Highlighting volunteer heroes in Ventura County

June 11th, 2020

While Food Forward has continued to recover large quantities of fruits and vegetables since the COVID-19 crisis began, our community volunteer events are paused for the time being. However, our trained Volunteer Event Leaders and partners are continuing to support our work in safe and impactful ways.

In the past month, Food Forward Pick Leaders have carried on with backyard harvests in a solo capacity, rather than harvesting in groups. Homeowners are encouraged to pick their own fruit to share with neighbors or donate it to Food Forward. The impact of Do-It-Yourself and solo picks have been tremendous: in April alone, over 46,000 pounds of produce were recovered and donated to 53 different hunger relief agencies in Ventura and Los Angeles Counties.

Our trained Glean Team Leaders have also begun gleaning again at some Farmers Markets in Ventura and Los Angeles counties, alone or in small groups. In Ventura County, we are now gleaning at four markets weekly, thanks to our dedicated Volunteer Leaders.

Finally, with the help of our partners, we have been operating two Rapid Response Food Hubs in Ventura County to get produce to 25 partner agencies in our communities. All of this cannot be done without our incredible volunteers and partners. In order to thank them, we’re highlighting some of these individuals below!
 

Carol Gravelle has been an exceptional volunteer for the past nine years with Food Forward. Besides frequent fruit picking, Carol is an expert with our occasional farm gleans here in Ventura County. She also sewed some face masks using Food Forward bandanas and donated them to staff. Thanks, Carol!

 

Tom Ward has been volunteering with Food Forward for 4 years. He always works hard, and lately, he has been bringing his family to help pick! Thanks, Tom.
 

John Parmenter was the Zesty Volunteer of the Year for Food Forward in 2019! John is a unique Pick Leader—instead of harvesting fruit trees, he grows and harvest vegetables in many garden plots at the Cornucopia Community Garden in Ventura on a weekly basis. We always love seeing the bounty of kale, squash, spinach, mint, and more that John is growing. Thanks, John!

 

Amy Hagins and her family are somewhat new to Food Forward, but they have really jumped in to help pick the last few months. Amy leads a harvest almost every week. Thanks, Amy!

 

Jodie Francoeur is our partner at Simi at the Garden, the local community garden which helps us put on the Simi Valley Produce Pick-Up. Jodie drives down to our Produce Pit Stop near Downtown LA on a weekly basis with her truck, trailer, and husband, Chris, to pick up an additional 5 pallets of fruits and vegetables that are distributed at this event. Thanks to her support, we’ve gone from serving 100-150 families per month to over 300 families each week! Thank you, Jodie!

 

Food Forward will always be a volunteer-driven organization. A special thanks to all our volunteers and partners, as we cannot recover the amount of produce that we recover and donate without them. Thank you for your support and dedication!

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Black Lives Matter

June 6th, 2020

In light of last couple of week’s tragic events, we at Food Forward felt an urgent need to reach out to our community at large to raise our voice in unity.⁠⠀
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We vehemently condemn the four police officers who murdered George Floyd, and the inexcusable approach by Minneapolis officials investigating them. Moreso, we mourn the countless Black lives that have also been unjustly and brutally stolen on American soil, not just this past week, but dating all the way back to 1619.⁠⠀
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Food Forward shares the outrage and stands in solidarity with our Black colleagues, partners, volunteers, event participants, financial supporters, and all marginalized communities and people of color, in the fight against racism, injustice, and violence in every form.⁠⠀
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Food Forward’s mission is wrapped around the action of sharing fresh, free food so every human being in our community can thrive – and we intend to show our outrage, conviction, and yes sadness, through our re-doubled commitment to fulfilling that mission. We are also committed to working internally and externally to support and amplify anti-racist efforts in our society – something essential if our mission is to succeed.⁠⠀
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What started in the streets of Minneapolis has now spread to every single state in our nation. The protests we are witnessing give a voice to the many Black lives cut short by rampant, unchecked, institutionalized police violence.⁠⠀
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In this time, as we demand justice, we ask you to dig deep under the outrage, and find the abundance of love, of unity, of empathy within. And please go out and direct that love, that unity, that empathy towards those suffering in our community, in any way you can.⁠⠀
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Lastly, though we have a VITAL election happening in 6 months, elections can only do so much. We cannot look to others to make this right but, rather, WE MUST all take a good long hard look in the mirror and do better ourselves.⁠⠀
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#BlackLivesMatter

