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Episode 131: A Community Approach to Food Waste & Recovery (Transcript)

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[00:00:00] Liz Bothwell: Hi everyone, welcome to Waste360's NothingWasted! Podcast. On every episode, we invite the most interesting people in waste recycling and organics to sit down with us and chat candidly about their thoughts, their work, this unique industry and so much more. Thanks for listening and enjoy this episode.

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[00:00:26] Liz: Hi everyone. This is Liz Bothwell from Waste360, and I'm here with Rick Nahmias Founder and CEO of Food Forward. Food Forward started as a grassroots volunteer organization, and it's made massive strides in food recovery in the last 12 years. Hi Rick, and thanks for being on the show today.

[00:00:46] Rick Nahmias: Hi, Liz. Thanks for having me. It's great to be here.

[00:00:48] Liz: Rick, please tell me a little bit about your background, and how you found your way to Food Forward.

[00:00:53] Rick: Sure. It was a complete accident. I had been a photographer doing documentary work, particularly in the niche of bringing the stories of marginalized communities out to the general public, that included everyone from farmworkers, to aging Holocaust survivors, to folks on the margins and spiritual communities.

I also did a lot of work with sustainable ag doing annual reports, and things in between these larger projects. Food became a common denominator for me in the area of art, and politics and where I found my passions really surging in the early 2000. When the Great Recession hit in 2008-2009, I was really coming off of some volunteer work that I do with the Obama campaign, just a straight-ahead volunteer in my community, as well as a Prop 8 campaign, which is marriage equality in California.

I had this bit of-- let's call it volunteer whiplash, where I saw the president that I had worked for, get elected, which was an amazing historic and inspiring moment. I turned around and saw my own marriage, and all applied by some pretty nasty politics and some misinformation, and I felt really done. I felt the need to do something very, very local and something healing, and turn the other cheek in a way that could bring some good.

At the same time, living in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles, which is really an entire collection of subdivisions that used to be commercial or church. I was surrounded by these aging walnut and citrus trees that would drop their fruit and nuts every year, and for the most part, have nobody to collect it, so it became actually an eyesore. As I walked with my dog, as she got older, and started really noticing this was not just fruit, this is really fruit, is the stuff that is worthy of sale.

This is worthy of consumption and starting to see limes actually grow at local food pantries, I put the two and two together, and put an ad on Craigslist if you remember what that was. Got some volunteers and tried out the idea of collecting backyard fruit, and dropping it at a food pantry. I did it once with a person who I had known just a few hours earlier. We did about 85 pounds of tangerines, which for us was like, "Whoa, that was amazing." We are back here again next week, and do it again, and do it again.

Those three weeks between the tangerines, and oranges, it was about 800 pounds of fresh fruit, which would not have made its way anywhere, but to the trash. There was this mitigation of waste, as well as feeding local folks or food insecure, really quality produce that is very hard to come by for most food pantries or food banks. From there, the idea really just spiraled, we found this tribe of volunteers that were incredibly passionate, that we had a lot of fun with, and we formed the second family, within a few months, we're like, "This idea is bigger than we are".

"We need to put a name on it. We need to get a website and get going." Then they're like, "Well, we need a leader", and everyone pointed at me. I was ready after about 10 years or so, of doing the photography work to take a break. I wasn't ready to hang it up yet, but it was a big shift in the photography business around them, as digital canvas came in on our phone, so everyone felt like they were a photographer, and it shifted the whole value proposition around what you shot, who would publish it, and what they would be able and were willing to pay.

I'm like, "All right, let me take a little bit of break. I'm going to put 10, 20 hours a week into this and just let it grow, and get back into photography in a few months." A little bit I know, 12 years later, 200 some odd million pounds of fresh produce at a non-profit with probably about 35 employees, 38 employees now, and on a good year, about 4,000 volunteers, the Food Forward would grow into the organization that it's become.

