Frequently Asked Questions
See our Health and COVID-19 Policy for details.
No problem. Please click on the cancellation link sent in the confirmation or reminder emails, and stay home!
Unfortunately, most events will not have handwashing stations available. However, hand sanitizer will be available. Please wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water before and after the event.
Most of our volunteers help us recover and donate fresh produce at various locations. Volunteers should be comfortable being on their feet throughout the shift and carrying boxes of fruits and vegetables. Below are a few different types of volunteer events!
Farmers Market Recovery:
You will meet the volunteer team at a designated time and place at the market. A Volunteer Glean Team Leader oversees the event and provides an orientation before the glean begins.
Volunteers walk through the market with empty Food Forward boxes, distributing them to any produce vendors who wish to make a donation. There is usually a brief break to shop or eat, and then volunteers meet up again to collect the boxes full of fresh, delicious food!
The donated produce is weighed, recorded (farmers get a tax deductible receipt for their donations), and prepared for pick-up by our partner agencies. Once the food is picked up, your work here is done!
Volunteers meet the Volunteer Pick Leader at the designated time and address. Backyard Harvests may take place at private residences, public parks, commercial orchards, farms, or any other property with food to harvest.
Volunteers receive an orientation on safe harvesting techniques. Depending on what we’re picking, we will supply all necessary harvesting equipment so that volunteers can pick as much fruit as possible. When the harvest wraps up, volunteers will help to load up a vehicle with boxes, pick up the equipment and, generally, leave the property as we found it.
Each property we harvest has different conditions. We cannot guarantee that there will be shade or that the ground will be flat and even. The type of tools you may need to use (your hands, hand clippers/pruners, fruit picker, extended fruit picker, and extended pruner) depends upon the type of fruit and where the fruit is located on the trees. We’d love for you to be able to join us. If you’d like to know more about a specific harvest on our volunteer calendar, please reach out to [email protected] so we can help find the event that is the best fit for you.
Clippers: Hand clippers/pruners are similar to scissors and require the same motion to use them.
Fruit picker: The fruit picker is a ~5-foot pole with a basket on top. It weighs around 5 pounds. To use a fruit picker, you must be comfortable raising it above your head, pulling downwards to remove the fruit from the branch, and bringing it back down repeatedly.
Extended fruit picker: An extended fruit picker is a ~10-foot pole with a basket on top. It requires the same upward and downward motion as the fruit picker, but is more difficult to control given its length.
Extended pruner: An extended pruner is an almost 6 ½-foot pole with clippers at the end. Using the pruner requires that you are able to hold the pole above your head and press the lever at the end of the pole to activate the clipper, which cuts the fruit loose. The fruit drops into a bag attached to the pruner, but the bag needs to be emptied after just a few snips.
You’re on your way to fighting hunger and food waste with us! You will receive an email confirming that you’re signed up. Check your inbox (or your spam folder if you don’t see it!) for a confirmation email from [email protected].
You will receive notifications 4 days and 24 hours prior to the event you signed up for. That email will have contact information and meet-up instructions, plus any additional details you may need.
If you can no longer make it to the event you signed up for, it is important that you cancel no less than 72 hours (3 days) before the event so we can find a volunteer to take your place. You can cancel by clicking the link under “Do you need to cancel?” in the reminder emails.
Many of our volunteer events do not have restrooms available or public restrooms nearby. Generally, volunteer events that are longer than 2 hours take place at a location with a restroom nearby. Most of our volunteer events that are 2 hours or less do not have a restroom available to volunteers. Please feel free to contact us in advance if you have questions or concerns.
The majority of our produce recovery events take place outside, so we always recommend bringing water and sunscreen or a hat. Feel free to bring gardening gloves and bug spray if you’d like. Please wear clothes you are comfortable in and don’t mind getting dirty, as well as closed-toe shoes. Otherwise, we supply all equipment needed!
Nope! We arrange transportation with the agency receiving the food or with the Volunteer Event Leader.
No. While we understand how busy you are, we do require that volunteers stay for the entire time. Most of our events have very small volunteer teams, and we need all hands on deck!
5 for Backyard Harvest events (unless otherwise stated on the event), 12 for Farmers Market Recovery events, and 18 for Produce Pick-Up events. Volunteers under 16 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian who registers for the event as well and stays for its entirety.
Yes, they just need to sign up to volunteer for the same event! Please note: we cannot accept walk-up volunteers; all volunteers must be registered before the event.
If you are interested in volunteering with a large group (more than 5 people), fill out our Group Volunteer Form. Then, check out our Volunteer Calendar and let us know if you see an upcoming event that works for your group. Please note that we receive many requests for group volunteering, and our events fill up quickly. If we can accommodate your group, we’ll send you a private link to sign up. Volunteers (including children!) are required to register separately online before the event so that each volunteer completes our mandatory release form and we have an accurate count of participants. You must use a different email address for each individual volunteer.
If you have already registered as a volunteer for an event and want to register your child as well, you can register them as a volunteer using a placeholder email address, like [email protected].
We love your furry friends–we really do! But please leave them at home when you volunteer with us.
While we are so appreciative of the hard work volunteers do to recover fresh produce, 100% of the food that is collected is given to local hunger relief agencies, allowing us to provide full transparency to those donating fruits and vegetables to Food Forward. You can learn more about who we donate to here, and see resources for free food here.
The Volunteer Event Leader will be able to estimate how much food is being donated and can tell you which organizations are benefitting. You will also receive a follow-up email with this information.
Absolutely. Because our events have limited volunteer spots, they generally fill up at least 2-3 weeks in advance. We recommend registering for volunteer events on our Volunteer Calendar as early as possible and checking back regularly; we post new Backyard Harvest events frequently from January through the summer!
While we are always happy to sign your community service hours after you complete them, we are unable to guarantee beforehand that a volunteer will be able to complete a specific number of hours. Our events simply fill up too quickly!
Yes! Please bring the form with you, and the Event Leader can sign it. If your school does not provide a form, you can email [email protected] after you volunteer to get your hours confirmed. Please allow up to one week for us to confirm your hours.
Great! Nearly all of our produce recovery events are powered by volunteers, so we would love to have your help! Visit this page to learn more about our Volunteer Event Leader positions!