North Hollywood-based Food Forward has been quietly pilot testing a food recovery program at the L.A. Wholesale Produce Market recently, one which rescues food that would go to waste and then gets it to local families who need it. The charity—which began in 2009 as a way to glean excess produce from people’s backyards and get it to hungry Angelenos—has grown significantly, implementing larger scale projects that also collect excess produce from 11 local farmers’ markets. (Plans to add more farmers markets by year’s end are also underway.)
Since beginning the test program at the wholesale produce market (the second largest in the country after NYC, by the way) in February, they’ve collected and donated more than 2.2 million pounds of food that was otherwise dumpster-bound.
“When we first began planning this, we were hoping to save 300,000 pounds in the first year,” explains Food Forward founder Rick Nahmias. “Needless to say, we were absolutely blown away when we surpassed that in just one month.”
Thanks to the wild success of the program, the charity has launched a crowdfunding campaign to buy a truck that can focus on the wholesale market full-time. “We’ve been using a borrowed truck, with fairly limited hours, only three days a week,” Nahmias reports. “Even still, we’ve been getting an average of 100,000 pounds a week. With our own dedicated truck, I think we can easily double that.”
Each truckload can carry about 12,500 pounds of food, which can feed 200 families of four for a week. Every extra pick-up makes a world of difference for the distribution agencies throughout several counties—Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, Ventura, San Bernardino, and Santa Barbara—that receive the donated produce.
“And this is good food we’re talking about here,” Nahmias adds, explaining that the produce they receive is still fresh but likely wouldn’t be purchased simply because it wouldn’t last long on a shelf. “We are not a trash receptacle; we want to get high-quality, nutritive food to the folks that need it most and this program has been huge in helping us do that. It’s like our farmers market recovery program on steroids.”
To make a pledge to help Food Forward get their truck and/or to get more information on their wholesale market recovery program, visit their crowdfunding campaign page on Indiegogo or foodforward.org.