In 2019, Food Forward opened its first warehouse space, the Produce Pit Stop, near downtown Los Angeles, enabling the organization to grow recovery efforts significantly. In 2020, thanks to our funding community’s generous support, we expanded the Pit Stop to meet the increasing need for food.
Reducing gaps in service
In 2020, community-based organizations had to step up to support individuals and families experiencing food insecurity for the first time. A few months after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, food insecurity rates in Southern California more than doubled. Our existing agency partners reported up to five times as many participants at their food giveaways, and, over the year, Food Forward onboarded 160 new distribution partners.
Food Forward responded to partners’ increasing needs by expanding “Produce Hub” distributions to 12 locations in Los Angeles and Ventura counties to provide a regular source of fruits and vegetables to small- and medium-sized agencies in the region. We also recognized a gap in service between smaller agencies and the large-scale food banks already being served out of the Produce Pit Stop. In July 2020, we opened the doors to The Sprout, or El Brote, an expansion of our warehouse designed to support agencies that needed more produce than a food hub visit could provide.
A few months after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, food insecurity rates in Southern California more than doubled. Our agency partners reported up to five times as many participants at their giveaways, creating a crucial need for more fresh, free produce from Food Forward.
Increasing capacity, fortifying the community
The 8,000 square foot extension of the Produce Pit Stop gave Food Forward access to the back entrance of the Produce Pit Stop and additional loading docks. The Agency Relations team began supplying mid-sized agencies with carefully curated mixed pallets of fruits and vegetables. This new space enables agency partners to diversify the produce they can receive and provides more flexibility to schedule pick-ups convenient for their distribution schedules. By the end of 2020, 78 agencies received produce from The Sprout, and, in total, 1.5 million pounds of fruits and vegetables moved through the facility.
We have also seen The Sprout act as an “incubator” for hunger relief organizations to increase their capacity to distribute fresh produce. People Organized for Westside Renewal (POWER) is one of those organizations. POWER is a mutual aid network that creates an economy that works for everyone by recruiting and developing leaders in low-income communities to drive social change. When they began getting produce from The Sprout, they could only pick up about half a pallet of produce every other week for their grocery delivery program. By working with Food Forward to increase their capacity, they now receive two and a half pallets every week, increasing their food distribution ten times in just a year.
Other partners, like LA-Más in Northeast LA, who regularly received donations through The Sprout, were able to “graduate” to the Produce Pit Stop and make larger pick-ups there. Accepting regular donations from The Sprout helped them grow their food distribution, diverting more produce from landfills and, most importantly, supporting their community with a consistent source of fresh, free produce.