 

Things we are reading and listening to right now:

List of Black-owned food businesses in LA

Groups supporting food and land justice for Black Americans

1619 Podcast by Nikole Hannah Jones from the New York Times

26 ways to be in the struggle beyond the streets

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Helping make the world go round

May 29th, 2020

Meet our Volunteer of the Month, Mary MacVean! Mary is a regular at our Produce Pick-Up in Watts, in partnership with the Watts Labor Community Action Committee. Mary is training to become a Produce Pick-Up Lead to support staff at the distributions. Beyond her help at the Watts Produce Pick-Up, Mary is a member of Food Forward’s Kitchen Cabinet and Spring Melt Auction Committee. We’re so grateful for all the different ways she puts her talents and passion to use in support of our work!

 

 

So tell me, how did you get started with Food Forward?
I met Rick early in the life of Food Forward. I had heard about what he had just started. I was a reporter for the LA Times then and wrote a story about the project. We liked each other and stayed in touch.

What drew you to Food Forward’s work and mission?
What I have always loved is the simplicity and easy logic.

What do you do when you’re not volunteering with Food Forward?
At the moment, I am in my house unless I am taking a run or walking my dog. But otherwise, I am a writer. And I spend a fair amount of time in the community. I also am extraordinarily lucky to have a remarkable assortment of friends, and I feel strongly about nurturing those relationships.

 

Mary invited Food Forward, along with other local food waste organizations, to a screening and discussion of Wasted: The Story of Food Waste.

What is your favorite part about volunteering with Food Forward?
I like that I can have different roles: the Kitchen Cabinet, the auction committee, and the Watts Produce Pick-Up.

How would you describe the volunteer experience at a produce pick-up?
I’ve been studying to be a Lead at the Watts Produce Pick-Up. It’s serious work, as we sort through the donated food and find the best way to set up an appealing market. Everyone is working hard. When the community comes to shop and sees the bounty, that’s the fun part. People often are happily surprised when they ask how many they can take of an item and are told, “As many as you can use.”

What have you learned from volunteering?
I grew up in a home where volunteering was just part of what one did. It could be private and quiet work for a neighbor. Or part of a bigger organization. So honestly, until very recently I thought it was just what helped make the world go around. Lately, I have become very unenamored with the way the extremely wealthy—the top fraction of a percent, the famous ones—are setting priorities for what social ills are addressed and how, for what public education should look like and many more. I worry the system is deeply broken.

Any words of wisdom you live by?
That changes from time to time. I do keep a list on my bathroom mirror that offers advice for each day of the week. For example, Friday is about forgiveness—something I can always use a little help to achieve.

 

Mary sporting her Food Forward bandana face mask! 
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Keeping Ventura County nourished during COVID-19

May 22nd, 2020

COVID-19 has created new challenges for our partners, who are seeing more folks seeking food assistance than ever before. Thanks to our partners Totally Local VC, Food Forward established the Ventura Rapid Response Hub, part of our emergency response to the increased need caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ventura County Branch Manager Ally Gialketsis (left) and Local Love deliver several pallets of fruits and vegetables to the Santa Paula Unified School District. 

 

The Ventura Rapid Response Hub is an emergency produce distribution hub in partnership with Totally Local VC’s Local Love Project (Local Love). Local Love activates and organizes community members to provide immediate aid in the aftermath of a disaster affecting Ventura County. It started in response to the devastation caused by the Thomas Fire in 2017 and has continued to support Ventura County through the COVID-19 crisis. Food Forward’s Ventura Branch has partnered with Local Love to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to agencies that are feeding families in Ventura County.

Many food assistance agencies have made adjustments or temporarily suspended services due to COVID-19. For organizations that are still open, the increase in demand has been huge—some report three or four times their typical amount of clients at food distributions.

