Food Waste Prevention and Rescue Grants: Food Forward’s Wholesale Produce Market Recovery Program Expansion, Southern California

worker inspecting and sorting rescued potatoes

worker inspecting and sorting rescued potatoes

Food Forward, which recovers produce and makes it available to hunger relief agencies in eight southern California counties, is expanding its Wholesale Produce Market Recovery Program. With the help of California Climate Investments, Food Forward will open a new “Produce Depot” near the wholesale produce market in downtown Los Angeles and double its food recovery capacity. In addition to fighting food insecurity in southern California, the project will benefit disadvantaged communities and the environment by supporting jobs and combating climate change.

Hunger is a big issue in Los Angeles and the surrounding counties that Food Forward serves. There are more than 1.2 million people facing food insecurity in Los Angeles alone. Unfortunately, much of the food grown in California is wasted during the distribution process, where ugly or overripe produce is grown and picked but not sellable to grocery stores.

Since 2014, Food Forward has been recovering excess fresh produce from the wholesale produce market in downtown Los Angeles and delivering it to large-scale agencies that distribute food to those in need. With the aid of a $500,000 California Climate Investments grant, the Produce Depot will help increase capacity to recover an estimated 15,220 tons of edible produce for disadvantaged communities. The new hub will enable Food Forward to collect, store, and distribute produce to hunger relief agencies from a central location, including a new walk-in refrigerator that will enable a larger time frame for pickup. The grant will also enable Food Forward to hire new staff and purchase new box trucks to increase collection capacity.

Food Forward’s programs are also helping California combat climate change, which disproportionately impacts low-income and minority communities. Much of the state’s excess produce is sent directly to landfills, where it decomposes anaerobically and emits methane gas, a superpollutant 25 times more powerful than CO2 over a 100-year horizon. By diverting 15,220 tons of food waste from landfills, Food Forward is preventing the release of 25,841 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere. That’s like taking 5,486 cars off the road.

Food Forward’s Produce Depot project will serve more than 1,800 hunger relief agencies and become a new model for regional, large-scale rescue and distribution of fresh produce, creating a profound, positive impact on the environment and health of southern Californians in need.