How Much Food is Wasted in America?

September 18th, 2017

9.18.17 – Back in 2015, we dove into the topic of Food Waste to learn more about how much, why, and how perfectly edible food winds up in the landfill. Studies have found that 30% – 40% of the food we produce in the United States is ultimately thrown away. But what does that mean? What does it look like? How much is that, really?

We Need More Studies on Food Waste

Before we dive into the dumpster, it’s important to know that the information we have is not perfect. All our knowledge about food waste comes from studies which use various different methods to estimate how much food is being lost or thrown away. Not only do these different studies use different methods to measure food waste, but many studies also have different definitions of what counts as “food waste”.

This past summer, The New Food Economy took a look at some of the studies we have on food waste and suggested that some estimates may be too big, and others, too small. In a recent update to their 2012 report, the NRDC also acknowledged the difficulties of gathering and verifying data.

Rather than discounting the information that we have, we need to see these as reasons to continue investigating the food we don’t eat. We need more studies that measure food loss at all levels of the food chain, and more efforts to standardize our methods and language. In the meantime, we need act on what we do know about food waste. You may be as astounded by some of these numbers as we were.

Tomatoes and cucumbers in a dumpster

Food Waste by Weight

According to a 2014 EPA study, America throws away more than 38 million tons of food every year. That’s the weight of 104 Empire State Buildings, with a bit to spare. Or, to put it another way, that single year’s worth of food waste would be enough to balance a scale with of all the Blue Whales left in the world, multiplied by 10, stacked up on the other side.

One year of American Food Waste = 104 Empire State Buildings

Food Waste by Volume

In his book “American Wasteland,” activist and author Jonathan Bloom estimated that the United States could fill a college stadium with the amount of food it wastes … in a day. Imagine trying to fit 365 Rose Bowls into Pasadena, or any city for that matter, to hold a year’s worth of American food waste.

The Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena CA

Food Waste by Cost

Food waste isn’t just big and heavy. It’s also very expensive. $165 billion / year expensive (Update: the more recent NRDC report placed this at $218 billion / year). For context, that’s almost as much as the State of California’s entire budget last year.

Food Waste by Nutrients

A very recent study attempted to measure food waste not in weight or dollars, but in nutrients. Writing in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the authors estimated that the amount of food thrown away in the United States in 2012 would have been enough to feed 190 million adults every day that year. They went further, looking at the different vitamins and minerals lost with wasted food, and argued that the nutrition lost could have ensured that all women in America could get their Recommended Dietary Allowances of Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, and Fiber.

Food Waste by Footprint

Last but certainly not least, we can look to measure food waste by its footprint and environmental impact. It takes a huge amount of resources (in addition to money) to grow and produce food, and is near impossible to recover those inputs once the food winds up in the landfill. Farmers and producers use around 25% of all of America’s fresh water just to produce the food that nobody eats.

Finally, when we throw away food, the landfill is not the end of the story. Organic waste breaks down at the dump, releasing methane gas, a potent greenhouse gas. The United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization puts the total carbon footprint of food wastage around 4.4 GtCO2: that’s 4.4 gigatonnes (4.4 billion tons) of carbon dioxide. How much is that exactly? It’s more greenhouse gas than any one country, except for the U.S. and China, emits. That’s right: our collective global food waste is contributing more to climate change than nearly every country in the world.

Food Waste's Environmental Footprint

Wrapping Our Heads Around Food Waste

We hope that, by exploring different ways to think about the amount of food that we throw away in the United States, we can really start to see how literally massive this issue is. This is only the beginning, but it’s important to check how big the pool is before you dive in.

Read More About Food Waste

A Dumpster Full of Eggplant

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Produce of the Month: Tomatillos!

September 12th, 2017

9.12.17 – Pronounced “tohm-ah-TEE-ohs,” September is the last month to search for this tart fruit. Tomatillos are also known as husk tomatoes, Mexican green tomatoes, and jam berries. Learn more about this delicious fruit in this Produce of the Month blogpost. 


Photo courtesy of Hans Peter Meyer, Flickr

Tomatillos look like tomatoes hidden under a paper-like husk. A cousin of the tomato and the Cape gooseberry, tomatillos are known by a variety of names, including husk tomatoes, jam berries and Mexican green tomatoes. If you peel back the husk you will find a firm, slightly sticky fruit. Tomatillos can be found much of the year, but their main season generally ranges from May through October which means August is a perfect time to look for these little gems. Allowed to mature, the vivid green shade might shift to yellow, red and even purple. Green tomatillos usually have a slightly tart flavor, though other colors can be sweet enough to be used in jams. Nutritionally, tomatillos are low in calories and rich in vitamin C, vitamin K, niacin, potassium, manganese, and healthy omega 6 fatty acids.


Tomatillos are  members of the nightshade family, along with tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers.This fruit have been cultivated for millennia and were a staple food in ancient Mayan and Aztec communities. In fact, the Aztecs are credited with domesticating the tomatillo. They grow throughout the Western Hemisphere, and are a popular staple food in Mexico, where they are often called “tomato verde” or “green tomatoes” (not to be confused with American “green tomatoes,” which are simply unripe tomatoes).
Selection and Storage:
A tomatillos husk is a good indicator of its ripeness. Select tomatillos that have an intact, tight-fitting, light brown or slightly green husk. Fresh tomatillos with their husks still intact may be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. They are best stored in a paper bag. Tomatillos last a week longer in the refrigerator if the husks are removed and the fruit is placed in sealed plastic bags. Tomatillos may also be frozen after removing the husks.



Avocado and Tomatillo Salsa
Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free

-2 large, 3 medium, or 6 small tomatillos, husked
-4 cloves garlic, skin on
-1 jalapeño pepper (more or less, depending on preference and heat level)
-1 shallot, peeled
-1 Hass avocado, pitted and scooped
-Juice of 2 limes
-1 bunch cilantro
-1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1. Put a small skillet over medium high heat. Without using any oil, add the tomatillos, garlic, jalapeño and shallot and dry roast, turning occasionally, until there are many black spots on the vegetables, about 5 minutes.
2. Put the tomatillos and shallot in your blender jar. Peel the garlic and add it to the blender. Halve, seed, and stem the jalapeño and add it to the blender.

3. Add the avocado, lime juice, cilantro, cumin, and salt. Process on high speed until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning – it may need more lime juice or salt. If it needs more heat, judiciously add cayenne or any chili powder you prefer.


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Food Forward Presents: Sour Power!

September 7th, 2017

9.7.17 – Harvest food, fight hunger, build community. How better to celebrate Food Forward’s third pillar than through food itself? Food Forward’s beloved Foodsteader series returns with two hands-on workshops slated for September and November.


We hope you’ll join us at the fabulous BLVD Kitchen to savor the last of summer.

In Sour Power: Quick Pickles & Shrubs on Sunday, September 24 at BLVD Kitchen, we’ll craft tangy fruit pickles and cocktail-ready drinking vinegars (shrubs) as a means of preserving surplus fruits.
In this hands-on class, Chef Michelle Lainez of Chef Michelle & Co. will guide you through shrub-making and pickling, encouraging you to experiment with spices and aromatics to customize each jar to your liking.

Cap off the afternoon with a bracing tonic of fresh shrub mixed with Ventura Spirits California Vodka — the only vodka in the world distilled from strawberries. Students will leave with a jar each of shrub, sweet pickles, and sour pickles, and the confidence to continue exploring each of these methods at home!

As an added bonus, Sour Power students will receive exclusive early access to register for the next workshop, featuring Fermentation on Wheel’s Tara Whitsitt, on November 19.

Space is highly limited and spots will sell out, so move quickly!


Get tickets!

About Food Forward:

Food Forward is a non-profit organization that presents a simple solution to hunger and food waste in our communities. Through a diverse network of backyard fruit trees, public orchards, 22 farmers markets, and the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market, Food Forward recovers surplus produce and donates it 100% free of charge to people in need. Last year alone, Food Forward donated more than 15 million pounds of fresh fruits and veggies to over 300 hunger relief agency partners, reaching over 1.5 million people. Come help us harvest food, fight hunger, and build community by becoming a volunteer or produce donor!

About Michelle Lainez:
Chef Michelle Lainez is a private chef, caterer, culinary educator, and host of the “Conscious Dinner” series at Crafted Kitchen in DTLA. Recently, Michelle created and prepared the meal for Fermenting Change: A Dinner for the Microbiome with Slow Food Ventura County, and will host a workshop on masa at the 2017 Gourmandise Grain Conference. Click here to hear her conversation about “Conscious Cooking” in the July episode of the Sound Advice podcast!

