Ever wondered what happens to fresh produce that’s left over each week at farmers markets across Santa Monica?
While it may be simple to dispose of unsold produce in dumpsters, the local farmers markets thankfully do not take the easy way out.
Rather, most are partnered with various organizations to ensure that the unsold and unconsumed fresh produce goes to agencies that help people in need.
For the City of Santa Monica, which holds a handful of farmers markets throughout the week, the surplus produce from the Wednesday (Arizona Ave.) and Sunday (Main St.) markets are taken care of through a partnership with Food Forward, a market recovery non-profit organization.
Food Forward collects produce at 11 markets in Los Angeles each week that on average glean about 25,000 pounds of fresh free produce per month.
Laura Avery, the Santa Monica farmers market program supervisor as well as the Wednesday market manager, helped develop the relationships between Food Forward and Santa Monica’s farmers markets.
She said she continues to be very supportive of Food Forward’s initiatives.
Food Forward originated as a volunteer-run backyard harvesting organization and has always fostered an expertise in appropriately placing surplus food where it is most needed.
The organization’s mission is to distribute locally grown food from public spaces and private homes and help feed the region’s most vulnerable population, all the while raising awareness of sustainability and food justice.
Managed by Leah Boyer, the Farmers Market Recovery Program was founded in 2012, with its first farmers market gleaning in Santa Monica taking place in June of that year.
That first day, 1,313 pounds of leftover produce were collected and received by the St. Joseph’s Center in Venice and the CLARE Foundation in Santa Monica, which are both agencies that still pick up or receive distribution of surplus produce from the Santa Monica markets today.
Step Up on Second (located on 2nd St. in Santa Monica) has also been added to the list of receiving agencies. Over the past two years, 104,839 pounds of produce have been collected at the Wednesday Santa Monica farmers market.
Avery mentioned that surplus produce from the Santa Monica markets also goes toward other causes, including a high school in Pasadena where market boxes are assembled by special-needs students and sold to local clients and teachers.
Food Forward utilizes its own boxes and other equipment, weighs all received donations, provides vendors with tax receipts, and welcomes produce from all farmers who are interested in participating.
Food Forward is also looking for lead volunteers to assist in maintaining this worthy cause. There are a number of ways to get involved, including serving as a farmers market gleaner.
For more information, visit foodforward.org.
• The Wednesday Santa Monica farmers market is located on Arizona Ave. between 4th St. and Ocean Ave. and takes place from 8:30 am and 1:30 pm. The Sunday Santa Monica Farmers’ Market is located at 2640 Main St. and takes place from 9:30 am to 1 pm.