It's been an amazing journey personally and professionally. It's been amazingly humbling to be able to lead the organization, and also lead it through COVID, which has been a real watershed time for us, which we can talk about, but it was really galvanizing staff volunteers for the advisors, a whole community that gathered around this concept, which has been so amazing.

It's very people-focused, and although we're kind of a B2B model in the sense that Food Forward gathers surplus produce that would go to waste and gets to agencies that take it the last mile. We're still talking about feeding food-insecure communities, and the people that are in those communities, and how do we do it? How do we reach them? There is a very people-focused element to this organization that was at its founding but also still exists today. It's really what drives me every day to keep doing the work.

[00:06:17] Liz: I love that, and it's so obvious that is people-focused in everything that you do. I would love to hear what inspired your passion for really your eye toward environmental justice, and actually humanizing marginalized communities like you have, even when you were doing your photography, because I think that is a gift, and you've really put that into place, and now you're running with it in a big way.

[00:06:42] Rick: Thank you, first of all. I was really lucky in college to get exposed to the work of Edward R. Murrow, who's the godfather of broadcast journalism. As I dug deeper into his life in my 20s and 30s, just reading biographies, and working actually on a writing project about him. I got involved looking at a lot of his work, and one of those things he did in 1965 was a seminal documentary called, Harvest Of Shame, which was about migrant farmworkers at the time.

It was a very controversial piece because it really pulled no punches. It really showed this huge division between us and them, and it really looked at the real work violations and all the issues that migrant farmworkers faced. I was very interested in wondering where were those people today? In 2000, 2002, 2003. Who is harvesting our food? What are they facing in the way of those challenges?

I decided to take a camera and a whole bunch of film and get out in the fields, and visited about 50 farms. Had a bunch of amazingly generous guides along the way, whether they were translators or community organizers or folks that were in the farmworker community make introductions for me and help build trust. What I did is created something called, The Migrant Project. It's a book, still actually available on Amazon.

It's a traveling exhibition, which has been to about 30 different museums across the country, that really tries to show the human cost of feeding America through the eyes and the stories of migrant farmworkers in California. California is -some people may or may not know- responsible for providing upwards of times more than 50% of the produce that our entire continent consumes.

A lot happens in the state. A lot of stuff that we wished was better happens in the state, but I felt that there was a way to look in the eyes of these people who work tirelessly for incredibly low wages, and have a lot of struggles that many of us never even know of, let alone, face ourselves. Maybe people would, a, appreciate the food more that they get and that they would appreciate the people more importantly, throughout in the fields doing this incredibly, important, and at times, very dangerous work.

Through that, I really found food to be an amazing unifier, and also came to really understand what it takes to grow harvest pack, chef food. When I started seeing food waste a few years later as an issue and started really understanding that we as a nation have a pretty shameful problem or 40% of our food going to waste, that doing a small action like harvesting a backyard and getting that really nutritious food to a pantry, that would otherwise either go without it or have to pay for that food. There was a real number of wins here in the early days of Food Forward. We used to say, "It's not a win-win, but it's a win to the fourth".

Homeowners had their trees harvested. Volunteers got this really unique experience, to see a change happen within a few hours due to their own hand. The environment was healthier forward because the food wasn't rotting, but most importantly, people who were food insecure were getting healthy, free, nutritious produce that they most likely would not get otherwise.

I have to say that was the start of it. It was really about tapping the right idea at the right time and we've got a lot of tailwinds behind us. There's no question, the organization would not be where it was without the early volunteers that several are still with us. I saw one yesterday that just cannot wait to get back out on the trees when the citrus season comes in. People like our board members who also, sometimes, folks forget, are volunteers.

Then these different generations of staff, some who were in there with their sleeves rolled up creating software for us in the early days. Those who have iterated our programs and gotten them to the point where we actually replicate them, almost like open source for organizations that come at us for information. But just people that were really interested, in most cases, slipping out of the for-profit space and into the non-profit space to work with an organization that was all about innovation and sharing abundance. Which there's a huge amount of in this country.