About BLVD Kitchen:
There’s a reason why everyone gathers in the kitchen. It’s the beating heart of every home, and we hope that BLVD Kitchen becomes the heart of Sherman Oaks! Our commercial kitchen space is a place for cooks of all kinds. Explore the shop, try a sample, or roll up your sleeves and get cooking with one of our casual, hands-on cooking classes for adults and kids alike. The kitchen is also available to caterers, food entrepreneurs, bloggers, and other food pros for rentals as well as private events, filming, and pop-ups. Sign up for a class today!

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Celebrating the 5th Anniversary of Farmers Market Recovery (Part 2)

September 1st, 2017

8.22.17 – Happy Birthday FMR!!! August 12th marked the 5th anniversary of the Farmers Market Recovery Program here at Food Forward. We want to extend a huge thank you to the most dynamic, devoted, and marvelous volunteers, receiving agencies, and vendors who have helped us recover over 1.9 million pounds since our inception in 2012! Read Part 1 here.

The second edition of spotlights will highlight the remaining markets in Los Angeles and Ventura counties. We have quite the group of volunteers, receiving agencies and vendors who help us achieve our mission. If you see these folks in the field, please don’t hesitate to recognize them for their work in fighting hunger!


For the Mar Vista Farmers Market, we are highlighting the sublime Lizanne WebbLizanne leads twice a month at Mar Vista and also sometimes helps with the distribution of food with one of our receiving agencies at the market, New Life Society.


How long have you volunteered with Food Forward, and why do you volunteer with us?

I started in 2014. I needed volunteer credit in an environmental concern of my choosing for the Environmental Psychology program at SMC. My concern was food waste. I continued with Food Forward because I had become aware of how directly my efforts positively affected the surrounding community and how little organizational overhead was involved.

What is the most satisfying part of gleaning?

Getting to actually see people receiving the food I helped collect; whether it be a meal or just a bag of produce to feed their families with. I have actually followed the produce to the end consumer. There are so many people in need out there … unseen. It’s a problem that runs deeper and is much more vast than just the homeless you see sleeping on the sidewalks.

What is your favorite memory while volunteering at the markets?

One day in 2015, we had filled up the van for New Life Society, and an SUV and a second car for St. Joseph with so many boxes of produce that they had to take it back to their storage facility and come back for more.  I didn’t mind waiting the extra 45 minutes. Talk about a bonanza!

What are your favorite types of produce?

Crisp cherries and white nectarines are my favorites. I grew up in a suburban/rural area along the shores of Lake Ontario, in New York. We were shopping the farmers markets at the actual farms long before a “farmers market” was a cool thing. The area had been founded in the 18th century by predominantly German, immigrant farmers.  This was the Seneca apple belt of New York State.  Neighborhoods like ours were interspersed with big farms known for their seasonal crops – especially pumpkins. And in the Summer and Fall you could ride your bike east along Lake Rd. and pass huge cherry, pear and apple orchards – most were both commercial and “pick-ur-own.”  Immediately to my south was grape country and in the Fall, the big deal was finding a roadside stand that would sell you a fresh-baked Concord Grape pie!  I miss those pies. When I moved downstate to work in NYC, I joined a Hudson Valley Coop Farm and did my share of farming.  It’s very different cooking with food you grew yourself or that was grown by someone you personally know.

What do you hope the FMR program achieves in the next 5 years?  

I hope they can grow this program throughout California and then expand to other agricultural areas in the U.S.  Food Forward has such a strong model that it could be applied to more than just produce.  I could see this program working in other countries as well.


For the Studio City Farmers Market, we are highlighting A Place Called Home. A Place Called Home pick up from the Brentwood and Studio City Farmers Market. They were nice enough to host us last year for our first staff volunteer day and we can’t stop singing the praises for what they do!


What does your organization do?

APCH offers children from the community (ages 8 to 21 years) educational programs, counseling, and mentorship. Year-round services include daily meal provision, tutoring and homework support, as well as a full spectrum of instruction in health and wellness (including nutrition, food preparation, gardening and athletics) and the arts (including dance, music, photography, and creative expression).  We currently service over 400 children daily, and we have a waitlist of approximately 750 youth in need of services.

How long have you been receiving food from Food Forward?

Since September 2013.

What role does fresh produce play in your organization?

Fresh produce allows the APCH kitchen to cook from scratch healthy, satisfying meals that are full of flavor.  This increases the odds that we can introduce our members to new flavors and textures and get them interested in asking for them outside of the agency.  Fresh produce also provides us the best possible materials for use in our food and culinary classes.  But we don’t limit the inspiration of fresh produce to the kitchen and dining hall.  We use fresh produce as inspiration for creative expression as well as in the dance studio and on the athletics field to illustrate how energy from the proper foods allow us to run and play for much of the day!

What are the main uses of food you receive and who do you serve?

We use the fresh fruits and vegetables to cook from-scratch meals for our members and staff on a daily basis, as well as for multiple special events throughout the year.  We also use it to improve our members’ relationship with food through our Nutrition & Urban Agriculture classes, which cover nutrition, food equity, sustainability and food preparation.  Lastly, we prepare grocery bags of fresh fruits and vegetables for distribution to members of our community.

How does receiving produce from Food Forward affect the work that you do?

Receiving this food allows us to save ~$80K in food cost, and gives us the ability to use those much-needed funds elsewhere.


For the West Hollywood Farmers Market, we are highlighting Seeds of Hope. Seeds of Hope are an amazing partner that receive food from all three of our programs and do a variety of projects that help so many different communities. They will also be highlighted in a post soon following produce from the market to the receiving agency!


What does your organization do?

Seeds of Hope is the food justice ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles which seeks to help congregations, communities, and schools turn unused land into productive gardens and orchards to provide healthy and fresh food in areas of need across the county.

We look to create and sustain gardens and garden-based programs throughout the Diocese of Los Angeles to promote physical and spiritual wellness for individuals and communities. In coordinating this diocese-wide approach to food production and distribution, we are able to benefit the hungry and undernourished in our churches and also within our broader communities.

Through garden workshops, nutrition education, and with creative collaboration with churches, we are working to cultivate wellness in Los Angeles to create stronger, healthier churches and communities!

How long have you been receiving food from Food Forward?

We began collaboration in March of 2014.

What role does fresh produce play in your organization?

Having fresh produce available to our participants has become an essential component, alongside our Cooking & Nutrition classes, for tackling unhealthy eating behaviors and eliminating the access and affordability barriers of acquiring wholesome foods. Our food pantries were able to transition from distributing mostly processed and packaged foods to giving out seasonal fresh produce to low income families in the neighborhood.

What are the main uses of food you receive and who do you serve?

We serve low income families all over LA County. We distribute the produce to our SNAP eligible participants that attend a Seeds of Hope Cooking & Nutrition class. We develop recipes to highlight one or more fruits and vegetables that show up in a Food Forward box for our class participants. The boxes are also distributed through our food banks.

How does receiving produce from Food Forward affect the work that you do?

Seeds of Hope works to fight food insecurity through many avenues such as gardens, nutrition education, food distribution, policy, and more. We’ve learned that not one of these components alone will do the job. In fact, we’ve seen the health and economic benefits of distributing fresh produce to our low income families with fewer resources. On an educational level, we love introducing new fruits and vegetables to our class participants and making a delicious and healthy meal out of it.


For the Larchmont Farmers Market, we are highlighting the Los Angeles City College Foundation. Open to all, LACCF stages pop-up food markets on campus every Sunday, but the last and help to feed some of the nation’s most food insecure folks- students! LACCF has been instrumental for us gleaning at the Larchmont Farmers Market and we appreciate everything they’ve done for us.


What does your organization do?

Heidi D. Johnson is an alumna of LACC, founder and coordinator of the “Free Food Pop-up”. LACC’s campus has been the host of the pop-up since it was started in March 2013. This 100% volunteer run program, helps close the gap between those living in food deserts and recovery efforts of Food Forward. We educate the participants about the benefits of eating a healthy balanced diet, share recipes, as well as support sustainable models like composting

How long have you been receiving food from Food Forward?

Since March 2013

What role does fresh produce play in your organization?

The organic and pesticide free produce we receive from the market is essential to the survival of this program. We serve a large community who rely on the fresh food we provide weekly.

What are the main uses of food you receive and who do you serve?

Since its inception the “Free Food Pop-up” has served over 500 families in the Los Angeles area. Most of our participants are students as well as many families from the surrounding community who’ve fallen on hard times and don’t have money to buy food. We educate the participants about the benefits of eating a healthy balanced diet, share recipes, as well as support sustainable models like composting.

How does receiving produce from Food Forward affect the work that you do?

