If you live in Southern California, you may take the abundance of fresh fruit for granted. We have farmers markets every day of the week, with fruit growers and even expert pomologists bringing gorgeous citrus and stone fruit, picked hours before. You may even have trees of your own, where you can walk outside to pick your own Valencia oranges, kumquats or Santa Rosa plums. But what if you don't? Food Forward is an organization that fills this gap, helping to bring fresh fruit to people who don't have easy access to it.
Founded in 2009 by Rick Nahmias, a professional photographer, writer and filmmaker who focused on marginalized communities, Food Forward is a nonprofit, volunteer-based group that works to rescue fresh produce that otherwise often would go to waste. The foraged produce then is brought to food banks or other connecting points, where it's connected with those who need it.
For the last three years, Food Forward has gathered at the Huntington Gardens in Pasadena to harvest oranges. Because the Huntington is far more than a botanical garden and weekend destination. It originated as a large orange grove, and now reserves seven acres for those oranges.
Recently, Food Forward picker Carl Buratti, Huntington staff, a group of volunteers — and videographer Micah Baskir — met early on a weekend morning to pick those oranges, as they do about once a month. The group of about 30 volunteers included local groups of friends and co-workers, including some from NASA's JPL, which is also in Pasadena.
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After a few hours of picking, the truck, loaded with oranges, delivered about 6,000 pounds of fruit to MEND food pantry. MEND, which is also volunteer-driven, completes the circle, distributing not only the fresh produce that Food Forward brings in but also other food, supplies and community services. Over the years, Food Forward has "rescued" more than 2 million pounds of produce, all of which was donated.
Food Forward also picks at private gardens and public spaces, donating 100% of the produce they collect and partnering with more than 50 local agencies to distribute it to people in need. If you want to get involved or learn more about the organization, visit its website.