[00:11:32] Liz: There really is. I know you've said before you think that having good nutritious food is a basic human right. I think a lot of people agree with you. Do you think there's anything we can do collectively to actually make that happen in our lifetime?

[00:11:47] Rick: It's interesting because this last year we've actually been working with someone to do a white paper on Food Forward's work and understand the concept of health equity. We all went through COVID, then coming out with this new normal and a new understanding of our own health, our community's health, and vulnerabilities. One of the things that those of us at Food Forward really were struck by was the health disparity.

We knew about it before, but it became even more apparent and more galling, I'll say, when you understand that there are Native American reservations without access to freshwater. That there are farmworker communities, people who are toiling six-seven days a week to get us our food, who cannot afford the produce that they themselves are putting their hands on for us. We knew some of this before, but COVID laid it out there in a whole new level.

What we've been doing is trying to connect the dots for people, funders, and donors that are excited about our work. Not just from a fighting hunger or environmental lens, but a health equity lens. So, that they can understand that by us providing a total plant-based diet, we do nothing but fresh produce to these communities completely free of charge that we're helping move the needle for them around issues of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, hypertension.

They are now getting a regular fresh diet that they might've instead of gone to Jack in the Box for a ninety-nine-cent meal in the past. I think getting people to understand that this work that we're doing, particularly rather than just being a regular food bank that might be 20-25% of your diet in produce, we're all produce. Our footprint now is regional. It's no longer just L.A. County and Ventura, but we're in eight counties of California.

We moved to the seven states that are adjacent to us. We've gotten some funding to do additional work in rural and isolated communities. We're piloting, getting more and more produce out to regions, very, very isolated areas, such as the Coachella Valley, the Central Valley of California, and even native lands in Arizona and New Mexico, as far away as Oklahoma.

[00:14:16] Liz: That's amazing. I want to switch gears a little bit because you've been lauded for your business model. Can you talk about that a little bit and why it's so successful?

[00:14:27] Rick: Yes, it's really interesting, Liz. When we started this a lot of people really pushed us to create an earned income model where there was money earned from what we do to fuel the organization. I understood the logic in that for certain organizations, but what we get, we get for free. That's like a starting point. I'm sitting here in a warehouse right now, looking at seven, eight-foot pallets. Hundreds of them that have been donated by small donors, farmers, major corporations have donated this really wonderful produce to us free of charge.

My feeling is if we can raise the money to pay my salary, our drivers, our warehouse folks, our programmers, and so on and so forth, we should be giving it for free. I think there's a really strong anchor in Food Forward's value around sharing and gifting, and not making a dime off this, but making it something that is a model where we can very proudly say we're passing this along. Thus the name Food Forward.

Yes, there are times where we have to tweak the model and there's different relationships. But I'd say for the vast, vast majority of what we do, we get it for free and we give it for free. It doesn't mean we can drive all the produce all over the state without any costs. There are times where we have to do cost-sharing with our partners. But the bottom line is they're paying for transportation or they're paying for overhead. They're not paying for the food itself.

I feel like in this day and age, especially coming out of the crazy years we've just come through, even reaching back beyond COVID, that we, as a civilization, need to open our minds a little more on what do we do for our neighbors and our communities that we may not know the names of, we may not know the faces of, but we're all in this together. Whether you're looking at things around climate change, or you're looking around something as basic need as food and water, we create, we grow so much more than we need to sustain our population. It's a distribution issue. It's not a supply issue.

Food Forward has always come in as a logistics model of philanthropy in a sense. As long as we can pay our bills as a non-profit-- This coming year, we got a big lift. Our budget will be moving up into the five, five and a half million-dollar range, which is no small amount of money to raise. But as long as we have donors, foundations, corporations that understand the wings that Food Forward brings and gets behind us, either with sponsorships, grants, anonymous donations, or any number of partnerships, we can keep doing this.