 

Cilantro, kale, cantaloupe, raspberries, and more were given to Ventura residents at a recent food distribution.

 

Food Forward launched five new “Rapid Response Hubs” in April to ensure communities across Los Angeles and Ventura counties have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. These hubs are a direct response to the increased need in neighborhoods most affected by the loss of services. Having a reliable source of free, high-quality fruits and vegetables can help ease the burden of new financial stressors for many throughout Southern California. At each location, a truckload of recovered produce is quickly distributed to multiple agency partners, who in turn distribute this food to their clients.

One agency receiving produce from the Ventura Rapid Response Hub is Turning Point Foundation. Among other services, Turning Point Foundation provides individuals experiencing homelessness and/or living with mental illness with basic needs like food and clothing. Since the pandemic’s onset, procuring enough food for their clients has been difficult. Suki Sir at Turning Point Foundation says “Food Forward is our savior! Without the work Food Forward is doing to get us produce through the hub, my residents would be in a really bad place with food insecurity.”

 

A family poses with fruits and vegetables at a distribution in Ventura County. 

 

The Ventura Rapid Response Hub is one of the ways we are supporting food access in Ventura County. To learn more about our response to COVID-19, click here.

 

 

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How has COVID-19 impacted food waste?

April 29th, 2020

So many aspects of our economy have changed as a result of the COVID-19 crisis—including our food system. As businesses close and needs shift, farmers are left with more food than they can sell. This is resulting in a drastic increase in food waste—all while more and more people are seeking food assistance. 

fruit going to waste on ground

Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash 

A radically new normal

The COVID-19 pandemic and related economic downturn have created a “seismic” disruption in the food industry, resulting in a paradox of a phenomenal amount of food waste and unprecedented demand on food banks. Farmers are turning their vegetables into mulch and dumping millions of gallons of milk, while more people than ever line up at food pantries across the country. Food waste is not new to the food industry, as up to 40% of the food we grow in America is never eaten. However, the worsening issue of food waste due to the pandemic has illuminated the flaws present in our food supply chains. The amount of people across the globe experiencing acute hunger could double by the end of this year, while farmers and producers deal with massive surpluses.

 

Usually, farmers’ biggest buyers are the food service industry, including restaurants, universities, and stadiums, but social distancing guidelines have forced many of these places to scale or shut down their operations. This has put a huge strain on farmers and food producers. For example, John Umhoefer of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association told Politico that “the food service sector accounts for half of all cheese sold in the U.S., while only one-third is sold at grocery stores.” Big buyers, like Disney and cruise lines, purchase a critical amount of produce grown in Florida. Our normal food system functioned under the assumption that the food service industry will be buying the bulk of farmers’ goods. Coronavirus radically changed that normal.

 

drive-through produce pick-up food distribution

Food Forward has modified our existing produce distributions, like this one in Watts, as well as established several Rapid Response Hubs to serve more communities.

More food waste + more food insecurity

Without these big buyers, more food is going to waste. In some cases this is because farmers cannot shoulder the cost to harvest and find new buyers for their food. Field workers are also increasingly harder to come by as heightened border security impacts the availability of migrant workers, the backbone of much of the food industry. According to the Guardian, here in California “billions of dollars worth of food is going to waste” as farmers face a “massive surplus of highly perishable items.” In many cases food is left on the field or tilled underground. This crisis is “having a disproportionate effect on warm-weather states and smaller farms,” Kara Heckert, California regional director for the American Farmland Trust, told the Guardian. Some farms have begun selling directly to consumers in CSA boxes, but this supply chain is still leaving out the food pantries. To address this gap, California’s Department of Food and Agriculture is providing financial assistance to ease the burden on farms wishing to donate their surplus produce. 

 

The economic impact of the pandemic has been sending a record breaking number of Americans to food banks, but it has been difficult for these food pantries to keep their shelves stocked. Under normal circumstances these pantries are filled with non-perishable items, but shelf stable goods have been selling out in grocery stores. An influx of produce, diverted from its usual food service destinations, have helped cover this dip in donations. Expanded food recovery programs can help bridge the gap between an increase in wasted food and increased need for food assistance.  

