In Episode 85, Quinn asks: Is there a blueprint for fighting food waste in your city?
Our guest is: Rick Nahmias. As Founder and Executive Director of Food Forward, Rick has spent more than a decade harvesting the bounty of LA’s fresh fruit and vegetables and getting them to the organizations feeding the many, many, many people in Southern California who cannot otherwise afford it.
When you realize just how much food goes to waste in the United States, it’s a little sickening. And when you then consider how many people go hungry every day in the United States, it’s more than a little disheartening.
But the bright side — and, yes, we know that we wouldn’t need to talk about the bright side of every topic if we didn’t exclusively talk about how our world is going to hell — is that, wherever you might live, you can help get food out of the landfill and onto the plates of people who need it.
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Trump’s Book Club:
- The Dalai Lama's Book of Love and Compassion by Dalai Lama
- Spring Melt (April 4th @ The Jim Henson Company Lot): www.foodforward.org/about/spring-melt
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/foodforward
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/foodforwardla
- Twitter: www.twitter.com/foodforwardla
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Quinn: This week's episode is about building a blueprint for fighting food waste in your city. Our guest is Rick Nahmias and he has spent the past decade plus harvesting the bounty, that is Los Angeles' fresh fruits and vegetables and giving it to the organizations, feeding the many, many, many people in Southern California who cannot otherwise afford it.
Quinn: This conversation was very illuminating and I hope it points you in the direction of contributing or working an organizations such as his, wherever you might live to help get some of this food out of land fields, out of your trashcan and into the hands of people who need it. Because there sure is a hell of a lot. So, please enjoy this, it's really awesome and inspiring and can't wait to hear from you about how you feel about it. Let's go talk to Rick.
Quinn: Our guest today is Rick Nahmias and together we're going to find out, kind of try to put together a blueprint on how to wage war on food waste in your city starting with one of the more complicated ones here in Los Angeles. Rick, welcome.
Rick Nahmias: Thank you. Thanks for having me Quinn.
Quinn: For sure. Rick, tell us real quick who you are and what you do?
Rick Nahmias: I am the founder and executive director of a nonprofit in L.A., called Food Forward. And what we do is we recover a surplus produce that would otherwise go to waste and get it to people in need. It's that simple and we also inspire others to do the same. It's a nonprofit that I started about 11 years ago and it was again one of those accidental left turns in life that ended up yielding probably the most rewarding career years and life years I've had on this planet. In the sense of being able to see a very simple action yield huge results and huge benefits for people, with multiple ones across the board and no downside that we could see at this point.
Rick Nahmias: So, it's been a journey personally and professionally that every day I feel grateful for and get to see the benefits in real time which is a rare thing in nonprofit. You know we're waiting years to see the results of something you're doing take effect. This is like get produce, give it to someone who needs it, problem solved. You're dealing and solving two issues with one action. One is fighting hunger and the other one is preventing food waste and green house gases going into the environment.
Quinn: Sure. Well, that's amazing. I mean, the food you're rescuing literally has a shelf life, so you'd better see a pretty quick return on that. Otherwise, it's all going bad.
Rick Nahmias: Absolutely. It not normally has a shelf life but it's also some of the hardest food for agencies that feed the hungry to procure, partly is the perishability, but partly is the price and not having the mechanisms to do it. When I started noodling around at the idea, I'm a bit of a research nerd and I said to myself, "Well, A, I don't want to solve a problem that people are already trying to solve." And what I realized at the time is there were well over 1,000 nonprofits that fed people in L.A. County alone.
Rick Nahmias: But there was not a single agency that was funneling like in a B2B service, fresh produce and fresh produce is really the golden ring. Why? Because it's hard to come by. But it also has a great ability to affect the health of people who are underserved, people who are living on Jack-in-the-box dollar meals. If they can be getting spaghetti, squash, and broccoli and oranges for free, and some assistance on how to use those on a regular basis, you actually can start to see heart disease and all kinds of other things change.