We moved during COVID from a twenty-five-million-pound organization to what we'll be close to 65 million pounds at the end of this year. Which is extraordinary to me. That's about two and a half times growth. We did it, oddly, through the social imperative of watching all of our food chains buckle and a number of growers looking for an outlet for their product. Whether you're a small farmer or you're a massive corporation growing hundreds or thousands of acres, nobody wants to see their food go to waste. No one wants to plow it under. We offer a really strong value proposition and give people a really professionalized opportunity to make those connections and feel a sense of being part of the solution.

That's one of the things I'm really feel blessed with. I've been the Founder, CEO from the beginning, but the simple equation of what Food Forward does was a gift. It just fell from a tree and hit me on the head, so to speak. I can't take credit for that. It's been a team that's really built and grown this entire enterprise. It wouldn't be going anywhere without the donors who are sending us these amazing bags of apples, these bananas, these [unintelligible 00:18:53], some of the exotic stuff we move.

It's an ecosystem and, quite honestly, above that, it's really a mindset of generosity. I think a time when many of us are very encouraged to look at the me in the equation, this is really about the us in the equation.

[00:19:11] Liz: I think that's a huge part of it. If you could talk a little bit about that ecosystem and those partnerships, how do you keep such active, mutually beneficial relationships going the way you are?

[00:19:23] Rick: I think part of it was when I got into this, I got into it, again, sideways. I wasn't a non-profit person. I didn't come out of business administration. I said to myself, "If I'm going to do this even part-time, I want to be part of a family that I would be proud of being with and working for." That meant it had to be professional and then it had to be accountable. Every time we created a program it wasn't, "Let's just find the cheapest way to do it in the crappiest boxes. Let's actually do something and build ourselves like a for-profit organization".

For example, early on, we forged a relationship with a major paper company that had fruit trees on their campus. In trade for harvesting those trees every year and donating that fruit, they have been extraordinarily generous in creating a branded box. Which I'll make sure we get you a photo of. Those boxes have become like our Andy Warhol Campbell's Soup Cans. They've become our calling card. Whether we're at a farmer's market glean with volunteers or we're out at someone's home, those boxes are where the fruit goes in. It helped build the brand.

I did come to the organization with a understanding of communications, aesthetic, visuals, and branding. It was definitely not formal training, but from my photography work, I understood the value of it. As we built out the logistics model, there was always a skin to this that hopefully, made it fun, colorful, a little bit of rebrand, and hopefully never took itself too seriously.

When we were coming at this, we were coming at it from not, "A glass is half empty" or, "A glass is half full", but a, "Glass is overflowing." Because living in the state, living in California, Los Angeles in particular, where there are an estimated over 1 million free trees just on residences alone, the abundance available for us to feed our neighbors healthy food was just ridiculous. It's like, "How can you not do it?"

What's been really exciting is, we get an intern 12 years after we started, we get a board member this past summer. When they get into this, when they get their hands on the fruit themselves, it's an entirely different experience than the academic of working for a nonprofit. There is a tangibility to Food Forward's work and a simplicity, again, that if we stay out of our own ways and we don't get too caught up in the logistics or the technology, you are moving abundance to a place of need.

A very, very simple act. It's an act that's biblical and it resonates for people, whether you're of faith or not. But you go back to the Bible and the idea of gleaning is something that was in the book of Ruth. It resonates for folks of all faiths. I think it hits a spot where people feel, again, that in a few hours of work, whether they're a board member, a staff member or a volunteer that they can actually see the change they themselves are making. Which is a rare gift in work. Often it takes months or years if you do get to see the change that you're working towards in nonprofit.

[00:22:46] Liz: For sure. You hit the nail on the head there. You had such an eloquent, yet simple way of stating it and that's probably part of your success as well.

[00:22:57] Rick: Thank you. I think part of it is really getting out of the way of a really simple idea. I think we have board members, thankfully, who've been with us from the beginning. We sometimes have to look at each other when we're looking at a $5 million budget. We're like, "This is getting too complex here. How do we bring it back to the basic? How do we make sure that we're not getting off track with something?" Something in nonprofit that's really endemic and challenging is something called mission drift.