The partnership between Food Forward and the Free Food Pop-up at LACC has become a campus resource as well as a model for other programs in and throughout the area.


For the Long Beach Farmers Market, we are highlighting Food Finders. Food Finders have been an amazing resource and partner for the Long Beach area. They pick up every Sunday from the Long Beach Pacifica Farmers Market and help us fight hunger!


What does your organization do?

Food Finders is a food rescue organization. We keep good wholesome food out of landfills and on the plates of people in need! Our food donors include grocery stores, LA produce market, farmers markets, event venues, restaurants and hotels, just to name a few.

How long have you been receiving food from Food Forward?

We have received food from Food Forward for the past year.

What role does fresh produce play in your organization?

Fresh produce makes up about 75% of what partner agencies receive from Food Finders. It is the number one donated and requested item.

What are the main uses of food you receive and who do you serve?

Donated food is delivered directly to one of our 330 partner agencies for distribution or use same day or next. We are also provide food for special events such as senior days, domestic violence conferences, veteran homecomings.

How does receiving produce from Food Forward affect the work that you do?

The Food Forward partnership falls in line with our mission of eliminating hunger and food waste. It allows us to provide nutritious food to our partner agencies.


For the Alhambra Farmers Market, we are highlighting one of our biggest donors at the market, Hier Cheemeng. They donate a wide variety of produce that bring smiles to the faces of our receiving agencies. We appreciate their weekly donations and support in helping feed neighboring communities.

hier-cheemengWhat is the history of your farm?

We are a family farm operated by a father, mother, and son trio and based in Fresno, CA. The father has been farming for about 25-30 years and the son for about 16-17 years since he was about 4 years old.

How long have you been selling at farmers markets, and how many markets do you work each week?

We have been selling at farmers markets about 8 years: Alhambra, Burbank, and Buena Park Farmers Markets and donating to Food Forward at both the Alhambra and Burbank Farmers Markets.

How long have you been donating produce to Food Forward?

We have been donating to Food Forward for about 2 years.

Why do you donate produce to Food Forward?

We have been donating to Food Forward because we like helping those in need and providing fresh excess produce for such purpose.

What are your favorite types of produce?

Our favorite types of produce are bok choy, Thai basil, white flower mustard, and eggplant.


For the Culver City Farmers Market, we are highlighting Jeff Feldman. Jeff is a legend within our program and has coordinated the equipment pick up and drop off for the Culver City Farmers Market week to week since we first started gleaning at the market. He has been instrumental to the success of our market gleans and is a champion for food recovery!


How long have you volunteered with Food Forward, and why do you volunteer with us?

I have been volunteering for about 4 or 5 years I think. I started volunteering with my friend and colleague Tanya when our company became a receiving agency. We were asked to store the equipment since the market could not, and we decided to volunteer every week as well as pick up food for snacks at some of the schools we worked in in lower income areas.

What is the most satisfying part of gleaning?

I like knowing that all the food we glean is not going to waste. I also love meeting the farmers, other volunteers, and the people from the different receiving agencies. Everyone in the process has interesting stories to share as well as a passion for helping others.

What is your favorite memory while volunteering at the markets?

I have two favorite memories. One is when I got interviewed for a segment on NBC about Food Forward. The other was doing a glean with just me and Tanya in the pouring rain. It was hard but fun.

What are your favorite types of produce?

I really like zucchini. It’s really versatile. Besides the regular roasting, you can make it into pasta, lasagna, chips, etc.

What do you hope the FMR program achieves in the next 5 years?  

I would like to see FMR program grow into many more markets. I would love to see a booth at the farmers market that taught people about food waste and also how to cook with produce that others would just throw away.


For the Torrance Tuesday Farmers Market, we are highlighting Ken’s Top Notch. Ken’s Top Notch provide our receiving agencies with the most amazing fruit and we are grateful for their donations at markets around Los Angeles.


What is the history of your farm?

We have been farming since 1993. We now have 250 acres and grow 150 varieties of peaches, plums, nectarines, grapes and citrus. Everything we grow is organic.

How long have you been selling at farmers markets, and how many markets do you work each week?

I have been selling at farmers markets for the last 24 years and our farm is at 25 farmers market a week.

How long have you been donating produce to Food Forward?

Ever since it was created.

Why do you donate produce to Food Forward?

Food Forward has an amazing mission and is a good cause.

What are your favorite types of produce?

Our favorite type of produce is stone fruit.


For the Thousand Oaks Farmers Market, we are highlighting United Methodist Church of Thousand Oaks who not only pick up food from the market, but provide Glean Team Leaders for the glean! We really count on them and love the partnership that has developed over the years!


What does your organization do? 

The Harvest Program at the United Methodist Church in Thousand Oaks collects donated food six or seven days a week and provides these donations three mornings a week, MWF, to food insecure persons/families in the community.  The program started in 2012 as part of the Darden Restaurant Harvest program under the Food for America program.  In 2014 the program became a registered pantry under Foodshare in Ventura.

How long have you been receiving food from Food Forward?

In October 2015 we became aware of the activities of Food Forward in Ventura and began to participate in receiving donated produce, helping pick and deliver produce, and participate in leading at the Thousand Oaks Farmers Market.

What role does fresh produce play in your organization?

The produce that we receiving from Food Forward is the best source of fresh produce available to the program.  We and our clients have benefited from the efforts of Food Forward leaders, Ally Gialketsis and Jill Santos, to provide produce from backyard picks, from large orchards west of Moorpark, from farms in the Oxnard plain, and from picks in the San Fernando valley.

What are the main uses of food you receive and who do you serve?

We are serving on average 418 individuals a week which includes 121 children.  We distribute 197 milk crates of food per week with an average of over 5,000 pounds.  The weight figure, however, does not include, the weight of donations from Food Forward which frequently add another 1,000 pounds to our distribution

How does receiving produce from Food Forward affect the work that you do?

Without the donations from Food Forward, our 100 families that pick up food every week would get lots of bread but not necessary produce.  Food Forward definitely helps us assist our community and encourages our participants who pick up donations, process them, and distribute to our clients to enjoy their contributions as they observe smiling families leaving with boxes and bags of food.


For the Santa Monica Wednesday Farmers Market, we are highlighting St. Joseph Center. St. Joseph Center pick up from the Mar Vista and Santa Monica Wednesday Farmers Market. Their vehicle is often packed to the brim with produce and they have been very helpful in helping offload the mountains of produce we receive at the market.


What does your organization do? 

St Joseph Center was established in 1976. Our oldest program is the Food Pantry. We serve low-income families and individuals.  Our programs range from helping people get housed to managing their money.  We also have some educational programs for instance: we have Code Talk which is a coding program aimed at getting low-income women of color into the tech industry, another is our Culinary Training Program which helps place people in the restaurant industry throughout L.A.  In addition to the Food Pantry we also have a “soup kitchen” named Bread and Roses.  This is a restaurant style kitchen that exclusively serves homeless individuals.

How long have you been receiving food from Food Forward?

The relationship with Food Forward dates back to the start of the program.

What role does fresh produce play in your organization?

The produce we serve in the pantry is what our clients look forward to the most.  They get to walk in and select their produce like in a grocery store.

What are the main uses of food you receive and who do you serve?

The unique produce we receive from the farmers’ markets help introduce our clients to food they may otherwise not purchase at grocery stores; either due to the lack of availability at their local stores or the price.


For the Ventura Saturday Farmers Market, we are highlighting Stephen Cavola. Stephen Cavola is another stellar volunteers who spends his time leading gleans and picks!


How long have you volunteered with Food Forward, and why do you volunteer with us?

I have been volunteering since September 2015. I volunteer because I want to help eliminate some food waste, feed hungry people, for the people that run the Ventura County branch Ally, Jill and in memory of Jim.

What is the most satisfying part of gleaning?

I like seeing the different variety of produce that is donated, and meeting the agencies that are receiving the donations.

What is your favorite memory while volunteering at the markets?

I have so many. The first day of the Ventura downtown market, gleaning in memory of Jim after he passed, and the first day of the channel islands market to name a few.

What are your favorite types of produce?

I love stone fruit myself, but as far as receiving donations I like when we get something we don’t receive like strawberries or grapes.

What do you hope the FMR program achieves in the next 5 years?  

I hope to see it continue to grow and expand into new communities.

This ends our celebration for the 5th anniversary of the program. We look forward to 5 more years of memories, food recovery, and feeding people. Thanks for reading!

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Fig Fiesta!

August 23rd, 2017

8.23.17 — It’s fig season! Here is all you need to know about harvesting the “Fruit of the Gods,” along with some fun fig facts!

