Produce of the Month: Alliums!

February 15th, 2019

2.16.19—This month we are highlighting a category of plants that are often overlooked. They’re not that fancy or exciting—despite this, we don’t know how we would cook without them. We are talking, of course, about alliums, the genus that includes onions, garlic, and scallions.

 

Background & History

Alliums have been cultivated as food for a very long time, and most historians agree that onions have been domesticated for at least 6000 years. Onions and garlic are staples in cultures around the world—they are the basis for many Indian and Asian dishes, and are also frequently found in South and Central American cooking and many European cuisines. This is in part due to the fact that they last for a long time once harvested, making them readily available and easily integrated into the diet.

In certain religious practices, eating garlic and onions is disapproved of. In the Hindu and Jain religions, they are thought to stimulate the body and increase one’s desires. Similarly, in some Buddhist traditions, garlic is thought to stimulate lustful and aggressive drives, thus disrupting the meditation practice. While people today still follow these guidelines, there are also members of these religions who consume alliums.

 

 

Health benefits

Alliums aren’t just tasty, they also have many health benefits! Some studies have shown that consuming garlic, leeks, and onions can reduce the risk of cancer, due to their sulfur-based compounds. Alliums are anti-inflamatory due to their high flavonoid content, and good for cardiovascular health as they prevent blood clot formation and lower blood pressure. Onions are garlic are also anti-bacterial, and have been shown to inhibit the growth of E. Coli and MRSA, or staph bacteria. As a whole, the allium genus of plants are rich in Vitamin C, B vitamins, manganese, iron, and potassium.

 

Why does chopping onions make you cry?

We’ve all experienced the painful sting of chopping onions. So, what’s the cause of that pesky irritation? It’s the result of the onion’s defense mechanism—cutting onions damages its cells, which triggers a chain reaction resulting in the release of syn-propanethial-S-oxide. This gas activates sensory neurons in the eye, causing irritation and prompting the eye to produce tears to flush out the irritant. One way to reduce irritation is to refrigerate onions before you cut them, which slows down the enzyme reaction rate.

 

Recipe

Quick-Pickled Red Onions
Recipe from The Kitchn, by Dana Velden. Vegan and gluten-free.

Pickled red onions are easy to make and super versatile! They add flavor and texture to sandwiches, salads, tacos, and more.

 

 

Makes about 2 cups.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium red onion, about 5 ounces
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup rice vinegar, white vinegar, or apple cider vinegar

Flavorings (optional)

  • 1 small clove of garlic, peeled and halved
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • 5 allspice berries
  • 3 small sprigs of thyme
  • 1 small dried chili

Instructions

  1. Slice the onions: Start 2 or 3 cups of water on to boil in a kettle. Peel and thinly slice the onion into approximately 1/4-inch moons. 
  2. Dissolve the sugar and salt: In the container you will be using to store the onions, add the sugar, salt, vinegar, and flavorings. Stir to dissolve.
  3. Par-blanch the onions: Place the onions in the sieve and place the sieve in the sink. Slowly pour the boiling water over the onions and let them drain.
  4. Add the onions to the jar: Add the onions to the jar and stir gently to evenly distribute the flavorings.
  5. Store: The onions will be ready in about 30 minutes, but are better after a few hours. Store in the refrigerator. They will keep for several weeks, but are best in the first week.
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Making a big impact in a short time

January 25th, 2019

Stephanie joined the Backyard Harvest team in the summer of 2018 and in that short amount of time she has lead 7 harvest events and become a crucial part of the Food Forward’s work in the Central LA region. Stephanie is dependable, great with volunteers, and fun to work with. We want to thank Stephanie for all of her hard work and support these past few months!

 

So tell me, how did you get started with Food Forward?  
I wanted to use my free time doing something that was not only selfless but had a positive impact on the environment. After sifting through a couple of charities in Los Angeles, I stumbled across Food Forward!


What drew you to Food Forward’s work and mission?
It was the perfect combination of everything I wanted to do: give back to the community, help with food waste, and be outdoors.


What do you do when you’re not volunteering with Food Forward?
I’m a graphic designer so I try to work on personal projects when I have the time. I also watch Seinfeld at least once a day. And I’ve recently just started volunteering with St. Vincent’s Meals On Wheels!

 

 

What is your favorite part about volunteering with Food Forward? 
I think it has to be being able to spread awareness about Food Forward. I love seeing people’s reactions when I tell them about what FF does because I believe it’s one of the most relevant and necessary organizations in Los Angeles. 