We've had a number of people, this happen during the pandemic, and we did pivot a little bit, want us to do things that went beyond fruits and vegetables. And because it was an emergency, it was a national crisis, we had the machinery, we had the logistics channels and we felt an imperative to help at that point. But as soon as we saw things start to settle down a little bit, we stepped away from any dairy. We stepped away from any proteins. There's plenty of organizations that do that and do it well, and actually do it better than we do.

We were there as a backup, but we feel like our team of drivers are not just drivers. They come out of decades of background at the wholesale terminal and in the produce industry. We hired them knowing they're going to bring an ambassadorship, a sense of faith through, but also a deep knowledge of 15 types of peppers that many of us would never know what to do with, and how to find out if they're pressing up and how long they're going to last.

There's some pushing to what we do, but there's also a complexity in sophistication. I think part of the secret sauce is knowing when to hit the gas on one and when to hit the brakes on the other. The other pieces that I'd say in our business model that's rather unique. It's not exclusive to us, but I think it's unique in our region is this high impact volume that we moved. We moved three times as much produce last year than the closest local food bank in an urban area. It was a massive amount. There was high impact there for reaching millions of people. At the same time, the other part of the secret sauce is the high civic engagement.

On a good year, when we're not locked down, we will have four to 5,000 unique volunteers come to the organization. I'm really happy to say that that volunteer engine is starting to rev up again. We're finally finding safe ways, reliable ways, to engage the volunteers that are coming to us. We do corporate events as well, which earn us some money. But, mostly, we dealt, with a semi-retired individual or a mom and a daughter who want to get out on a Sunday and do something together that feels good and benefits other people. Those thousands of volunteers have a deep experience for two or three hours. That, paired with the high impact of the wholesale program, is a really wonderful bifurcation. If we were just one or just the other, we would not be Food Forward.

[00:26:10] Liz: I bet. That makes absolute sense. I wanted to talk about policy a little bit. I see that you're on the L.A Food Policy Council, what work are you doing there? 

[00:26:23] Rick: I'm on the leadership circle, so it's like one degree away from the board itself. We often advise the council on whether they should have a fiscal sponsor or be a nonprofit, certain initiatives or grants that they're looking at going after. But the Food Policy Council was the first one in the United States to my knowledge. It became a model for food policies that have replicated all over the country. Paula Daniels was the founder and she still remains involved. It's a really congenial group of people at a leadership level coming from all sectors, rural, urban, farming, processed foods, wholesale, school feeding. All kinds of areas who really are trying to take what's been a very complex food system in Southern California and make it better.

There's working groups as well, which really embrace the layperson’s passion. So if you're into school food, or you're into food waste, or you're into bringing corner stores up to a higher level of food integrity, you can get involved by just showing up to these meetings. It has avenues for people to get involved in various ways. I think its model is one that, again, is really impressive in the sense of how easy it is and accessible it is. Current initiatives that I'd say that are still front and center for them are these cornerstore conversions so that people get out of going to just chain markets and patronize smaller businesses and are able to walk away with healthier foods that are either made on-premises or made locally.

They keep getting grants for these conversions where they'll do a cosmetic makeover, but they'll also change the layout of the store in collaboration, of course, with the owners to make them more attractive and make them more ergonomic to shoppers and highlight fresher, healthier foods along the way and stuff that is from the L.A food shed. It's coming from within 100-200 miles rather than a package of Oreos. No one's telling them to leave that stuff behind, but it's not the first thing you see when you walk in the door.

[00:28:51] Liz: That's great. Rick, speaking of policy, have the latest laws in California around food waste benefited Food Forward?

[00:29:00] Rick: Yes, I would have to say those were the things that started to move the needle for us in a big way. We've been fortunate enough to receive a few grants from CalRecycle. As those laws come into place, we noticed more donors coming to the table. We noticed more funders making the connection with greenhouse gases and food waste and wanting to get behind that from the financial perspective. But these laws are really the carrot and stick.