Hang out with Food Forward long enough and you may develop what we like to call Fruit Goggles. The next thing you know you’re completely in-tune with the seasons and exactly which fruits and vegetables are growing around you. That is why it would come as no surprise if all of you fruitanthropists out there have already spotted what comes next on the Food Forward fruit calendar.

That’s right! Figs are here and we want to talk about it!

Whether you are an experienced Food Forward Pick Leader, volunteer, or homeowner dealing with the “Fruit of the Gods” this season, Food Forward would like to throw some fun facts and tips that hopefully will make you look at this fruit in a whole new way.

First things first, if you’re getting ready to harvest figs this season, do you know what to look for? How do we know a fig is ripe and ready to be harvested? Whether you’re harvesting Golden figs or sweet Mission figs, here is a list of tips to help you FIGure this one out!

– When plucked, fruit should not drip white sap (fig latex)

– Make sure the stem holding the fig to the branch is limber

– How a fig hangs can often be a better ripeness indicator than color

– When ripe, figs will droop forming a J-shape between fruit and stem

– Fruit should be soft


It is important to keep in mind that not all of the fruit on a fig tree becomes ripe together (unlike citrus) so, for those of you who like to pick a tree clean every time, figs may not be your cup of tea, although we hear tea made from fig leaf is both good for your health and very tasty indeed! Back to the issue at hand… while this unsynchronized fruiting can make our work here at Food Forward a bit more challenging, it is important to only harvest the fruit that is ready to be picked and wait until the next batch matures in a few days or weeks. For this reason Food Forward volunteers often harvest the same fig tree multiple times during the short fig season

One of the reasons it is really important to know when a fig is ready to be picked or, more importantly, when it is NOT, is because of the potential skin irritation that some people can develop when coming in contact with the white sap present in unripe figs. Known as fig latex, the sap contains an enzyme called ficin that can be a skin irritant to some people. So next time you’re out picking figs, leave the green unripe fruit to be harvested a different time, and be sure to wear gloves and a long sleeve shirt, just in case. With that said, it’s not all bad news when it comes to ficin. The same enzyme is also a main contributing ingredient that makes the fig a powerful laxative.

Here are some additional fun FIG-Facts we thought you’d enjoy:

– Figs are highly perishable so should be consumed within a day or two of harvest/purchase.

– The natural sugar content in figs is 55 percent, which makes them the sweetest fruit in the world.

– Because figs can hold moisture, they are a great substitute for butter or oil in baking. Don’t forget to bring us some if you try this!

– Fossil records date figs back to between 9400 – 9200 B.C

– 98% of the figs produced in the U.S come from California

– Figs are rich in potassium and fiber, which are said to help lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure

– Figs thrive in Mediterranean climates like Greece, Spain and, of course, Southern California!

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Celebrating the 5th Anniversary of Farmers Market Recovery (Part 1)

August 15th, 2017

8.15.17 – Happy Birthday FMR!!! August 12th marked the 5th anniversary of the Farmers Market Recovery Program here at Food Forward. We want to extend a huge thank you to the most dynamic, devoted, and marvelous volunteers, receiving agencies, and vendors who have helped us recover over 1.9 million pounds since our inception in 2012! Here’s Part 1 – click here to read Part 2.

To commemorate such an amazing milestone, we have chosen to highlight volunteers and partners from each of the 21 farmers markets we glean at. We are so grateful for every person who has contributed to the program over the years and for the support from communities across Los Angeles and Ventura.

Santa Monica Sunday Farmers Market

For the Santa Monica Sunday Farmers Market, we are highlighting the amazing Kathy Turk. When she’s not volunteering with the Farmers Market Recovery Program, she is leading picks with the Backyard Harvest Program and representing us at events as a Community Ambassador.

Kathy Turk leads team of volunteers at the market

How long have you volunteered with Food Forward and why do you volunteer with us?

Food Forward grandfathered in Santa Monica Sunday (SMS) farmers’ market February 2013, so that’s my official start. Our partnership made gleaning at SMS sustainable, allowing what I was doing to grow so we could feed more people. That’s what it’s all about: our community, food justice, and healthy food for our people.

What is the most satisfying part of gleaning?

All the people involved—farmers, volunteers, clients of the agencies, and their smiles.

What is your favorite memory while volunteering at the markets?

Convincing a farmer to bring his crooked cucumbers to market for Food Forward, only to find that he was actually able to sell them all to customers.

What are your favorite types of produce?

The fruits of summer and beautiful organic salad greens are my favorite types of produce to glean.

What do you hope the FMR program achieves in the next 5 years?

I hope the program can develop more of a output focus with the volunteers and super volunteers. Inputs are simply putting in the hours. Outputs are everything from kit and equipment maintenance, to the quantity and quality of the food we collect, and the relationships we have with the farmers and receiving agencies.

Melrose Place Farmers Market

For the Melrose Place Farmers Market, we are highlighting our partner, Waste Not Want Not Now. This market glean marked the first time we partnered with a receiving agency in handling the duties and responsibilities of a market glean. Waste Not Want Not Now also picks up from the Studio City Farmers Market.

Waste Not Want Not Now picks up at the Melrose Place Farmers Market

What does your organization do?

Waste Not Want Not Now was founded by Nancy Beyda and Alex Rose. For over 10 years, we have been working with a group of volunteers to pick up food donated by grocery stores, restaurants and hotels, and deliver it to organizations that feed and serve the homeless of greater Los Angeles. Waste Not Want Now Now works to raise consciousness about the widespread waste of food resources through our work, as well as divert the excess food from markets into the hands of charities that feed the hungry.

How long have you been receiving food from Food Forward?

We’ve been receiving food from the Studio City Farmers Market since September last year. We’ve also recently started working with Food Forward on their weekly gleans at the Melrose Place farmer’s market.

What role does fresh produce play in your organization?

We strongly believe that it’s not only important to bring food to those who are hungry, but to do so in a way that is healthy, dignified, and thoughtful. Everyone deserves access to nutritious food, not just those who can afford it. The ability to donate fresh produce is crucial to our operation. At The Center at Blessed Sacrament, fresh produce is part of the wellness model that emphasizes healthy eating in conjunction with providing housing, health care, mental health services and community.

What are the main uses of food you receive and who do you serve?

Waste Not Want Not Now works out of The Center at Blessed Sacrament, a homeless recovery center in the heart of Hollywood. Much of the fresh produce is donated to The Center to assist with their ongoing work to help our city’s homeless live enjoyable, healthy, and safer lives. We also donate to the Good Shepherd Center for Women & Children, Angelica Lutheran Church, and My Friend’s Place.

How does receiving produce from Food Forward affect the work that you do?

Food Forward is a significant contributor of fresh produce to WNWN Now. Through the market gleans, we are able to bring upwards of 500 pounds of produce to Los Angeles’ needy population per week.

Burbank Farmers Market

For the Burbank Farmers Market, we are highlighting our largest vendor at the market, Island Farms. Island Farms have patented fruit that is both delicious and crucial for any marketgoers. They make donations at the Burbank and Studio City Farmers Markets!

Island Farms fills a Food Forward box with produce

What is the history of your farm?

Island Farms started in 1910 with my grandfather selling with grapes and raisins. We have since expanded to include a wide variety of other produce, including peaches and citrus fruits.

How long have you been selling at farmers markets, and how many markets do you work each week?

We have been selling at farmers markets for the last15 years since 2002. We sell at 4 markets each week (Thu, Sat, Sun). Next week will be our 15th anniversary at the Burbank Saturday Farmers Market.

How long have you been donating produce to Food Forward?

We have been donating produce to Food Forward since Food Forward first approached us. We highly recommend other vendors to donate to Food Forward. Their reliable volunteers are the key to their success.

Why do you donate produce to Food Forward?

We do not want to waste food. Donating produce is an excellent way to reduce waste while helping the less fortunate and putting a smile on others faces. Once, we heard that some people specifically request produce donated by Island Farms, which we take as a huge compliment.

What are your favorite types of produce?

Everything we grow, especially nectarines, summer fruits.

Pacific Palisades Farmers Market

For the Pacific Palisades Farmers Market, we are highlighting the wonderful Susan Lasken. Susan splits her time between the Pacific Palisades and Studio City Farmers Markets and additionally is a Community Ambassador.

Susan Lasken puts together Food Forward boxes

How long have you volunteered with Food Forward and why do you volunteer with us?

I have been volunteering for about four years.

What is the most satisfying part of gleaning?

There are so many things that are satisfying. I enjoy working with all the volunteers. It is as chance to meet a variety of dedicated, interesting people. I enjoy being at the market experiencing the sights, sounds colors and smells, and finally I like getting to know the vendors and the despite the hard work they have such a wonderful attitude.

What is your favorite memory while volunteering at the markets?