How would you describe the volunteer experience at a harvest?
Everyone is there for different reasons but because we are all sharing the same experience, there is a refreshing sense of camaraderie amongst the volunteers.
 

What was your first volunteer day like?
I really didn’t know what to expect since I had done little to no volunteer work before. I was kind of taken back being in someone’s actual backyard. But what was even more surprising was that the family helped out too. It really didn’t feel like work.

 

What have you learned from volunteering?
It doesn’t take much to make a big impact. Majority of harvests take about 2 hours max. In that 2 hours, we can harvest over 600 lbs. of fruit that would have otherwise been rotting on the floor!

 

 

Is there a particularly powerful volunteering moment you’d like to share?
Nothing yet!

 

Any words of wisdom you live by?
Be kind, be honest, and be yourself.

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2018 Good Food News Roundup

January 18th, 2019

2018 was a big year for Food Forward and a big year in the world of food equity and food waste. The conversation around food waste continues to evolve, and new initiatives were introduced by local and even national governments. The sustainable farming movement is also growing, with plenty of examples of people taking the health of their communities into their own hands. Read on for a roundup of our favorite food news stories from 2018!

 

Vendors march in support of legalizing street vending in Los Angeles.

1. Street vending is legalized in Los Angeles:

After first proposing such legislation five years ago, the LA City Council voted to legalize street vending in November. The movement was led by street vendors themselves, many of whom are women, most of whom are Latino. Organizations like the LA Food Policy Council and SEE-LA, among many others, were vital partners in creating momentum around the issue. Street vendors, who sell food and other merchandise, are often harassed by the police and civilians. The motion to legalize vending offers new protections and regulations, and endorses street vending as an invaluable piece of LA’s food and economic landscape.  

 

At a luxury resort in the Maldives, an employee recycles coconut husks into rope.

2. Resorts across the globe find innovative solutions for food waste:

At luxury hotels and resorts in South America and Southeast Asia, thousands of pounds of food are wasted every day, uneaten by guests. To reduce costs and create ecological benefits, many hotels repurpose this food waste into compost for gardens, cleaning products, or biogas to power their operations. It’s an amazing example of how food can become part of a closed loop system which benefits everyone.

 

Neighbors think outside the box to create their own grocery co-op, Apple Street Market.

3. A Cincinnati community comes together to improve food access

When their local grocery store shut down, people in Cincinnati’s Northside neighborhood worked together to find a solution. These neighbors organized to create Apple Street Market, a unionized community-owned cooperative. For just $100 (or $10 for those who qualify for SNAP, free or reduced lunch, or Medicaid), community members can become owners of the market. It’s a creative and collaborative model that ensures the community has access to healthy food, as well as good-paying jobs with benefits.

 

Leah Penniman (left) and Amani Olugbala grow food for the Albany, NY community on Soul Fire Farm’s 72 acres.

4. A Black farmer improves the health of her community and affirms African roots of modern farming practices:

Today more women, specifically women of color, are leading the sustainable agriculture movement. Leah Penniman owns Soul Fire Farm near Albany, New York, and sells her produce at a sliding scale to Albany neighborhoods which lack access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Penniman also engages youth groups on her farm, and aims to train Black and Latino people in African farming and land management techniques. Often, the origin of these techniques are not recognized in the mainstream sustainable farming movement, and are misrepresented as European practices. Penniman is one of many farmers who is improving the health of her community through connecting to the land.

 

250 million meals are thrown away in the UK every year–Ben Elliot hopes to change that.

5. Britain appoints a Food Waste Champion to take on discarded meals:

The UK appointed their first Food Surplus and Waste Champion” to tackle the issue of food waste in Britain. Ben Elliot, a philanthropist and businessman, was appointed to the role and will oversee the Food Waste Fund, a £15 million effort to redistribute surplus food. Speaking on his new role, Elliot said that “As a nation, we need to stop this excessive waste and ensure that surplus food finds its way to people in our society who need it most, and not let it get thrown away and go to landfill.” 

 

Volunteers at the Watts Mudtown Free Farmers Market, our collaboration with the WLCAC, pose with fruits and veggies ready to be distributed to community members.

As an organization which works to prevent food waste and provide fruits and vegetables to those experiencing food insecurity, we believe healthy food is a basic human right. We know from our work that there is plenty of food to feed everyone, but barriers to access get in the way. In 2018, we expanded our Produce Pick-Up program and held 31 events to directly distribute free fruits and vegetables to individuals in food deserts. And in 2019, we’re going to keep working to reduce those barriers and create better access to fresh, healthy food. We hope you’ll join us!

