Alarmed by the food wasted in his community, Rick Nahmias — a writer, filmmaker, and photographer — hatched a plan. He founded a food rescue organization called Food Forward in 2009 that works to combat food waste by salvaging fruits and vegetables from backyards, orchards, farmers’ markets, and wholesalers before they perish and donating them to hunger-relief agencies in eight Southern California counties.
Two years after Food Forward’s launch, the nonprofit grew so popular that it was inundated with produce. In December 2010, it purchased its first “Fruitmobile,” a cargo van, to help with its rescue efforts, and it later added a “Glean Machine,” a stakebed truck. Even with its growing fleet, Food Forward couldn’t always accommodate the literal tons of produce in need of rescuing. “We had expected to recover a few million pounds of produce,” Nahmias recalled of those early days. “But we ended up with 10, 15 million pounds, and we didn’t have refrigeration.”
The lack of refrigeration meant that Food Forward had to donate all rescued produce within roughly 24 hours, a feat that sometimes proved impossible. The organization found itself turning away fruits and vegetables on occasion for fear that they would perish before delivery.
Today, Food Forward no longer has this problem. The Produce Pit Stop, its new 6,000-square-foot warehouse space in the city of Bell in southeastern Los Angeles, allows it to store up to 200,000 pounds of food at any one time. The facility, which opened last week, marks a sea change for Food Forward. To date, the organization has rescued more than 77 million pounds of produce from across Southern California. But with the Produce Pit Stop, funded largely by a $500,000 grant from CalRecycle’s Food Waste Prevention and Rescue Grant Program, it expects to save 50 percent more produce than it did previously—recovering about 33 million pounds annually by 2020.