Volunteer Journal #78 –Farmers Market Gleaning

Americans throw away 165 billion dollars worth of food a year! What if we could re-route that food to the hungry, or starving.

Food Forward – a Southern California charity that needs to become national and international is doing just that.  They started by picking un-harvested fruit trees and donating the fruit in 2008.  Today they’ve donated over a million pounds of fresh produce to local food banks

Now they’ve moved onto gleaning (collecting) unsold food from 3 farmers markets in the Los Angeles area.

In less than two months Food Forward Farmers Market Recovery Program (started Aug. 15th) has collected and donated 15,000 lbs of fruits & vegetables to those in need.

I loved the sound of this program, so  I had to see how it worked.  Last Wednesday I joined the projects coordinator Mary Baldwin and her group of intrepid and beautiful volunteers at the Santa Monica Farmers Market.

We braved humidity, 50 lbs boxes of produce, baby strollers, and what I can only call food pirates to collect over 1000 lbs. of fruits & veg.

How does it work? First, Mary and her team pass out Food Forward boxes to farmers, who believe they will have leftovers, towards the end of the market.  Mary keeps track of the names and just over an hour later the team runs back through the market to collect the boxes.  The produce is weighed, recorded, and then distributed to the food banks.  In Santa Monica 300 lbs. of food was sent to local charity Step Up on Second and then the rest was taken by van to St. Joseph Center which provides help to the working poor.

This isn’t my first foray into the Food Forward world.  I volunteered on a couple of fruit picks when they were a baby group of volunteers.  I’m thrilled they’re now humongous.  Their programs have helped up the nutrition level of those in need, kept food local, saved over a million of pounds of food from landfills and improved the health of the trees.

If you are interested in joining the FMR Progam Glean Team, which I highly recommend, say hello to mary at fmrecovery@foodforward.org.

So many farmers decide to donate and things are not easy for small family farms, so I'd like to take a minute to mention some of the regulars who feed so many.  If you’re lucky enough to go to a Southern California farmers market look for:

flora bella: http://florabellafarm.com/

fairview gardens: http://www.fairviewgardens.org/

windrose: http://windrosefarm.org/

see canyon: http://www.seecanyonwedding.com/

weiser family farms: http://www.weiserfamilyfarms.com/

yasutomi: http://www.realtimefarms.com/farm/5214035/yasutomi-farms

mud creek ranch: https://www.facebook.com/mudcreeksp

jimenz family farms: http://www.jimenezfamilyfarm.com/

gloria's: http://www.realtimefarms.com/farm/5069057/glorias-fruits-veggies

Fair Hills Apple Farms: http://www.fairhillsapplefarm.com/

And Dave Eakin Citrus Farmer Extraordinaire!

Now, in the spirit of this post, and using local produce, may I recommend my favorite virgin cocktail recipe that involves freshly squeezed juice-

Lavender/Grapefruit Yummy Drink

1 cup fresh grapefruit juice

1/3 cup sparkling water like Pellegrino

1-2 tablespoons (to taste) lavender simple syrup – homemade or Monin.

Pour together – stir or shake - enjoy