My most memorable glean was when the program first began; I was the only person that showed up to glean at the market. Not only that, it was raining. Despite the hardships, the agencies and vendors all chipped in to help, and we were able to distribute food that would have been wasted to needy people.

What are your favorite types of produce?

I like all vegetables and fruits except I am not overly fond of kale.

What do you hope the FMR program achieves in the next 5 years?

I hope it is able to reach more needy people, delivering to the homeless encampments even.

Torrance Tuesday Farmers Market

For the Torrance Tuesday Farmers Market, we are highlighting Buenrostro Farms. Buenrostro Farms are known for growing onions, artichokes, strawberries and sugar snap peas. We are grateful for vendors like Buenrostro who make weekly donations at multiple markets!

Buenrostro Farms at the Torrance Farmers Market

What is the history of your farm?

We are located in San Bernardino. It’s a family operation, founded by Geraldo. My son Ricardo does the Torrance Market.

How long have you been selling at farmers markets, and how many markets do you work each week?

We have been selling at farmers markets for 15 years and currently do about 8 markets per week.

How long have you been donating produce to Food Forward?

For quite some time

Why do you donate produce to Food Forward?

We donate to Food Forward because they care about the community, don’t want to see people go hungry, and they think we’re all around good guys!

What are your favorite types of produce?

We love strawberries, onions, watermelon and tomatoes.

Pasadena Farmers Market

For the Pasadena Farmers Market, we are highlighting our one and only receiving agency at the market, Friends In Deed. Friends in Deed is an incredible organization that do so much in their community and have been excellent partners in helping feed those in need!

Friends In Deed in Pasadena welcomes a Food Forward produce donation

What does your organization do?

Friends In Deed is dedicated to meeting the needs of the most vulnerable residents in the greaterPasadena/Altadena area and surrounding cities. Our mission is to alleviate the effects of poverty, to encourage self-sufficiency through the collective efforts of congregations, individuals and community organizations and to promote mutual support, understanding and collaboration within the faith community. Our food pantry provides low-income and no- income families with food on a weekly basis.

How long have you been receiving food from Food Forward?

We’ve been working with Food Forward for more than 3 1⁄2 years. For the first year, we mainly received fruit via the Backyard Harvests. For the last 2+ years, we’ve been picking up every Saturday from the Pasadena Farmers Market. It is produce that we count on week in and week out.

What role does fresh produce play in your organization?

We provide food to more than 300 families every week. Besides offering our community shelf stable foods, it is one of our top priorities to be able to offer as much fresh fruits and vegetables as possible to them. When a person visits our food pantry, they are able to select the foods they want. That means that they are taking foods they, and their family, will eat. Being able to offer healthy choices to our families, means they can prepare and serve healthy meals at home. Depending on availability, we usually distribute between 1,000-1,500 lbs. of fresh fruits and vegetables per week. Ideally, I would like to let people take as much produce as they want/need.

What are the main uses of food you receive and who do you serve?

Our food pantry is set up like a neighborhood market and our community will come through and chose the foods they want, based on family size and food availability. Most of our community falls into the category of “working poor” or are senior citizens. Most have places to live, homes or apartments, and resides in the greater Pasadena/Altadena area. But we do also provide to the homeless individuals in our community as well. Not counting the children in the families, the age range of people visiting us is from 25-90 years of age and is diverse in its ethnicity.

How does receiving produce from Food Forward affect the work that you do?

I can only begin to describe how much receiving fresh produce from Food Forward means to me, my community, and the work we are doing. Buying fresh produce is not cheap and if you are on a limited budget, you might opt for cheaper, less healthy food – because it is affordable. All the food we distribute, whether it is shelf-stable, fresh produce, bread, meat, etc., is free to our community. This means that our community is taking home fresh fruits and vegetables and serving healthier meals to themselves and their families.

Hollywood Farmers Market

For the Hollywood Farmers Market, we are highlighting an amazing vendor and partner, The Garden Of. We recognized The Garden Of at our Spring Melt this past year with the Fruitanthropist Award to acknowledge the important work they do in the community and the high-level partnership we have built with them over the years! They donate to us at the Hollywood and Santa Monica Wednesday Farmers Markets!

The Garden Of Farm displays their bounty of greens

What is the history of your farm?

Shu Takikawn moved here from Japan 35 years ago and began farming. He then met his future wife Debbie and in 1993, they started their own farm. It was initially 2 acres and has since grown to 70 acres. They really value being organic, not using chemicals and not harming the natural back and forth in nature.

How long have you been selling at farmers markets, and how many markets do you work each week?

We started donating when we started farming in 1993. We currently sell to four markets; two in Los Angeles and two in Santa Barbara County.

How long have you been donating produce to Food Forward?

3 years

Why do you donate produce to Food Forward?

We love being able to donate and not letting any of our food go to waste. We love being involved in a program that is very direct in giving back.

What are your favorite types of produce?

The best stuff we sell! Which is lettuce, carrots, tomatoes and cucumbers

Brentwood Farmers Market

For the Brentwood Farmers Market, we are highlighting one of our most active Glean Team Leaders, Rosanna O’Guynn. Rosanna also leads at the Mar Vista and Larchmont Farmers Market.

Rosanna leads a team of volunteers at the market

How long have you volunteered with Food Forward and why do you volunteer with us?

I’ve been a volunteer for Food Forward for 3 years so far. I volunteer for food recovery, that would otherwise go to waste is a adequate action.

What is the most satisfying part of gleaning?

The most satisfying part of gleaning is knowing that even an item of fresh produce given as a donation can bring some sort of encouragement.

What is your favorite memory while volunteering at the markets?

My favorite memory is each time a glean occurs. It’s always rewarding to see the amount of produce donated by the farmers.

What are your favorite types of produce?

My favorite type of produce is fresh produce!

What do you hope the FMR program achieves in the next 5 years?

I hope for more progression.

Calabasas Farmers Market

For the Calabasas Farmers Market, we are highlighting Family Rescue Center. Family Rescue Center not only picks up from the market, but allow us to store our market kit and supplies at their facility. They are an integral partner for the market and we appreciate everything they have done for us!

Boxes arrive at Family Rescue Center

What does your organization do?

Family Rescue Center provides food assistance along with free used clothing, vocational training scholarships, health education, and referrals to other agencies. We serve about 300 families a month, 40% of our people served are children. We also provide extras such as back packs in August, Thanksgiving food, and toys at Christmas.

How long have you been receiving food from Food Forward?

Richard (Dick) Shively first connected Family Rescue Center with Food Forward in 2012. At that time it was for the backyard fruit picks. Dick was one of the founders of Family Rescue Center back in 1998.

What role does fresh produce play in your organization?

All this fresh produce is offered to our families (mostly working poor in the Canoga Park area, heavily Hispanic) when they come in for their monthly food distribution. They choose what produce they want. The standard menu they receive is dried and canned food, plus donated bread and desserts from local supermarkets. The farmer’s market food is so important to give more nutrition and variety to the families. This not only increases the amount of the food they receive, it also increases the health value of the meals they can cook.

What are the main uses of food you receive and who do you serve?

All this fresh produce is offered to our families (mostly working poor in the Canoga Park area, heavily Hispanic) when they come in for their monthly food distribution. They choose what produce they want. The standard menu they receive is dried and canned food, plus donated bread and desserts from local supermarkets.

How does receiving produce from Food Forward affect the work that you do?

The farmer’s market food is so important to give more nutrition and variety to the families. This not only increases the amount of the food they receive, it also increases the health value of the meals they can cook.

Channel Islands Farmers Market

For the Channel Islands Farmers Market, we are highlighting Azteca Farms. Azteca Farms are an awesome vendor who help us fight hunger in two different counties! Azteca Farms donate a variety of produce at the Long Beach and Channel Island Farmers Market

Azteca Farms at the Channel Islands Farmers Market

What is the history of your farm?

It has been in our family the past 20 years in Peru

How long have you been selling at farmers markets, and how many markets do you work each week?

We do about 10 markets a week and have been doing them the past 15 years

How long have you been donating produce to Food Forward?

5 years

Why do you donate produce to Food Forward?

We have always helped out the local shelter in Piru and are glad to help others in need throughout the area.

What are your favorite types of produce?

Zucchini and squash

Stay tuned for the next post that will feature spotlights from the other markets that we glean at!

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Digging into the Southern California Drought

August 9th, 2017

8.9.17 – Southern California is in a serious and long-term drought. In this guest blog post from Saturate California, we’ll take a look at factors that have contributed to SoCal’s current water issues, and some ways to move forward.

