CSUN’s Institute for Sustainability and Food Forward partnered to hold “Big Pick #7,” an event where oranges from Orange Grove were collected and donated to local shelters and pantries.
Food Forward’s mission statement is to fight urban hunger, stop food waste and build community. The organization is fully run by volunteers and they give away 100 percent of the fruit harvested.
One outreach volunteer, Wendy Lockwood, heard about Food Forward through a food organization in Italy, Slow Food, which also has a chapter in Los Angeles.
“I am a big proponent of real food and the conviviality of food as opposed to fast food and junk food and snacks,” Lockwood said. “I also love the sense of community that Food Forward has encouraged.”
Lockwood contacted Food Forward and she wrote to the organization expressing her deep interest in helping out in any way she could.
Rick Nahmias, the head of the organization, personally wrote back to her giving her information about their mission and their upcoming events. She was surprised by that and immediately started volunteering for them.
She was passionate about this new role and she joined a volunteer group, Can It, to help raise more money for the various organizations that Food Forward partners with.
Erica Kenner is another volunteer and she is in charge of community outreach.
CSUN Hillel, the Jewish campus club, first contacted Kenner about coordinating events to harvest fruit from the on-campus orange grove but later discovered the Institute for Sustainability had similar goals in mind.
Kenner and Sarah Erickson, the administrative analyst for the Institute for Sustainability, began encouraging people to come out during the “Big Picks” to help out the community and various pantries.
Kenner said that when the organization first started in January 2009 she heard the harvests were slow to start but by the time she joined, the homeowners, colleges and other locations were constantly contacting them.
CSUN is one of the campuses that they consistently visit because of such an abundance of uneaten fruit, Kenner said.
“It’s been about a year since I first started coordinating events with Food Forward and we are looking forward to holding more events with them and doing more outreach with CSUN students,” Erickson said.
Many of the people that spent their time picking oranges were enthusiastic about it.
David Lasher, a Senior Management Analyst in Moorpark, became involved because of his past experiences.
“During work one day, I saw a piece of public property that had hundreds of trees with fresh fruit that nobody was picking,” Lasher said. “It was just left alone with nobody doing a thing.”
After witnessing the food go to waste, he said he decided to join volunteering events with groups such as Food Forward to make sure it would not happen again. Lasher said he has gotten the city of Moorpark to partner with Food Forward to scout locations where they can harvest food to donate.
Another volunteers was Randi-Lee Keffer, CSUN deaf studies major, were happy to lend a helping hand and personify the typical enthusiastic volunteer that was present at the “Big Pick.”
“I joined because I’ve always wanted to go out to the countryside to pick fruits such as apples so I felt that this was a great opportunity for me and at the same time, it was for a great cause,” Keffer said. “When I was younger, I used to volunteer at the Union Rescue Mission in Los Angeles and I believe it helps me appreciate what I have in my life and it gives me a chance to pay it forward.”