 

food forward's produce pit stop warehouse

Pallets of rescued fruits and vegetables fill the Produce Pit Stop in Bell—waiting to feed people, rather than sit in a landfill.

Connecting the dots 

In Southern California, Food Forward has been helping to connect the dots between wholesale produce sellers and receiving agencies of all sizes. At Food Forward’s Pit Stop, our warehouse equipped with a massive refrigerator, our staff is able to accept large donations of food from LA’s Wholesale Produce District. In order to effectively distribute fruits and vegetables to more communities during this time, Food Forward has worked with partner agencies to establish additional food distribution hubs, called Rapid Response hubs. At these hubs, we’re able to break down the pallets and give food pantries the amount of food they can use. In an average week during this pandemic, Food Forward’s wholesale team has been able to recover 750,000 pounds of produce from going to waste. All of this food is sent to hunger relief agencies serving people experiencing food insecurity. Such a radical change in the food system required an immediate response, and Food Forward is working to creatively meet this challenge. 

 

References

https://www.foodandwine.com/news/food-waste-coronavirus-covid-pandemic

https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/05/food-waste-coronavirus-pandemic-164557

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/09/us-coronavirus-outbreak-agriculture-food-supply-waste

https://qns.com/story/2020/04/19/covid-19-budget-cuts-force-suspensions-of-nyc-compost-e-waste-collection-programs/

https://www.kcrw.com/news/shows/press-play-with-madeleine-brand/coronavirus-food-waste-grooming-late-night-tv/food-waste-farmers-covid-19

https://www.wastedive.com/news/covid-19-coronavirus-food-waste-volumes-fears/574697/

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/22/world/africa/coronavirus-hunger-crisis.html

 

By Nora Healy, Volunteer Program Assistant

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A family activity & a way to contribute

April 23rd, 2020

Tom has been volunteering with his 3 adorable kids and lovely wife since February 2018. We met him at an avocado harvest in Somis, and he’s been volunteering regularly ever since! Tom and his family have stepped up in this critical time and have continued to regularly harvest fruit from backyard fruit trees and orchards on their own. Thank you to Tom and his family for all that you do!

 

Tom at a lemon harvest in Ventura County

 

So tell me, what drew you to Food Forward’s work and mission?
At first it was a family activity that we found that we can all do together. My wife, Chrissy, first found out about Food Forward and signed us all up for a bacon avocado pick in Somis in the spring of 2018. It was more enjoyable than I expected. I quickly became a pick leader and haven’t looked back since.

 

What do you do when you’re not volunteering with Food Forward?
I work for the Navy at Naval Base Ventura County Point Mugu. I also went back to school to learn how to fly.

 

What is your favorite part about volunteering with Food Forward? 
Meeting new people and being able contribute to my community.

 

During the COVID-19 outbreak, Tom has continued to do solo and family harvests of local fruit trees. 

 

How would you describe the volunteer experience at a backyard harvest?
It’s a good time. I encourage the volunteers to meet and talk to new people while picking.

 

What have you learned from volunteering?
I have learned that it is easy to contribute to my community.

 

Is there a particularly powerful volunteering moment you’d like to share? 
There are a few that come to mind. We went to pick enormous navel oranges near scenic mountains in Fillmore, but the harvest we’ve done twice was picking grapefruit at a horse ranch in Somis. The first time was late in the afternoon and it was over 100 degrees. My family all participated and over 100 boxes of fruit were harvested. When this property came back up to pick we had to do it again, thankfully it wasn’t nearly as hot the second time. I’ll do that pick every year.

 

Tom’s kids often help him harvest.
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Agency/Partner Spotlight: Alma Backyard Farms & Anti-Recidivism Coalition

April 16th, 2020

A native pollinator garden and bright sign welcome you to Alma Backyard Farms, January 2020.

There are some partnerships where all the puzzle pieces just seem to fit together perfectly. Such is the case with Alma Backyard Farms and the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC). While our relationships with each organization look different, they are connected by a shared vision for what food justice and community engagement look like.

