest, where you harvest, and what kind of fruit you harvest. If you like this kind of flexibility, are interested in gaining more leadership skills, or perhaps are interested in reducing food waste and greenhouse gas emissions, consider becoming a Pick Leader with the Backyard Harvest team. You’ll join an inspiring community of over 75 Pick Leaders in LA and Ventura counties. We get to work outdoors, connect with like-minded people, and truly make a difference in your community. Visit Food Forward’s Pick Leader page for more details about the position, or feel free to reach out to our harvest coordinators in LA (harvestLA@foodforward.org) and VC (harvestVC@foodforward.org) for more info and opportunities to get involved.

 

We’d love to have you as part of our fruity community! With your help, we can prevent even more waste and feed even more people in the new year. 

 

Volunteer Pick Leader Kelly A. says: “Volunteering with the BYH program is important to me because I believe very strongly that I should give back to my community, and this program provides me with a very easy, safe, fun, and instantly gratifying way to do it.”

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