When those happen, and there's fines that hit these corporations in the pocketbook, those are really the things that make them listen more than anything else. To be really honest, it's not a plea from the governor. It's not this wanting-to-do-good type of corporate social responsibility things, which can often wither when budgets or profits start to fall. The bottom line is, if they're going to be charged for organic waste in a way that is way more than they had just a few weeks or a few months earlier, they're going to wake up and find a way to mitigate that waste.

And, hopefully, in the process, understand the value proposition that Food Forward brings to the table. When you look at us from an economic engine perspective as a nonprofit, it's a pretty great proposition. For this last year, 2020, budget was three and a half million dollars, more or less. In that, we leveraged over a hundred million dollars in social impact. When you can turn on a company to that, to be part of that equation and to have them offer you produce while it's still viable, knowing that it'll be professionally handled and it'll be gotten to the last mile completely for free, there's really very few reasons to resist that.

We do try to talk to some of these folks who are looking at AB 1383 coming up from the business dollars and cents perspective rather than the philanthropic warm, fuzzy perspective, but happy to throw that in too. Because some of them want to look at where the food goes. Some of them, their produce comes from a certain community and they'd love to know that it goes back to people in need in that community. Really is about assessing each business opportunity as it comes along, trying to find what language they speak and speak to it with authenticity and with accountability.

[00:31:37] Liz: For sure. I know we talked a little bit about COVID and how it has affected your work. I know you mentioned that it doubled the sheer volume, what else did COVID teach you and what is still happening around COVID and food insecurity in the work that you're doing?

[00:31:57] Rick: We saw numbers spike in Los Angeles County from one in nine people being food-insecure pre-COVID to one in four. That's extraordinary. Then we saw it dip a little bit to one in five and one in six in the last few months. Even at one in nine, that's a shameful number. One in four was, without any hyperbole, national crisis. That was really a crisis number and for us to just dip below that now is very, very disconcerting.

When you look at things like rent moratoriums not happening anymore, when you look at still the number of people in the service industry who are losing employment and not returning to the workforce for whatever reason, we are going to see an additional spike in food insecurity. That's very disconcerting. We're keeping our finger on the pulse of all this. We know we are part of a system. We're not the lead dog. We're not a big Foodbank in the sense that we don't have the muscle of feeding America, but we see ourselves as collaborators with these folks and we work really well with them.

Because we're moving such large amounts of produce, we're able to help where they can't. But it's about all of us getting together and doing things in unison. We're not an advocacy organization and we've conscientiously made that choice to stick with programmatic work, but I think we all need to raise our voices when we see and hear policies that denigrate folks living in poverty. Things where food stamps come into play and they're being shortened or they're being curtailed.

We all have, as individuals and as organizations, the imperative to do that. We're not opposed to signing on to statements or letters or whatnot, but it is a whole different type of organization that does lobbying and advocacy. We want to do what we do best and let others do what they do best in that realm. We're there to support them as best we can.

[00:34:21] Liz: Good. I know food waste is such a large contributor to climate change and I know that Food Forward offsets that quite a bit. Do you have any solutions for our listeners or anyone else, ways that we can all consider offsetting this in some way around food waste?

[00:34:39] Rick: I like to bring it back to the individual. Because, again, these laws are great, but the bottom line is we, as individuals, we're the ones that go shopping. We're the ones that buy the food and waste the food more so than virtually anywhere. If we could mitigate step at a consumer level, that would be huge. What I like to say simply is, "Eat with intention." Make that choice consciously that, "Yes, I'm going to buy less of this even though it's on sale. Why? Because it's all I can use. It's all my family can use".

Or, "I'm going to buy it and I'm going to freeze half of it so I can access it later." The idea of just going into a big box store and buying some massive flat of peaches because it's there, then seeing half of them rot on the counter. It's just, where does it get you? It doesn't get anyone anywhere because it's much worse to be wasting it than to be saving the money. I really feel whether it's around people eating less animal protein and being more plant-based, whether it's about food waste in general, is just asking yourself, checking in with yourself as like, "When am I going to eat this? How am I going to eat this? Am I filling up the refrigerator and then going on a week-long vacation?"

