I have been involved in food recovery since my eighth grade year. My friend Jackson Selby came to me with the idea that he and his family (Mr. Selby, Mrs. Selby, and Zach) had of picking backyard fruit and donating it to food banks. The idea was simple: go to a homeowner’s house with a fruit tree, pick what they were not going to be able to use, and donate it to a food bank to help those in need. Since we were a small, high school run organization, we had to go from door to door to spread the word of our mission. It slowly began to grow and we had a strong presence in Arcadia and Monrovia. As time went on, more and more picks were scheduled with fewer volunteers so we had to double up on the weekends and were forced to pick twice as often. Another obstacle came when Zach Selby and my brother graduated leaving half of the workforce left. During my junior year I spent both Saturday and Sunday picking fruit and donating it. We were also aware that Jackson and I were going to graduate in two years leaving the organization without any sustainable group of volunteers. Fortunately, at a local street fair that we were tabling, we met a lady from Food Forward that was interested in expanding into our area. We were her answer, and she was our hope to continue the work that we had started. Interestingly, Food Forward started their campaign at around the same time that we did, unbeknownst to us. That summer I got myself involved with Food Forward by taking a short two week internship with them to familiarize myself with their protocol as well as give them our database of information. We have since integrated ourselves with Food Forward. This summer I will be working on the forefront of the Backyard Harvest program in the East San Gabriel Valley. Since we do not have much presence there it will be a difficult endeavor. This is exciting for me because I can continue the work I started in high school during summers. Urban hunger plagues Los Angeles and it is good to see the positive impact Food Forward is having, as well as personally being able to lead the expansion into the East San Gabriel Valley.
Food Forward is a non-profit food/fruit-recovery organization that has to date collected over nine and a half million pounds of fruit donating one-hundred percent of it to food banks across Southern California. It started when the founder, Rick Nahmais, was walking his dog and stumbled upon a ripe orange tree with oranges rotting at its base. He grabbed a couple of friends to salvage what was left on the tree and donate it to a local food pantry. He was inspired by the potential change he could have on his community and decided to start small and reach out to all of his neighbors. News quickly spread and he realized the potential impact he could have on his community. His organization has since grown all over Southern California donating to about 100 receiving agencies serving hundreds of thousands of people each year. The organization now boasts three main branches: Backyard Harvests, Farmers Market Recovery, and the latest Wholesale Recovery. Food Forward, led by a team of twelve full time workers, has changed the lives of so many people with the simple mission statement that they have kept since the inception of the organization: rescue fresh local produce that would otherwise go to waste and donate one-hundred percent of the recovered fruit to those in need connecting this abundance with people in need.
I will be working closely with Rachael Maysels and Lillian Krovoza this summer to accomplish my goals. A little bit about them:
Rachael is our Backyard Harvest Manager. She has had a lot of experience with L.A.’s farmers’ markets and participated in WWOOFing while studying farming techniques and its implications. She was raised in upstate New York around farms and orchards giving her a connection to food from an early age. She has since joined Food Forward and has become a huge asset to the team and the cause in general.
Lillian Krovoza is a recent Occidental graduate. She resides with other students in Eagle Rock and has been working with Food Forward for over a year. Her specialty is in the Central LA, East LA, West San Gabriel Valley, and North East LA areas. She plans on remaining with the organization for another month before embarking on her life’s journey.