Food Forward is scaling its wholesale produce recovery program in Southern California by expanding its Produce Pit Stop facility and growing the number of food hub locations. The increased capacity will result in at least an additional 2.4 million pounds of rescued food over the next 90 days.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Food Forward operated a collaborative monthly fruit and vegetable distribution in Inglewood with its close partner, Social Justice Learning Institute (SJLI). These community events proved to be an efficient way to distribute recovered wholesale produce to hundreds of families from Inglewood Unified School District and the local community. As the economic impacts of the pandemic spread across California, Food Forward and SJLI were able to move this monthly distribution event to a weekly basis. Previously, 12-13,000 pounds per month were distributed, but now Food Forward is distributing 55,000 pounds on a monthly basis. In addition, while the Inglewood distribution previously served up to 200 participants, Food Forward is now able to donate produce to 15+ local agencies at each event in addition to individual participants picking up produce.
Local agencies picking up produce at these events in turn use these nutritious fruits and vegetables to help feed the clients they serve. This food hub location shows the importance of flexibility and innovation in meeting emergency food needs – new practices and protocols have been rolled out for safety, and all produce is sorted and pre-bagged prior to distribution.
Food Forward also helped establish the Ventura Rapid Response Hub, an emergency produce distribution hub in partnership with Totally Local VC's Local Love Project (Local Love). Through this operation, Food Forward provides fresh fruits and vegetables to agencies that are feeding families in Ventura County. Food Forward has launched five new Rapid Response Hubs in response to the pandemic, to ensure communities across Los Angeles and Ventura Counties have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. These hubs are a direct response to the increased need in neighborhoods most affected by the loss of services.
At each location, a truckload of recovered produce is quickly distributed to multiple agency partners, who in turn distribute this food to their clients. One agency receiving produce from the Ventura Rapid Response Hub is a local partner that provides individuals experiencing homelessness and/or living with mental illness with basic needs like food and clothing. Since the pandemic’s onset, procuring enough food for their clients has been difficult. One representative from this agency partner said, “Food Forward is our savior! Without the work Food Forward is doing to get us produce through the hub, my residents would be in a really bad place with food insecurity.”