Creative Cooking with Farmers Market Donations

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!