Rick Nahmias: And so what I realized early on is that they were just again, multiple wins in the process because these are agencies that are ... they're boys and girls clubs and they're immigrant organizations. And they're just your basic food pantry and often they are reliant on a USDA type of allotment. And when they get those, they're basically your basics, onions, potatoes, carrots, and maybe a little bit of fruit at the right time. Living in L.A., and I'm virtually an L.A. native. One thing we take for granted here and we don't see is how much fruit and produce grows in our native environment.
Rick Nahmias: You flashback 100 years and even up until the 1940s L.A., was the most productive county in the whole fucking country as far as agriculture. You got to kind of wrap your mind around that. Before they paved over and put up all these street malls, they were citrous orchids, there were avocado orchids, they were walnut orchids. Literally where I live on my home property, we just unfortunately had to take it down, but it was like one of those vintage walnut trees that produced and produced for like 80 years.
Rick Nahmias: And so we take that stuff for granted and again for me the Isaac ... I guess call it the California Isaac Newton moment for me, was walking my neighbor with my dog scout who is getting older and slower. You don't want to rush your dog. You don't want to not have these moments with them, but the walks are much more labored. And so you're like looking around and you're realizing, "Oh, my god, well, this person's got like a loaded tangerine tree and there's no one harvesting it." And you come back three, four days later and there's more tangerines and you start seeing the squirrels are getting them or they're under the tires of a truck that's parked there.
Rick Nahmias: And your like, "You know what, that fruit is going nowhere." And at the same time, what I was seeing on the news was this massive recession that was overtaking the country. It was just like an unavoidable tidal wave of people falling into financial distress. And I literally was seeing about a mile from my house, lines forming at food pantries that were not dissimilar to the great depression. And that like, "Wait a minute, you've got this resource and you've got this need, why don't we connect the two?"
Quinn: Right, it's a two-sided market.
Rick Nahmias: Yeah. And again, so it was like ... I literally put an ad on Craig's List, in the days of Craig's List. And I got about a half dozen replies and one person showed up at my driveway on the dedicated day and we matched over to a Costco, we dumpster-dove for some boxes and then went over to my friend's house about a block and a half away and started harvesting her tangerines.
Rick Nahmias: And it was pretty novel, by the end of that one day, a couple of big things happened. We had almost 100 pounds of citrous. That's a lot more food than I'll ever eat. And it was very beautifully laid out in boxes, so you could really see, "Okay, this is something that can benefit a number of people."
Rick Nahmias: But I think the big thing for me, Quinn was that I got to climb this tree, which was a really great tangerine tree. It didn't have a tree house in it, but it might as well, that's worth these great branches, all these little [inaudible 00:08:59]. And like 15 feet up in the air, I'm doing this harvesting which I was a complete novice at. But I was looking out at the neighbors and the neighbor next to us had grape fruits and the neighbor beyond them, had avocados and then behind us, had lemons. And I'm like, "You know what, this isn't a one-day event, this could actually be bigger than that."
Rick Nahmias: And so it took three weeks to harvest my friend Heather's yard because tangerines were robust and she also had an Navel Orange tree. Those two trees alone yielded 800 pounds of citrus.
Quinn: My god.
Rick Nahmias: And so that's one backyard that would have again, maybe 10% of that would have ended up at a yoga studio or something you know. But the rest of it would have gone to squirrels or rats or just withered and drop. And at the same time when you think about it, as much as I love my nice market and farmer's markets, this food was harvested at 10:00 in the morning on a Saturday and was handed out at 1:00 PM to people in need.
Quinn: That's incredible.
Rick Nahmias: It's like the freshest freaking produce you can get. So was like again another like check that box of why this is a worth-while activity. And I got the sense of being like a 5-year-old again. I was climbing a tree and I was free. I was off my phone, I was out of the office. I was just doing something that was completely ... I can't call it completely selfless because I was getting benefit from it personally. But it was in service of somebody else. It was in service of a greater good.