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Reflecting on our first decade and looking towards the next

January 17th, 2019

The first pick happened 10 years ago on January 17, 2009 and was led by Food Forward Founder/Executive Director Rick Nahmias (far left)

 

Dear Fruit Family,

Ten years is a heady milestone for any organization, especially one started with a simple desire to solve a local problem through grassroots efforts. We are somewhat baffled and very proud to announce that we turn ten today!

In early 2009 I noticed fruit rotting in my neighbor’s yards, while also hearing of growing lines at food pantries due to the cratering economy. I recruited a single volunteer (remember Craig’s List?!) and decided to harvest my neighbor Heather’s ridiculously abundant tangerine and navel orange trees to do some good. The result: 3 weekends of tree climbing cloaked in the perfume of California citrus, and a yield of 800 pounds of fruit. That soon grew into 100,000 pounds of hand-harvested fruit by the end of our first year.

Flash forward to 2019, when Food Forward recovers an average of 100,000 pounds of fresh produce every day. 100% of these fruits and vegetables go completely free of charge to food insecure folks across the region. What a long, strange, and wonderful journey it’s been! 

The “now and then” is a bit mind-spinning, but here are some highlights.

 

In 2009:

· 4 co-founders and a few dozen volunteers
· Produce only came from backyard harvests
· 5 agencies received our almost exclusively-citrus donations
· There was no staff, vehicles, or office
· For much of the year we had no website, ways to raise funds, or even a name

 

And today:

· 4,000+ volunteers engaged in 2018 

· 5 thriving programs: Backyard Harvest, Farmers Market Recovery, Wholesale Recovery, kNOw Waste, and our newest, Produce Pick-Ups

· 22.5 million pounds of produce recovered in 2018

· 1,800 agencies served across 8 SoCal counties and beyond

· 30 staff and a fleet of 7 vehicles

· Produce recovered for an average of $.09/pound

· Our environmental impact was the equivalent of taking 2,012 cars off the road in 2018

· An estimated 2 million people will receive fruits and vegetables recovered by Food Forward’s programs in 2019

Explore our brand new 10-year timeline to take a look at our journey!

 

In many ways, it feels like we’re just beginning. But as is our namesake – it’s about looking forward.  

This past weekend we gathered to launch a formal strategic planning process to create the vision for our next five years in Fruitland.  And while it’s too early to tell exactly where we will go, I can say our first and foremost priority is to grow deeper roots to bring food insecure communities and individuals more free, healthy produce.

To accomplish this, we’ll harvest more backyard trees in Fruitland, plant Glean Teams at more farmers markets, distribute more fruits and vegetables via Produce Pick-Ups in underserved neighborhoods, and grow our Wholesale Produce Recovery program with the aid of a new Produce Depot.

This work couldn’t have happened without an incredibly receptive and participatory community supporting us. As we blow out our birthday candles, we have you all to thank for inspiring us to keep dreaming and actualizing what a healthy, food waste-free Southern California can look like.

To show the gratitude we feel for you, the community from which we sprouted, we gift this brand new video (below) produced with Serena Creative to be shown in Laemmle Theatres throughout February. We hope it reflects even a tiny bit of what makes this anniversary such a beautiful and humbling milestone to have reached.   

Thank you, and here’s to another decade of sharing abundance!

Rick Nahmias
Founder/Executive Director

 

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Food Foward turns 10!

January 17th, 2019

We mark the anniversary by signing the lease for our Produce Depot near DTLA. This new warehouse space will enable Food Forward to recover and donate 40 million pounds of produce each year, doubling its current produce recovery efforts. The 6,000 square foot Produce Depot will expand our capacity with refrigeration, dry storage, workspace for staff, a new software system to track produce, food recovery equipment, and two new box trucks

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Food Forward holds 2,280 volunteer-powered events

December 31st, 2018

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

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CSUN Orange Harvest

December 1st, 2018

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

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

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Food Waste, by the Numbers

December 1st, 2018

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

 

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

New standards and goals

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

Impacts of food waste

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Gaps and losses

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

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

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

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

 

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

What can we do?

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

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

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

 

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

Resources:
https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/wasted-2017-report.pdf
https://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food/united-states-2030-food-loss-and-waste-reduction-goal#measure

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Food Forward produce reaches 1,800 hunger relief agencies

December 1st, 2018

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

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Serving her Community On & Off the Clock

November 28th, 2018

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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


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

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