The Southern California Drought – Past, Present and Future

You have probably noticed a few things already. The first is that, here at Food Forward, we LOVE oranges. You might not have known that oranges are actually 87% water. That’s one of the reasons that they’re so healthy and tasty, which is why we love them so much.

And speaking of water, the second thing you have probably noticed is that Southern California is in a drought (our recent rain notwithstanding). A long-term, serious drought. The impact of the drought is visible in the mountains, fields, lawns, and fruit trees all across Southern California.

A dried up California riverbed

To help us dig into the drought, its causes and history, and its future, we’re pleased to welcome our friends over at Saturate California to the Food Forward blog. In this piece, we’re distilling the juiciest drops from their 6 part series, Drought 101:

The SoCal Climate

First, it is important to note that in a Mediterranean climate, there are nearly as many dry years as there are wet. Until this past winter, the previous 4 rainy seasons had been extremely dry, and that’s an understatement. So when you hear Los Angeles transplants say things like, “It LITERALLY never rains in LA!”, it’s best you respond by asking them when they moved here, and if they remember before this past year getting drenched in 1997–1998, soaked in 2004–2005, flooded in 2010–2011. They most likely won’t.

While we can’t assume that wet years will be plentiful, we can expect more rain at some point. And we want to think constructively about the wet years…

Read more about our SoCal Climate

Water Cycles in a Concrete Jungle

In the idyllic verdant water cycle, rain falls, some of it evaporates, some of it becomes surface runoff that flows into streams, lakes and oceans, and some of it seeps into underground aquifers as groundwater recharge.

Here’s the thing about fresh water seeping into the ground: IT’S REALLY IMPORTANT. If anyone asks you, you can confidently tell them. Groundwater is like a water reserve to be used when there’s no more rain falling on the surface. Plus, if the groundwater is sucked dry, then we’ve got a real big problem, because it takes decades to replenish. Bottom line is we need to get more water in the ground now to save for later!

Now in LA, when rain falls, almost all of it runs directly into rivers and streams, which flows straight to the nearby ocean bay. And thus, we get the characteristic Southland rainstorm: half an inch of water at 9am means a flood in the LA River by 10am and a small island of garbage settling in the Santa Monica Bay by noon. Meanwhile barely any fresh water has had time to seep into the ground. Not good…

Read more about our Urban Water System

Water from lawn sprinklers runs off onto sidewalk

Managing our Water

By the turn of the century, department heads like William Mulholland (remember Chinatown?) took a leaf from our friends in New York City — who were piping in water from the mountains — and initiated projects that would bring in water in from the Sierras to the east. We set up an extensive system of ducts and canals, and before you knew it, whoosh! Fresh water flowed freely throughout California to farm oranges, build golf courses, manufacture clothes and bottle for consumption.

Once water flowed from the mountain snows, we simultaneously created a multitude of municipal water agencies to deal with the new infrastructure of spreading it around: wells, treatment centers, pipes of every size from arteries to capillaries to a faucet in every home. We compartmentalized our highly interdependent water cycle…

Read more about our Municipal Water Management

The Water Business

While residential use only accounts for about 20% of the pie, that doesn’t mean we can ignore it. Across the board, our value system needs retooling. Americans pay less for water than almost any developed nation, and we pay less for it than any other utility — gas, electricity, etc. Single-use water comes with a big ecological cost, and the agencies who manage it need to consider that when doing business.

Think about our big state water agencies (there’s only a few: Central Valley Project, State Water Project, Metropolitan Water District of SoCal) as water wholesalers, and each of our municipalities as retailers. Water gets sold a lot like paper clips and panty-hose: cheap in bulk, and at a different price on every corner…

Read more about Water Pricing and Usage

Farming Water

Currently, water rights here are simply permission slips from the California Water Resources Control Board to draw as much as you’d like from whatever surface water is accessible (or has been made accessible) to your land. In early 20th century California, these were not so much carefully regulated as they were handed out to whoever got there first. AKA “first in time, first in right.” AKA someone yelling “Dibs!” and dropping a hose in the river.

This system encounters problems in times of scarcity, not least of which is the fact that California has given out rights to more water than it actually has (five times as much, to be exact), and now faces a need to either massively curtail current rights holders, or completely reform the rights system from the ground up…

Read more about Agriculture and Livestock Water Use

Moving Forward

We’ve worked to create a basic, yet thorough understanding of the Southern California Drought. Why? We believe that a resilient water future ultimately depends on a shift in us, in the way we think and behave. We can no longer afford to be unconscious water users. Instead, a renewed sense of reverence should shape how we interact with our lifeblood, as citizens, consumers, and people of power…

You’re in California now baby — the land of hearty scrub, deep green succulents, and trees (don’t let anyone tell you trees are bad for the drought!). Might as well embrace it…

Read the 5 Ways to Move Forward

Local lawn with native flowers

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Tree Care: Pruning Citrus Trees

July 30th, 2017

7.31.17 – An introduction to pruning your citrus fruit tree. Tips compiled by Occidental College intern, Nora Killian.

Pruning Citrus Trees

I sat down with one of our resident fruit tree experts, San Gabriel Valley Harvest Coordinator Gunther, to get his advice on pruning citrus trees. While Food Forward does not do any pruning, we can offer some advice to homeowners who wish to prune on their own.




Citrus trees require less pruning trees than most other fruit trees. Pruning on citrus trees is almost always done for the grower/person and not the tree.


A little bit of vocabulary:

  • Deadwood – These are easy to spot branches because they won’t have any green leaves on them and are usually very dry. If you bend them they should snap off because they are dry and no longer living.
  • Basal shoots – Basal shoots grow from a plant’s roots and can become autonomous from the parent plant. See photo (A) at the bottom.
  • Branch Collar – This is often visible swelling that forms at the base where it is attached to the parent plant or trunk. The wrinkling around this area is part of the tree’s defense mechanism against microorganisms. See photo (B) at the bottom.
  • Gourmands – Long, thick, very vigorous branches that seem to suddenly appear in the canopy.
  • Water Sprouts – Shoots that arise from the trunk of the tree (or older branches) from latent buds. Water sprouts are not as strong as natural tree growth and produce very little fruit, usually of poor quality. See photo (C) at the bottom
  • Suckers– Many citrus trees are grafted onto another tree species’ rootstock. The point where the rootstock and citrus tree stock are grafted is called the bud union. If any stems grow below the bud union or from the rootstock, they are called suckers. See photo (D) at the bottom


Why you would prune a citrus tree:

Make it easier to harvest. Reducing a tree’s height through pruning will make it easier to pick the fruit. Sometimes citrus trees can get so tall that even with a ladder, there is still some fruit that is out of reach.

Keep the tree within your personal space confines. Whether the tree is starting to hang over your roof, is now blocking a path or is blocking sunlight for other plants, sometimes you just want the tree to stay in its place.

There is a lot of deadwood. You can prune these branches because it will make it easier to reach the fruit when picking.

Growth of Basal Shoots or Suckers. These should be removed as soon as they appear on your citrus tree because they will not be productive and will take away the trees nutrients.

Growth of Gourmands or Water Sprouts. These branches use large amounts of water and nutrients. If they ever do produce fruit it is often of poor quality. Gourmands contribute little to the tree and should be removed at their base.

To skirt up the tree. This is the act of pruning the lowest hanging branches on a tree. Some citrus trees, including Satsuma mandarins, tend to have long branches that hang to the ground, known as skirt branches. Skirt branches can impede weeding, fertilizer and compost application, and provide pathways for ants. Fruit that touches the ground is also susceptible to soil borne pathogens. You can skirt up the tree until the bottom branches hang about two feet off the ground

What not to do:

-Over-prune! Citrus trees are “closed canopy trees” which means the outside of the tree should have foliage all the way around. Citrus bark is very susceptible to sunburn so it should have little to no direct sunlight exposure. This is especially important in SoCal’s hot sun.

-Pruning all of the low level branches beyond the ones touching the ground. This is where many citrus trees grow the best fruit so, by removing those branches, you are going to significantly reduce your fruit yield.




  • Secateurs or hand pruners
  • Loppers for branches larger than ½” diameter
  • Pruning Saw
  • A pole pruner may be useful for larger trees


About 6 inches from the branch collar, make the first cut from the bottom, about ⅓ of the way through the branch. Then move another inch or so along the branch and cut from the top down until the branch comes off. Make the third cut just after the branch collar. These first cuts are done so that a clean cut can be made at the branch collar and there is no tearing from the weight of the branch.



Time of Year to Prune: 

Major pruning should take place after the risk of freeze has passed and before the summer heat (March-end of April in SoCal). Any winter maintenance should only be done on branches that are less than ¼” in diameter.




