As part of April’s Winning on Reducing Food Waste Month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognized Food Forward for its outstanding efforts in food recovery. This is the fourth Food Recovery Challenge award received by the nonprofit organization. Food Forward fights hunger and prevents food waste by rescuing fresh, surplus produce and connecting it to those in need via local hunger relief agencies. These nutritious fresh fruits and vegetables come from over 730 backyards, farms, and orchards; 283 farmers at 24 weekly farmers markets; and over 170 wholesale produce vendors.
“Food Forward is making surplus fresh produce available to people in need,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Mike Stoker. “I’m pleased to recognize this organization’s leaders and the many volunteers and donors who make this possible.”
“Our volunteers stand on the front lines and distribute healthy, nutritious produce to our recipients. They also help prepare the small amount not fit for consumption for compost,” said Rick Nahmias, Food Forward’s Founder and Executive Director. “It’s truly an honor to dig into these unique collaborations and to take this virtuous circle to completion.”
In 2017, Food Forward’s Wholesale Produce Recovery program rescued 17.2 million pounds of perfectly edible fresh fruits and vegetables otherwise destined for landfill, a 25% increase over 2016. This growth allowed the launch of a new model of fruit and vegetable distribution directly to clients – the produce “pop-up.” Food Forward began community-driven produce pop-up distributions in South Los Angeles, Inglewood and Simi Valley, California, once or twice a month in partnership with local agencies (Watts Labor Community Action Committee, Social Justice Learning Institute, and Simi Valley Community Garden).
Over the course of 2017, Food Forward recovered and donated over 300,000 pounds of surplus produce to those in need through this innovative model, free of charge. The organization overcame the challenges of engaging and coordinating hundreds of community volunteers to sort and distribute food in a pop-up setting, transporting 7,000-15,000 pounds of eight different types of fruits and vegetables to each distribution event, and educating their service communities about food rescue.
EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge partners with over 1,000 organizations and businesses to prevent and reduce wasted food. The participants include groups such as grocers, educational institutions, sports and entertainment venues, restaurants and hotels. The program saves money, helps communities reduce hunger, and protects the environment by purchasing less, donating extra food and composting.
In 2017, participants prevented or diverted almost 648,000 tons of food from entering landfills or incinerators, saving participants up to $31.2 million in avoided landfill tipping fees.