2022 Grants Challenge

Fighting Hunger with Food Recovery

Idea by Food Forward

Food Forward's innovative food recovery programs rescue surplus fruits and vegetables, preventing this healthy food from going to waste. Fresh produce is donated free of charge to hunger relief agencies that serve people experiencing food insecurity throughout Los Angeles County and surrounding areas. Through our work, Food Forward is providing critical human services, redirecting the inbuilt excess of the food system, and preventing food waste from causing harm to the environment.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Climate and Environment

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

Central LA

East LA

San Gabriel Valley

San Fernando Valley

South LA

West LA

South Bay

Antelope Valley

County of Los Angeles

City of Los Angeles

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

The need for our work is clear: Across Los Angeles County, 1 in 10 people are food insecure. Ongoing economic uncertainty and rising costs continue to heighten the lack of access to food for vulnerable households. Food insecurity typically affects unhoused individuals, seniors, college/community college students, veterans, LGBTQ+ individuals, single-parent households, and Black- and Latine-headed households at higher rates. At the same time, 35% of the food produced in the U.S. is unsold or uneaten. The environmental cost of food waste adds up, too: Food waste sent to landfills produces methane, a harmful greenhouse gas 80 times more potent than CO2 over a 20-year period. Food Forward’s produce recovery work bridges the gap between surplus fresh produce and people experiencing hunger across the region.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

Every day, Food Forward distributes enough produce to supply more than 150,000 individuals with their five daily servings of fruits and vegetables. Food Forward operates three food recovery programs, described below. - Wholesale Recovery Program: Food Forward’s largest program rescues fresh, unsold produce by the truckload from 450 wholesale vendors to prevent unnecessary waste. Pallets of food are arranged into mixed truckloads of fruits and vegetables, which are quickly sent out to hunger relief agency partners in the region to distribute to clients. - Farmers Market Recovery: Food Forward offers an organized, market-endorsed donation system for farmers to help fight hunger with their unsold produce. This volunteer-driven program currently operates in 14 farmers markets in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, benefitting more than 50 local direct service agencies. - Backyard Harvest: This program provides nutritious fruit to local direct service agencies by conducting volunteer-driven picks on more than 800 fruit tree properties across Los Angeles and Ventura counties. Harvested fresh fruit is usually picked up from the harvest site by a receiving agency immediately following recovery, to distribute to clients. While there are other produce recovery efforts in the region, none have the same capacity to collaborate with over 1,300 produce donors and 340 primary hunger relief agencies across the entire region, including 12 counties in California.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

Over the next year, Food Forward will achieve the following objectives: - Rescue and distribute more than 60 million pounds of produce to agencies serving food insecure populations, preventing 16,800 metric tons of CO2-equivalent from polluting the atmosphere. - Continue to build robust Community Programs, rescuing produce through more than 1,500 volunteer-led harvests of fruit trees and gleans at local farmers markets. - Deepen our presence in the communities we serve and remain responsive to the needs of Food Forward’s 340+ hunger relief agency partners and the community members they nourish. Food Forward envisions a future where all people have access to fresh produce, and food waste is drastically reduced, resulting in nourished communities and a healthy environment.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

Food Forward’s measures of impact include the number of pounds recovered and distributed, the number of agencies served by that food, the number of unique volunteers and volunteer leaders, and the number of volunteer events coordinated, including community harvests and farmers market gleans, and the metric tons of CO2-equivalent prevented by our food recovery. Food Forward collects data from organization supervisors, program staff, and volunteer leaders to evaluate impact. Each donation of produce is tracked using powerful produce inventory and volunteer management software. In the last 13 years, the organization has rescued over 250 million pounds (more than one billion servings) of fresh fruits and vegetables, preventing 70,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent from polluting the atmosphere.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 1,500

Indirect Impact: 2,000,000