Disclaimer: This is just an introduction to citrus pruning to get you started. Please consult a professional before doing any large scale pruning especially pruning that involves very heavy branches or very tall trees.


Further reading:

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Get Ready for Zero Waste LA!

July 24th, 2017

7.24.17 – Get ready Los Angeles, your trash system is changing! Read on to learn what the Zero Waste LA Franchise is, where it comes from, and what it means for you and your trash. Written by Sam Royall, our amazing Volunteer Program Assistant from Occidental College.

The Zero Waste LA Franchise and What It Means for Los Angeles

If you live in Los Angeles, you may have heard of something called the Zero Waste LA Exclusive Franchise, and have maybe even gotten notice about some changes to your waste disposal services starting July 2017 – exciting stuff! Before this new system goes into effect, here’s what you need to know about the the Zero Waste LA Franchise and how it will impact you, your trash, and all Angelenos!

Fact Sheet on Zero Waste LA Franchise

History of Zero Waste LA:

Los Angeles’s Waste Disposal System before the Zero Waste Franchise

Before the announcement of the Zero Waste LA Franchise, waste disposal in Los Angeles was as an open-market system. Any number of waste disposal hauling companies could operate in any neighborhood. So, even though it was mandated to divert waste going to landfills, the city had little power to regulate hauling companies. This made it difficult to implement waste diversion standards, and to establish fair wages for waste disposal workers.

Furthermore, the nature of this inefficient open-market system means that multiple trucks from multiple hauling companies could service the same neighborhoods, and even the same streets, in the same day. This would cause heavy wear-and-tear on LA’s roads, and increased air pollution (one trash truck is estimated to have the impact of 9,343 SUVs!). The Zero Waste LA Exclusive Franchise aims to streamline LA’s waste disposal system, mitigating the negative community and environmental impacts that have resulted from LA’s open-market system.

A Los Angeles Alternative Fuel Trash Truck from 2009

The Don’t Waste LA Coalition

In 2010, Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) – an advocacy organization committed to establishing a new economic approach founded on “good jobs, thriving communities, and a healthy environment” – formed the Don’t Waste LA Coalition. The coalition, comprised of over 35 community, environmental, faith-based, and labor organizations, as well as more than 200 small businesses, had the goal of cleaning up and streamlining LA’s waste disposal system to ensure that all Angelenos have access to clean air, good jobs, and recycling services (and later, compost!).

With years of research, and the strength of a diverse coalition, Don’t Waste LA worked to promote the city’s adoption of the Zero Waste LA Exclusive Franchise–a program that would situate the City of LA as a leader in green waste disposal, while making LA’s franchise system a model for “greater recycling; fair rates; quality service; clean trucks and safe jobs.”

A Long Haul through LA City Council

Don’t Waste LA worked closely with members of LA City Council, including Councilmembers Jose Huizar (14th Council District) and Paul Koretz (5th Council District), who introduced the Zero Waste LA Exclusive Franchise System to the City Council as a motion in 2010.

As the chair of LA City Council’s Energy and Environment Committee at the time, Councilmember Huizar continued to stress the multifaceted impacts of the Zero Waste Franchise plan: ensuring fair waste disposal rates for Angelenos, improving conditions for those working in the waste disposal industry, and helping to meet LA’s zero waste goals. Also known as the Solid Waste Integrated Resource Plan (SWIRF), LA’s zero waste goals call for diverting 90% of LA’s solid waste from landfills by 2025.

In September 2014, Mayor Garcetti and LA City Council voted to approve LA’s division into 11 different waste “hauling zones,” and to assign a different waste disposal company to each of the zones for the duration of a 10-year contract. This ordinance, known as the Citywide Exclusive Franchise System for Municipal Solid Waste Collection and Hauling Ordinance (Ordinance 182986) served as the political foundation of the Zero Waste Exclusive Franchise.

In an open-bidding process that went from June to October of 2014, 15 waste disposal companies submitted proposals to operate within the franchise system. The LA Bureau of Sanitation spent the next year reviewing and evaluating the 15 proposals, and began negotiating with the selected waste hauling companies.

In September 2016, Councilmember Nury Martinez (6th Council District) replaced Councilmember Huizar as the Chair of the Energy and Environment Committee. A strong advocate for environmental justice (many of LA’s waste disposal facilities are located in her district in the Northeast San Fernando Valley), Councilmember Martinez was a steadfast champion of the Zero Waste LA Franchise, and a meaningful ally of the Don’t Waste LA Coalition throughout the franchise approval process.

Immediately following her appointment as the Energy and Environment Committee Chair, the LA Bureau of Sanitation reported their recommendations for the franchise system to the Board of Public Works, which unanimously approved the recommendations.

By December 2016, Mayor Garcetti and the full LA City Council unanimously voted to approve the adoption of the Zero Waste LA Exclusive Franchise, placing LA as a leader of environmental sustainability, and situating Zero Waste LA as a national model for green waste disposal systems. As a result of this historic accomplishment, the franchise system will increase Angelenos’ access to compost and recycling services, clean-up the historically dangerous waste disposal industry, and reduce food waste within the city of Los Angeles. Furthermore, the Zero Waste LA Exclusive Franchise also recognizes the importance of reducing food waste as a means of mitigating both hunger and greenhouse gases.

Councilmembers Paul Koretz and Jose Huizar in support of Don't Waste LA

Councilmembers Paul Koretz (left) and Jose Huizar (right) in support of the Don’t Waste LA Coalition

Timeline of Events Leading up to the Franchise

2010: LAANE forms the Don’t Waste LA Coalition; Councilmembers introduce the Zero Waste Exclusive Franchise

April 2014: Mayor Garcetti and LA City Council approves the Citywide Exclusive Franchise System for Municipal Solid Waste Collection and Hauling Ordinance (Ordinance 182986), designating 11 different “hauling zones” and an exclusive franchise system with a different hauler for each zone

June-October 2014: The city accepts proposals from waste haulers in an open-bidding process

2015-early 2016: LA Bureau of Sanitation review and evaluate the 15 hauler proposals

September 2016: LA Bureau of Sanitation recommends haulers to the LA Board of Public Works

December 2016: Mayor Garcetti and LA City Council approve the Zero Waste LA exclusive franchise system

Late 2016-early 2017: The city negotiates contracts for approved haulers

July 2017: Zero Waste LA Franchise system set to go into effect; customer transition begins

Zero Waste LA Policy Specifics

Dividing the City of LA into 11 different hauling zones, the Zero Waste LA Franchise will expand LA’s current residential waste and recycling services to all businesses. The LA Bureau of Sanitation defines the Zero Waste LA Exclusive Franchise as

“a new public private partnership designed to address the 3-million tons of waste disposed annually by businesses, consumers and residents. This innovative franchise system establishes a waste and recycling collection program for all commercial, industrial, and large multifamily customers in the City of Los Angeles… With a single trash hauler responsible for each zone, the franchise system will allow for the efficient collection and sustainable management of solid waste resources and recyclables.”

The specific environmental outcomes and service mandates, as stated by the LA Bureau of Sanitation, are as follows:

  • Reduction of landfill disposal by 1,000,000 tons per year by 2025;
  • Transparent and predictable solid waste and recycling service rates for the next 10-20 years;
  • Quality customer service standards with LASAN monitoring and enforcement;
  • Franchise hauler accountability for program outcomes and customer satisfaction through a series of measures implemented by LASAN, up to and including liquidated damages;
  • Compliance with environmental regulations, including mandatory commercial and organics recycling;
  • Investment of over $200 million in new and improved solid resources infrastructure;
  • Clean fuel vehicles

Because of the extent to which the Zero Waste Franchise addresses so many issues: waste reduction, universal access to recycling (and eventually organic material disposal) services, increased worker protections, and decreased food waste, the Zero Waste LA Franchise has been characterized as the plan to lift all boats.

Map of Los Angeles with Zero Waste LA Franchise ZonesZero Waste LA Franchise Map of Haulers

Map of hauling zones and approved waste hauling companies


Environmental Justice

Historically, low-income communities of color are disproportionately impacted by the waste disposal industry in Los Angeles. For example, in the Northeast San Fernando Valley where the landfills and waste disposal facilities that serve Los Angeles are overwhelmingly concentrated, the majority of residents are low-income immigrants of color. This means that the city’s waste disposal systems most heavily affects some of LA’s most vulnerable communities, who are more likely to live nearby, and work in, the industry.