It's a very satisfying thing to fill up a market basket or fill up your bags at the farmer's market, but I think it's also really important to understand what part of food waste do you personally play into and what changes can you make. Can you start composting? Can you, again, start buying organics instead of conventional? There's a whole bunch of ways that we, as individuals, can really cumulatively add to the differences, the positive growth and solutions. I think we just have to take the responsibility to do so and not pass it on to some government law or someone else to handle. It's up to us.

[00:36:47] Liz: I think that's great. Personal responsibility is such a big part of this. I think that's great that you mentioned that. Rick, what's next for you and Food Forward? Any expansion plans beyond California at this point?

[00:37:01] Rick: Not at the moment. Right now, because of where we sit, which is the bullseye where more produce flows through than any spot on the continent, we need to grow deeper roots here. Build more relationships. We expanded our warehouse by double last year and created this thing called the Sprout on the backside of the warehouse that is specifically aimed at bringing mixed loads of produce to smaller and mid-size agencies that can't come in the front side with big trucks. That is being dialed in. That was a COVID creation and we decided to keep it, make it permanent.

We're working on getting all of the pieces on that. But the big one is this, is we scaled last year like never expected and never before and, hopefully, never again. It was an imperative and the organization took a new place on the landscape of fighting hunger and food waste. We want to stay there for us to stay there. For us to stay there we have to do a few things. We have to continue with our fundraising, but internally we need to grow into that skin that we've now laid out for ourselves. We have all the muscles, we have all the players, but there are systems. It's like adding another finance person. It's adding someone else in development. It's adding more men and women at the warehouse. It's growing into a new place so that we can own and inhabit what we were gifted with last year. That is what's on the docket for 2022.

I have no doubt there's an opportunity to get more produce, but catching our breath after, honestly, 12 years of double-digit growth is extraordinary and really important. If you want to just look at the scale in our whole first year of backyard harvesting, which was all we did in year one of Food Forward in 2009. We recovered 100,000 pounds of mixed citrus and some other backyard fruit. But 100.000 pounds handpicked, not bad. Today, on a slow day, we do 250,000 pounds.

If you look at that scaling, there's a whole lot of systems. There's things from HR. There's DEI work. There's all kinds of stuff that we need to bring up to the level of our productivity. Again, grow into that place so that we can be here in five, eight, 12 years. It's exciting because we have an amazing team. We've got such talent from whether it's produce or it's business school or it's students coming out of university programs on food and environment. I always feel very, very proud to say, in my opinion, we have the Ivy league of nonprofit here at Food Forward.

There's actually some positions open for anyone that's listening and lives in Southern California and is passionate about this work. We've got some positions, actually, from a leadership level all the way to interns and entry-level work. Also, folks who are interested in donating to us or partnering with us from a financial level go to foodforward.org. You can read up more and reach out to our student website. I'm happy to entertain those conversations too. Because we really do believe that our funders and our corporate partners are vital in our continuation of what important work we do.

[00:40:44] Liz: They are vital. I'm glad you shared that because I'm sure people will want to get in touch. I'm just so happy that you've shared your amazing story of growth and scaling, and how you found the silver lining in the pandemic to help so many more people. Congrats on the work that you're doing and continue to do. Thank you for that.

[00:41:04] Rick: Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you and for the podcast you do, and how you bring all these different angles to the idea of waste where there really is so much to be discovered in what is otherwise discarded.

[00:41:21] Liz: Absolutely right. There's value there. As long as we see it and we find places for it, it will be a resource and not just waste, like you said.

[00:41:30] Rick: Great. Thank you so much. I'll talk to you soon.

[00:41:32] Liz: Okay. Have a great day. Thank you for listening. It would mean the world if you would take a moment to rate or review this podcast. If you share it with us on one of our social networks, we are giving out some fun, NothingWasted Podcast swag. Just tag us and see what you get. Thanks so much.

[music] 

TAGS: Food Waste
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