 

ARC members sort lettuce at the Mudtown Farmers Market in Watts, April 2019. 

The Mudtown Farmers Market, our bi-weekly Produce Pick-Up in Watts in collaboration with WLCAC, was the catalyst for our partnership with Alma Backyard Farms. In early 2019, ARC volunteered with Food Forward at our Watts Produce Pick-Up. The Anti-Recidivism Coalition empowers formerly and currently incarcerated people to thrive by providing a support network, comprehensive services, and opportunities to advocate for policy change. It wasn’t long until they were regulars at Watts, bringing a group of volunteers about once a month to help sort through thousands of pounds of produce for a free community distribution. We were always excited to have ARC volunteers—our staff came to know their group as dependable, hard working, and friendly. Not only were we grateful to have their help, but we were glad to support their organization by providing meaningful volunteer experiences for their members.

 

A wheelbarrow full of lavender harvested at Alma Backyard Farms, January 2020.

 

Beyond ARC members’ dedication to making fresh produce accessible at our Watts Produce Pick-Up event, they also helped us become more sustainable. ARC introduced us to Alma Backyard Farms, which “exists to re-claim lives of formerly incarcerated people, re-purpose urban land into productive urban farm plots, and re-imagine disenfranchised communities in Los Angeles as a hub for transformation.” Alma Farms is now our composting partner for the Watts Produce Pick-Ups. Any produce that is not fit to eat gets picked up by Alma and composted on site at their farm in South LA. Their partnership makes it possible for this event to have absolutely zero food waste! Alma Backyard Farms grows food for their community, and recently became a Food Forward partner agency to supplement what they grow. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, they have been creating free grocery bags for the community, complete with fresh greens from their farm, Food Forward’s recovered produce, prepared foods from local chefs, and freshly baked bread. Every other weekend Alma conducts a safe curbside pick-up and gives away 200 of these bags.

 

For several weekends since the COVID-19 outbreaks, Alma has created 200 bags filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, bread, and prepared foods. Photo from Alma Backyard Farms.

In January, Food Forward staff members Michele Chase and Joe Bobman had the pleasure of spending a day at Alma Backyard Farms with ARC. Alma Backyard Farms is located near Compton, where co-founders Erika Cuellar and Richard Garcia have been developing the farm and its programming for the past three years. Erika and Richard transformed a half-acre vacant lot into fertile farmland, complete with irrigated fields and raised beds, a chicken coop, compost, and a native pollinator plant garden. Activities at the farm include a weekly farm stand, cooking classes for adults and children alike, meditation, and volunteer service. At the core of their mission is Alma’s urban agriculture job training program, which teaches formerly incarcerated men and women urban farming techniques.

 

Food Forward’s Technology & Engagement Manager Joe Bobman and ARC Life Coach Jarret Keith sample the vegetarian chili they helped make, January 2020. 

During the visit, we helped turn soil in the compost pile and for a soon-to-be soccer field. We also prepared ingredients for resident chef Mia Aguilar’s vegetarian chili using vegetables grown on site. According to Food Forward’s Agency Relations Field Coordinator, Michele Chase: “I can see how regular visits to this urban farm would provide a real opportunity to practice these skills in a safe and dignified environment.” Beyond building skills, Alma knows that being at the farm and growing food has a transformative impact on people’s lives.

 

Beautiful rainbow carrots grown at Alma Backyard Farms. 

Both ARC and Alma Backyard Farms are working to provide support, mentorship, and dignified work and volunteer opportunities to formerly incarcerated people. But beyond a surface level comparison, there’s a sense of transformation that ties all these partnership together. ARC helps Food Forward repurpose food that would otherwise be wasted, and feed people with it—in the process, they learn valuable skills and have the opportunity to give back. Alma takes what can’t be eaten and turns it into compost, so that it can fertilize new life. And such is the effect their farming program has on its participants—through learning how to grow food, they experience, as Richard puts it, “the ultimate rehabilitation.”

We are truly grateful to be aligned with these two organizations who are transforming their communities. Through our partnerships, we have all grown in different ways—just like a garden. Throughout the workday, Richard continued to reiterate to the group that “[This farm] is your home. You are welcome back anytime.” This reminded Jarret Keith, an ARC life coach, of a fitting quote from Muhammad Ali to close out the day: “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.”