Rick Nahmias: And so the idea really caught fire and I started posting little events on bulletin boards, like in Starbucks. I asked the pantry which was about there miles from my house if they could send me any volunteers. And it just kind of started rippling out. And we found within about three months that we had a homeowner in Chatsworth, which what was an old farming community. Ironically, it's where people like [Usel Boland 00:10:53] and Desi Arnaz had country homes in the old days.
Rick Nahmias: And so there are these large estates which are now gated and they had many, many fruit trees. And there was one couple there that was really a centric couple that I've stayed in touch with who are big, big fruit donors of ours. Had 200 orange trees.
Quinn: Oh my god.
Rick Nahmias: And they didn't know what the fuck to do with the trees.
Quinn: Sure. Which is fair.
Rick Nahmias: They couldn't harvest them. Everyone loves the visual of that abundance and I want to talk more about that concept because it's really-
Quinn: Yeah, we'll get into that.
Rick Nahmias: ... [crosstalk 00:11:23] this about. But they didn't know what to do when they were overwhelmed with it. So I went over, took a look and I'm like, "You know what, I think I could make a party out of this. If we got the right people and the right equipment and the right sense of this being a celebratory kind of sharing of abundance. This could be something much bigger than just ... And it could be done."
Rick Nahmias: So we did that, we put out notices and lo and behold, we got about 50 people who show up, we added a potluck picnic in the middle of the day. We did a morning session, we had lunch, we did a second session. By the end of the day, we even had a newspaper drop by to document it which was priceless. And we ended up with 5,000 pounds of fresh oranges off this property.
Quinn: Wow. That's amazing.
Rick Nahmias: And that was like to me the big aha moment. It was like three months into doing this, I suddenly had a new core of volunteers, two people who became like co-leaders of what became Food Forward, showed up that day and said, "What can I do? This is amazing idea and I want to be part of it."
Rick Nahmias: And I also got a sense for me personally kind of finding my tribe. I am an out gay man. I had partly done this initial harvesting out of feeling very alienated after the 2008 election where although I was very active on the Obama Campaign and felt wonderful about his election, I got the slap in the face of Prop 8 being voted into existence. And having my marriage nullified in a matter of moments.
Rick Nahmias: So I was really trying to say, "Okay, how do I turn the cheek here? How do I do something good and not get sucked into another cycle of cynicism," which I had carried through the last administration and which fired up my social justice photography which was great. Because it was kind of a muse for that. [crosstalk 00:13:20] was a tension that I needed to react to. But I wanted to do something helpful. I wanted to do something that was community-based and I wanted to carry on the optimism of what I felt would be coming in eight years ahead.
Rick Nahmias: And so it was really a pleasure to find people that wanted to get in a sand box, that wanted to build the sandbox and wanted to hang out and do these harvests. We would take the oranges that feel or that were ripped or broken and go make mimosas after and get blasted.
Rick Nahmias: It was like this new sense of like, "Yeah, we can do good and we can party. We can create new cocktails from this grapefruit that is here." But it was very much about an immediate, unadulterated and really simple equation, take from abundance and give to need and do it with a feeling of gifting. And it was something that was new to me. But the moment it started happening, there was and remains every single day this feeling of being a change agent.
Rick Nahmias: And actually just being a bridge and letting that abundance pass through the organization to where it's needed. And using our expertise to help direct it, to find blind spots, to find organizations that might not have the infrastructure to reach out to us. And I'm really, really proud to say that in our whole first year of volunteer powered, no budget, no money, nothing, we still did about 100,000 pounds of backyard fruit which was pretty staggering.
Quinn: It's pretty awesome man.
Rick Nahmias: And-
Quinn: Listen, I'm excited to dig into all that. I want to talk about how you guys evolved in this crazy city of ours here. I just want to take a quick step back and provide a little context for folks. We've done a couple food waste episodes which is important. Because it's clearly a big nightmare and we'll get into that first. But I just want to do a quick little primer to remind people.
Quinn: Because when people talk about climate change or clean energy or artificial intelligence, all the shit we cover. Sometimes it's understandable how it might not be as far as they think, affecting them on a day-to-day level. But food waste is something that we're all directly interacting with on a day-to-day level. So I just want to do a quick little primer just to remind folks about the scope of what we're dealing with here.
