How one man is spearheading the effort to feed the hungry with perhaps the Valley’s greatest—yet often wasted—natural resource
It’s an overcast summer morning on a large Chatsworth estate. Nearly one-third of the three-acre property is blanketed with citrus trees dripping with perfectly ripe fruit. Suddenly, dozens of people arrive—all volunteers from Food Forward, an organization that harvests and delivers fruit to local food pantries. On this particular day, 45 volunteers will pick 5,841 pounds of Valencia oranges and deliver them to SOVA, a Jewish-run charity in Van Nuys that helps needy families.
This simple but novel program is the brainchild of Rick Nahmias. “We’re reconnecting with abundance and eliminating waste. We provide local, nutritious, fresh market fruit to people who otherwise wouldn’t have it,” Rick says.
The 45-year-old Valley Glen resident came up with the idea two years ago while walking his dog and noticing fruit rotting in the street. As a professional photographer who had worked on a book about migrant farm workers, Nahmias was already tuned in to the reality of “exactly where food comes from and who eats and who does not.” But this stark visual of food just wasting away led him to act. He called a local pantry to see if they’d be interested in receiving fresh fruit. “They blew me off. About a month later I decided to go ahead and harvest 85 pounds of tangerines from a friend’s home. We called another pantry and were able to deliver it.” A light went off. “Why not harvest food to fight hunger?” he explains. And Food Forward was born.
The NoHo-based organization picks mostly from private homes. “We really make an effort to be respectful. We train volunteers how to harvest properly, and we’re careful not to overbook at a site.”
While Food Forward started as just an “on-the-side” endeavor for Nahmias, it’s quickly grown into a full-fledged charity, due to get 501 tax exempt status any day. With three employees, a “fruit-mobile” and passion to spare, Food Forward is now looking at being a model for expansion to all of LA. “It’s been so rewarding. I grew up and went to school here. To bring something fun and great and ‘out of the box’ to the Valleyit feels really good.”
Interested in volunteering? Sign up at foodforward.org to be a …
Picks are usually on the weekends and last three to four hours.
If you have large numbers of fruit trees or excess vegetables and are interested in becoming a pick site, Food Forward is currently scheduling picks for fall.
Look at prospective properties to see if they’re suitable.
Be in charge of a local pick one day each month.
Be an ambassador of Food Forward in your own neighborhood. Recruit local property owners to donate fruit and scout properties.
Food Forward is supported through grants and individual donations.