 

ARC members watch a cooking demonstration at Alma Backyard Farms, January 2020. 

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Food Forward’s Watch/Read/Listen Guide

April 2nd, 2020

Many of us have found ourselves with more time on our hands—which offers an opportunity to learn new things. We’ve compiled a list of food-related movies, books, and podcasts to watch, read, and listen to. From food waste to food insecurity to just food, enjoy our guide! 

What to watch: 

Movies and more about food waste, food insecurity, and, well, food.

Wasted! The Story of Food Waste: A documentary which explores the reason for the 1.3 billion tons of food waste produced globally, and the people working to fix the problem.

Just Eat It: Watch along as these filmmakers dive into the issue of food waste, and eat nothing but food that’s about to be wasted by grocery stores for six months.

A Place at the Table: This documentary, from the producers of Food Inc., shows the scope of food insecurity and hunger in America and follows three people impacted by food insecurity.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Check out his segment all about food waste.

LA FoodWays: This documentary series traces the past, present, and future of food in Los Angeles – and features Food Forward!

And, for some food-related movies: Ratatouille, Soul Food, Like Water for Chocolate, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Waitress, and A Grand Day Out with Wallace and Gromit (Pursuit of Cheddar Cheese) are a fun selection of movies all about food.

 

What to Read:

Here’s our list of books to snuggle up with while we stay-at-home.

Waste Free Kitchen Handbook – by Dana Gunders

The Good Food Revolution: Growing Healthy Food, People, and Communities – by Will Allen

Indigenous Food Sovereignty in the United States: Restoring Cultural Knowledge, Protecting Environments, and Regaining Health – Edited by Devon A. Mihesuah, Elizabeth Hoover, Foreword by Winona LaDuke

Protecting Pollinators: How to save the creatures that feed our world – by Jodi Helmer

The Way We Eat Now: How the Food Revolution Has Transformed Our Lives, Our Bodies, and Our World – by Bee Wilson

Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal – by Tristam Stuart

 

What to listen to:

For the audiophile, a selection of podcasts all about food.

Life Kit – How to Reduce Food Waste: https://www.npr.org/2019/12/10/786867315/how-to-reduce-food-waste

The Lid is On – Feeding the world with 1.3bn tons of wasted food: https://news.un.org/en/audio/2018/10/1023172

World Resources Institute – Liz Goodwin on Reducing Food Loss and Waste—Lessons from the UK: https://www.wri.org/blog/2016/10/podcast-liz-goodwin-reducing-food-loss-and-waste-lessons-uk

Important, Not Important – #85: A Blueprint for Fighting Food Waste in Your Community: https://www.importantnotimportant.com/podcast/2020/02/24/ep85-a-blueprint-for-fighting-food-waste-in-your-community

Seriously? America! – Episode 05: Almost 12% of Households Are Food Insecure: https://seriouslyamericashow.com/blog/episodefive

Pang! is Dan Froot and Company’s series of contemporary audio dramas based on the oral histories of families around the country who are hungering for change: https://www.pangpodcast.com/

Will there be Food? – Episode 13, Home for the Holidays: https://www.presence.io/podcast/home-for-the-holidays/

 

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Moving forward when things don’t go as planned

March 27th, 2020

For this Volunteer of the Month post, we are featuring our Volunteer Program Intern, Nora Healy! Nora has been an amazing help to our program, and has been incredibly adaptive to the changing circumstances due to COVID-19. Through it all, she has maintained a super positive, can-do attitude. She is always ready to help out and we’re grateful to have her on our team! Learn more about Nora below. 

 

 

So tell me, how did you get started with Food Forward?
I had friends who had interned with Food Forward before, so when I decided to take fewer classes this semester in order to make room for an internship, Food Forward was the first place I looked. The Volunteer Program Internship stood out to me the most, so I applied and here I am!