Quinn: Because it is truly massive and it's very complicated and there is some very obvious remedies like you've talked about today, this two-sided market. But there are some issues that aren't so simple. And some of the fixes are repeatable across major cities and countries and localities and some are not.
Quinn: Just a reminder, three ways that we all blow it all the way through the supply chain, agricultural waste on the farm, during the harvest, on people's fruit trees. Number two, at the store or at the restaurant, none of us pick the ugly fruit or we order too much food. And three, at home, we buy too much food and we throw away what we don't eat or is labeled as best by or expired.
Quinn: You've done it, I've done it, we all blow it every day, but we can get better. And some of us are doing that, but it helps to know how to do it. And a reminder, why is food waste all that bad? It's really two reasons, we have enough food for everyone, but because of the waste there is millions of people without access to food. And two, food waste in land fields releases methane which I believe the technical terms is like a clusterfuck. It is very, very bad. You think carbon dioxide is bad, not even close.
Quinn: America wastes about 30 million tones of food every year. It's about a third of our food, when at least estimates say about 15% of our citizens struggle to put food regularly on the table. One in nine Californians struggles for food and correct me on any of these L.A. numbers if I'm off, please. But as far as I could tell, about a million tons of food goes into L.A's land fields every year. It is a complicated county and city. We are plagued by rising homelessness and poverty and general unaffordability. We have the largest number of food insecure people in the country and we are losing ground on the inequality and the homelessness.
Quinn: But we are making some strides in food waste. For instance in 2017, L.A. Times report said LAUSD kids were throwing out about $100,000 or 600 tons of organic waste every day. Then Governor Brown signed a law that said, "School campuses can collect unopened items and untouched fruit and donate them to food banks." That was heresy before that. And there were amazing organizations like you said, there are so many here in town working to feed the hungry and to fight food waste and we're going to get to those. But we do have a long way to go relative to some of these other major cities.
Quinn: San Francisco clearly is not perfect by any stretch, they've got their own issues. They've mandated consumer composting all the way back in 2009. But of course, we're very different cities. But you look around and South Korea has gone from recycling 2% of their food to something like 95%. There's been technological breakthroughs back in Episode 44. I don't know if you've heard of these guys. Have you ever heard of Apeel Sciences?
Rick Nahmias: Yeah. I actually listened to your-
Quinn: Oh, great perfect.
Rick Nahmias: ... interview with their CEO.
Quinn: It just blows your fucking mind.
Rick Nahmias: Yeah, [crosstalk 00:19:03] really great stuff. Yeah. Absolutely.
Quinn: You're just like, "Oh my god, that is such a game changer." Not nearly as immediately effective as clearly what you guys do every single day, but the long-term game for the consumer side of food waste could be huge. And it's going to take technological and governmental and private and civic participation to solve this problem.
Quinn: The good news is like appeal, like talking to you guys who are action focused and that's what we want to talk about today. Which is what a city like Los Angeles is doing with its food and how and where it's wasted? How we're attacking it, many different ways and what more can be done?
Quinn: So I did want to kind of pivot slightly which is, I'm been trying to hone in on a number for the past few days that best encapsulates the work you do week in and week out at Food Forward. And your website says you rescue ... and correct me if I'm wrong, 435,000 pound of fresh food a week. Is that correct?
Rick Nahmias: It's actually higher. It's higher now. And kind of what I had considered the end of the last bit that in our first year we did about 100,000 pounds of produce in the year. We now do about 100,000 pounds a day.
Quinn: Oh my god. That's-
Rick Nahmias: So that's how we've grown and it's not all backyard fruit by any stretch. We've added two other programs, we added a Farmer's Market Recovery Program which at 25 markets every week. We do that with Glean Team Leads that basically anyone can volunteer. They can find them on our website at foodforward.org and basically put in your zip code and find one of those market events and be part of that process which is pretty great. Because it brings you closer to the farmers, that brings you closer to the source and your own neighborhood and the community agencies that need the help as well.
