Rick Nahmias loved walking Scout, his "senior" Labrador retriever, through his Los Angeles neighborhood. He had been doing it for years, but now that Scout was beginning to show his age, the walks were a whole lot slower…and with that slower pace there was more of an opportunity to take in the scenery. It was on one of those walks that Rick suddenly noticed not only the abundance of fruit trees that dotted his neighbors’ yards, but also the vast amount of fruit that had dropped to the ground. In Southern California almost everyone has citrus trees -oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, lemons and more.
With such a lush picture in front of him, Rick’s thoughts turned to this enormous quantity of healthy food and how much of it goes to waste since so many homeowners either cannot use it all themselves, or cannot harvest it on their own. Wouldn’t that fresh fruit be a welcome addition to the other items distributed by local pantries and food banks? Wouldn’t hungry people enjoy and benefit from the healthy produce?
Rick’s epiphany led him to start Food Forward, a young organization that matches volunteers with private property owners who invite the group to come and harvest the fruit. Food Forward’s website provides a list of upcoming pickings and complete instructions on how to sign up to help.
Since beginning this work in 2009, Food Forward has gleaned more than 640,000 pounds of juicy fruit (and even tomatoes, lettuce and other healthy food from time to time) which is distributed to more than 25 local agencies. In the process, volunteers are providing not only sustenance but also "coming together as a community to learn about urban hunger, food waste and food justice."
As we sat at lunch with Rick last week during our LA visit, we were struck by many things – Rick is clearly thoughtful, dedicated to this work, a humanist and quite skilled as a young non-profit leader (he is actually a professional photographer by training.) His plans for Food Forward are smart and deliberate and he often remarked that he wants to build this organization slowly and thoughtfully so that it will both endure and be effective. With his young team of creative volunteers and (mostly) part-time staff we have no doubt that this is a program that will grow and flourish in the not-so-distant future.(And perhaps be replicated in other areas with similar climate and abundance?)
The Good People Fund’s grant will allow Food Forward to do just that and we could not be happier. Thank you, Scout!