What drew you to Food Forward’s work and mission?
I have always been passionate about food justice and Food Forward has done such a clever job of utilizing existing resources (produce that is already growing on trees all over LA and that might be wasted at farmers markets and wholesale markets) to solve long standing issues of food insecurity.

What do you do when you’re not volunteering/interning with Food Forward?
I am a senior at Occidental College where I am a director of a middle school mentorship program and a Chicken Tender for the lovely hens in our community garden. In my free time you can find me binging the Great British Baking Show, baking my own treats, snuggling with my foster cat, and spending as much time as possible outside.

 

What is your favorite part about volunteering/interning with Food Forward?
My favorite part of interning at Food Forward is the people. Everyone I have met from my coworkers to the Glean Team Leaders have been welcoming, kind, and teachers to me during this internship.

How would you describe the volunteer experience as an intern?
I love interning here because I feel like a real part of the organization. I am given meaningful tasks and not just treated like someone to get coffee. I get to (virtually) go to meetings, brainstorm ideas for handling the COVID-19 changes, and work on my professional development.

What have you learned from volunteering?
I have learned how to move forward when things are not going as planned. I started this internship right before the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, so I started in the office and in the field, like all of my predecessor interns, but a couple weeks in we moved entirely online. Since then I have gotten to be a part of creatively finding ways for Food Forward volunteers to remain engaged with food justice issues in LA and with our organization during social distancing.

Any words of wisdom you live by?
At this moment, amid the very real coronavirus concern, I have been reminding myself that “this too shall pass” and making sure I get enough sunshine everyday.

 

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An Update on March 19, 2020

March 19th, 2020

 

It’s hard to wrap our heads around how quickly our daily lives are changing. It’s even more difficult to know where we will be tomorrow, next week, or in a month. Like everyone, all of us at Food Forward have been taking things day-by-day to respond to the impact novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) has on us as individuals, as an organization, and as a community. 

The majority of our staff in Los Angeles and Ventura began working remotely late last week. At the Produce Pit Stop, our staff is maintaining its massive recovery efforts from the Wholesale Produce Market with increased cleaning and hygiene protocol in place. As of today, we made the decision to suspend community volunteer events for the time being. We will keep you posted regularly, as we know so many of you want to help. To mitigate lapses in service, our Farmers Market Recovery and Backyard Harvest teams are diverting as many hunger relief agencies as possible to pick up from the Produce Pit Stop–where large loads of fruits and vegetables are available.

As the landscape of need shifts under our feet, we are getting creative with our partners to establish distribution hubs to serve community members and local hunger relief agencies. After our long-time partner A Place Called Home had to temporarily suspend most services for South Los Angeles families, we were able to supply them with assorted produce to create 200 grocery bags for their newly established bi-weekly Family Resource Depot. Yesterday, in Watts, our team worked with staff at the Watts Labor Community Action Committee to ensure that our regular Produce Pick-Up could still happen. 12,000 pounds of strawberries, jicama, squash, oranges, spinach, Brussels sprouts, and onions were given out to local agencies and to the public in bags via a drive-through model.

 

A Place Called Home distributes grocery bags with produce recovered by Food Forward

 

The sad truth is that the most vulnerable amongst us will be impacted most by this health crisis, but many more people may be facing food insecurity due to financial upheaval. To continue to provide emergency food relief during this critical time, we must be innovative, adaptable, and compassionate. We hope you will stand next to us–in spirit–to make this possible.

Amongst all of the uncertainty, we have been heartened by the outpouring of support we are receiving from people who want to help. At this time, the best way to support our work is by making a donation to help us adapt our programs to the shifting need. After canceling our annual fundraiser, the Spring Melt, an anonymous donor stepped up to MATCH every dollar we raise from now until April 4, up to $50,000. While we won’t be toasting in-person, we invite you to take a break and Melt-at-Home with us to strengthen our fight against hunger and food waste. 

Since the beginning, Food Forward has been committed to our simple mission of sharing abundance with those who need it most. While how we do that may look different over the coming weeks and even months, we will live by our mission to spread generosity. We encourage you to do the same, so we can get through these challenges more resilient than ever. 

We hope to see you up a tree soon.

From all of us at Food Forward

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