As you’re enjoying a long weekend, we hope you take the opportunity to savor these #goodreads that feature people and organizations that the UC Food Observer is thankful for. Be inspired…we are!
The Gleaners: A Q&A with Food Forward. Food Forward is a Southern-California nonprofit organization that “rescues” fresh local produce. Its mission is to “harvest food, fight hunger and build community.” The volunteer-driven group is dedicated to food justice and eliminating hunger in communities. Food Forward organizes gleaning activities – called “picks” or “harvests” – on private properties (including homes and commercial farms), in public spaces and at farmers and wholesale markets to “recover” produce. What they collect is donated to “direct-service agencies” that feed the hungry.
When we spoke with founder Rick Nahmias, he told us this: “Everyone eats and everyone should eat with dignity. Food Forward helps that happen…We ALL have something to share – money, time, clothing, etc. – at Food Forward our currency is food. We’d like to reframe how people see abundance in their own lives – and what they can do with it to help others.”
“…everyone needs something, and everybody has something to give.” Robert Egger pioneered the model of L.A. Kitchen during his 24 year tenure as the President of the DC Central Kitchen, the country’s first “community kitchen”, where food donated by hospitality businesses and farms is used to fuel its nationally recognized culinary arts job training program. Founder Robert Egger told us that “Too often charity is about the redemption of the giver, not the liberation of the receiver. I wanted to flip that so that everyone was liberated, empowered, served and needed.”
The Farmer Veteran Coalition. The Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC) is a national non-profit organization headquartered in Davis, California. Its purpose is to link veterans with employment and educational opportunities in farming and agriculture. FVC believes that veterans possess the “unique skills and character needed to strengthen rural communities and create sustainable food systems.”
FVC’s founder, Michael O’Gorman, shared something profound with us: “Our country gets divided over matters of war and peace, over how food is raised, but this joining of the two makes those divisions go away. Wherever they go and however they farm. Our military fights together. Soldiers put aside differences in politics, religion, social class and race, and then they all fight together. Unfortunately, there is a lot of division in our nation over how food is raised, and that makes a sad division in our support for farmers.”
Jenga Mwendo and the Backyard Gardeners Network. Jenga Mwendo returned to her native New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina to help revitalize her community. Since 2007, she has worked to strengthen the Lower Ninth Ward community in New Orleans. She founded the Backyard Gardeners Network (BGN), a nonprofit organization. Its mission is to sustain and strengthen the historically self-sufficient and deeply rooted community by using local food growing traditions as a means of building community, revitalizing the neighborhood, preserving cultural heritage and improving human health.
Jenga told us this: “People are tired of being on medications. They are ready to understand that food is the foundation of health and wellness. We have an opportunity to live a full and whole life just by giving ourselves good food to eat. People often pay more attention to what gas they put in their car than what types of food they put in their bodies. We’re exploring what food is going to heal rather than hurt us. There has been more excitement about this than anything else we’ve done in the garden.”
Faith and Farming: Sarah Nolan and the Abundant Table. Sarah Nolan is a founding member of The Abundant Table, a faith-based, 501c3 nonprofit organization and farm rooted in the Episcopal/Lutheran Church. It is located in Ventura County, California. A farmer and theologian, Sarah has worked in both the sustainable agriculture and nonprofit sectors for ten years. She recently shared her thoughts about sustainability with us: “I’ve learned that small-scale sustainable agriculture is only as sustainable as the community you build around it. Social capital is essential.”
Have a great weekend!