In examining the racial/ethnic and socioeconomic implications that LA’s “open market” system has had on very specific communities, it becomes clear that LA’s waste disposal industry disproportionately impacts low-income communities of color, and can therefore be characterized as an issue of environmental racism or environmental injustice. In an article defining environmental justice, Renee Skelton and Vernice Miller of the Natural Resources Defense Council note that,

Environmental justice is an important part of the struggle to improve and maintain a clean and healthful environment, especially for those who have traditionally lived, worked and played closest to the sources of pollution. Championed primarily by African-Americans, Latinos, Asians and Pacific Islanders and Native Americans, the environmental justice movement addresses a statistical fact: people who live, work and play in America’s most polluted environments are commonly people of color and the poor. Environmental justice advocates have shown that this is no accident. Communities of color, which are often poor, are routinely targeted to host facilities that have negative environmental impacts — say, a landfill, dirty industrial plant or truck depot. The statistics provide clear evidence of what the movement rightly calls ‘environmental racism.’ Communities of color have been battling this injustice for decades.”

In understanding the legacies of environmental racism and injustice, it is important to note the ways in which the Zero Waste LA Franchise, by streamlining LA’s waste disposal system, will address the adverse impacts that LA’s waste disposal industry has on local low-income communities of color. By minimizing the amount of trash and number of garbage trucks traveling through the Northeast Valley, and enforcing strict workplace health and safety guidelines, the Zero Waste LA Exclusive Franchise will likely improve living conditions in the Northeast Valley, contributing to Don’t Waste LA Coalition’s goals of clean air, good jobs, and recycling for all.

Jobs and Workers’ Rights

While a common criticism of the Zero Waste LA Franchise system is that it will reduce jobs in the waste disposal industry, LAANE has spent years researching the economic impacts of the exclusive franchise system, and has found that the franchise will ultimately be extremely beneficial to working Angelenos.

LAANE found that, despite initially cutting jobs from the waste disposal companies that did not receive a franchise bid, the Zero Waste Franchise could create: nearly 16,000 jobs in the reuse and remanufacturing, and manufacturing sectors; upwards of 7,000 jobs in waste processing and collection; and around 2,000 jobs in composting. Furthermore, the exclusive franchise system will allow the city to better regulate working conditions and establish fair wages for the more than 6,000 workers currently employed by LA’s waste disposal industry.

City Council Members and LAANE organizers in support of Zero Waste LA

Coalition of activists, organizers, and City Council members in support of Don’t Waste LA

Moving Forward

Following the adoption of the Zero Waste LA Franchise, the LA Food Policy Council and members of their Food Waste Rescue and Prevention Working Group (including Food Forward’s Farmers Market Recovery Program Manager, Leah Boyer) published a guide entitled “Reducing Food Waste: Recovering Untapped Resources in Our Food System” to provide waste haulers and stakeholders in the community and non-profit sectors with more information about the food recovery efforts taking place across LA County. (Scroll to pages 16-17 of their guide for Food Forward’s spotlight, and browse the rest of the guide to learn about the various food recovery work occurring in the LA area!)

In understanding the history and breadth of the Zero Waste LA Exclusive Franchise, it is clear that we can make significant progressive changes at the local level, and that the community-based work of grassroots organizations are fundamental to shifting both policy and practice when it comes to food waste and food recovery. This process of community-based outreach and political mobilization has resulted in the adoption this revolutionary waste disposal system–addressing the needs of all Angelenos, and helping to protect LA on the whole.

So get ready for the implementation of the Zero Waste LA Exclusive Franchise, coming this July, and check-out these resources for more information!

For more information:

“Final Program Environmental Impact Report for City Ordinance: City-Wide Exclusive Franchise System for Municipal Solid Waste Collection and Handling,” (2014).

“Zero Waste LA: A New System for Waste and Recycling,” (2015).

“Zero Waste LA Franchise Ordinance: Transforming the Waste and Recycling System for the Commercial and Multi-Family Sectors,” (2015).

“Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: 2014 Fact Sheet,” (2014).

“Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resources Summary Report,” (2013).

“From Waste to Resource: Restoring Our Economy with Recycling Careers,” (2014).

“LAANE Wins: Good Jobs and a Clean Environment for the 21st Century,” (2016).

“Zero Waste LA – Franchise: What is the ‘Zero Waste LA Franchise System’?”

“Reducing Food Waste: Recovering Untapped Resources in Our Food System,” (2017).

“The Environmental Justice Movement,” (2016).

“Los Angeles’ Franchise Zones Are Aimed to Help the City Work Toward its Zero Waste Goals,” (2016).

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Creative Cooking with Farmers Market Donations

July 17th, 2017

7.17.16 – Follow the journey of produce from the Larchmont Village Farmers Market to PATH (People Assisting the Homeless) in Central LA. One of our amazing student interns, Michaela, joined the glean team one Sunday and followed the boxes of produce to the chefs who use them.

Following Produce From the Larchmont Village Farmers Market to Central Los Angeles

Connecting Farmers Market Produce to Hunger-Relief Agencies

Each week, Food Forward volunteer “gleaners” meet at farmers markets across Los Angeles and Ventura County. They work together to collect surplus produce from vendors, and donate 100% to hunger-relief agencies that serve food-insecure populations. If you come out as a volunteer, you may help collect thousands of pounds of produce in one day of gleaning! The volunteers pack everything up into boxes of vegetables, fruits, and herbs that our partner agencies pick up at the end of the market.

Volunteers assemble Food Forward boxes at the Larchmont Farmers Market

What happens next? When you follow the produce from the farmers market to Receiving Agency, you’ll find our amazing partner organizations and incredible stories of how they connect fresh, organic produce to those in need.

Larchmont Village Farmers Market: The Gleaning Process

The Larchmont Village Farmers Market takes place every Sunday from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm on Larchmont Blvd, and is bustling with community members exploring various foods from local vendors. At 1:30 pm, Food Forward volunteers convene right outside the market entrance to prepare for the glean.

First, the Glean Team Leader—a “super volunteer” who started off as a volunteer and now leads the gleaners—explains Food Forward’s mission and gives instructions on what to do. Then the Glean Team enters the market with a stack of empty boxes, giving each vendor as many boxes as they’d like for their surplus produce.

After the vendors have filled their boxes, the Glean Team will collect, weigh, and hand off the produce donations to staff or volunteers from the receiving agencies. On Memorial Day weekend, we collected 540 pounds of produce!

A Volunteer from PATH picks up the donation at the Larchmont Farmers Market

Darius, a dedicated volunteer at PATH, picks up produce donations from the Larchmont Farmers Market.

A Partnership with PATH (People Assisting The Homeless)

One of the receiving agencies that picks up from the Larchmont Village Farmers Market is PATH (People Assisting the Homeless), an organization that provides services for homeless individuals and families to help them successfully transition into long-term homes of their own.

Based out of their Los Angeles Center, the PATHWays Housing program offers a temporary place for adults to stay while they find employment, save money, and work with staff to find a permanent home. For the team of chefs at PATH, receiving Food Forward’s weekly produce donations is essential for creating fresh and healthy meals for people in transitional housing.

PATH Sous-Chef Miguel Llorente Chops Food Forward Cilantro

Sous Chef Miguel Llorente chops cilantro that came from Food Forward donations the previous day.

Creating Fresh & Flavorful Dishes

The produce donations from Food Forward’s volunteer gleaners allow PATH to provide people in interim housing with fresh, organic food. “If you wouldn’t serve it to your family or your kids, we wouldn’t serve it here,” said head chef Johanna Martinez, who has been cooking at PATH for more than seven years. Her team of chefs prioritize preparing meals that meet individual’s dietary needs or restrictions and serve, on average, 60-80 people every day.

It also gives the chefs the opportunity to be more creative in the cooking process. “We are so excited when we get herbs, because we use them to bring flavor to our dishes,” said sous chef Miguel Llorente. The chefs at PATH use Food Forward’s produce donations as valuable ingredients, allowing them to serve up flavorful dishes every day.

Whether it is prepping lettuce for salads, sautéing carrots and kale, or using herbs to flavor sauces, the chef’s at PATH find joy in creating dishes for individuals who don’t always have access to nutritious, savory meals prepared from scratch. “Seeing people’s positive reaction to our food, that makes my day,” said chef Johanna.

“Seeing people’s positive reaction to our food, that makes my day.”

The Chefs at PATH (People Assisting the Homeless)

Head Chef Johanna Martinez (left) and Sous Chef Miguel Llorente (right) stand at the prepping station in PATH’s kitchen.

That night, PATH’s clients looked forward to Machaca for dinner. Upcoming meals for the month also included paella, poached salmon, pasta Bolognese, fish tacos, and moreall mixed with herbs and sides of vegetables from Food Forward’s donations. Reflecting on PATH’s partnerships with Food Forward, chef Johanna remarked that, “We are in a beautiful place when it comes to serving good food.”

Soup made at PATH with Food Forward donations

Join the Glean Team at the Market!

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