Rick Nahmias: But the big one for us was a game changer about six years ago which was the Wholesale Program. So if I can sketch the picture a little bit, where L.A., was the largest agricultural county, it is now the largest gateway of produce for the entire country and in many cases internationally. More produce flows through the city and county of L.A., in a single day than anywhere else on the entire continent. And it's kind of a crazy thing to imagine.
Rick Nahmias: But imagine, the food is coming up from Mexico, it's coming out of the Central Valley into L.A., it's coming out of the central coast farms, it's coming to our ports, Port Hueneme, and then San Pedro. And a number of other avenues by which it is actually held in the county for then wholesale distribution where it's them blown out by trucks and every other method into every state in the union.
Rick Nahmias: That means that we have this incredible abundance that's held here, but there was no professionalized method of gathering things that again might have a spot on them, might be the wrong shape, might be perfectly fresh, but there's a brand new shipment of bananas right behind it that's even fresher. So we're going to have to dump it.
Rick Nahmias: So Food Forward in its infancy was all about the backyard harvesting and the Farmers Market. But we were getting calls regularly because we are search optimization from tropical food importers at San Pedro that said, "Hey, can you guys use two containers of mangoes?" And I'm like, "What the fuck is a container of mangoes? Sure." And then I find out a container of mangoes is 48,000 pounds or 20 pallets.
Quinn: Is it bigger than a bread box?
Rick Nahmias: Yeah. So we said, "You know what," and by year six, we have this network then, it was a couple of 100 agencies. If I make a few calls and some people can actually mobilize their trucks, we can broker the recovery of this produce without necessarily having to touch it. And what we started doing is we hired a gentleman who had many years experience in wholesale recovery from the charitable side and started building a team and a program which we thought in year one would recover about 300,000 pounds. Just that would have been a success. It ends up recovering 4.1 million pounds in year one.
Quinn: Oh, that's so rad.
Rick Nahmias: And what it said to us is we have this tiger by the tail and we just grabbed and tried to like do as much as we could every year and I kept growing and growing to the point where it's now become the major bulk of what we do.
Rick Nahmias: It's amazing because it's also a very reactive type of program. We get calls and texts starting at 2:00 in the morning literally because we work wholesale produce hours and that's one of our key elements that make the success of the program. The moment we get the text, we have a team of people that begin responding, and begin dispatching trucks out to pick pallets of this produce and then bring it into something that we opened last June called the Produce Pit Stop, which is in the City of Bell in Southeast L.A.
Rick Nahmias: And that's becomes a temporary staging area between let's say two hours or two days. But the produce just lands there. We aggregate it, we figure out which of our many agencies which are now up to 200 direct and 1,600 indirect, so close to 2,000 agencies are fed by us in 9 counties. And so we can direct the container of bananas down to San Diego or five pallets of cranberries up to Santa Barbara and we can actually mix those pallets now, so it's not just a mono-crop.
Rick Nahmias: But if we're sending a big truck out to a distribution, we might be doing in lots, they can have 10 types of produce on that truck. And so we recently opened the Pit Stop, we opened it in mid June of last year. And it's been proving out to be a huge time saver and capacity booster for us. And we continue to raise money to support that program because it is pretty unique, it is basically a giant cross-docking facility that can handle semi-tractor trailers.
Rick Nahmias: But all it is an old decommissioned warehouse with a giant refrigerator in it. And a bunch of pallet jerks and forklifts and a really crackerjack team of guys who now produce inside and out, and wanted to go from the for-profit side into helping people in their community.
Quinn: That's awesome.
Rick Nahmias: And so it's been a really innovative thing for us and it's been a game changer without a doubt. But I guess to come back to it, is what people really need to understand, whether they're listening to this podcast in Milwaukee or in L.A., is the scope of the problem as you said, is something that can be solved. We have plenty of food, we have plenty of caloric value to feed people food, hunger is not a supply problem, it's a distribution problem.
Rick Nahmias: And we are one of those bridges and kind of logistics organizations that just helps move produce to where it's needed. We've retained mostly being a B2B organization, but we do reach out and have some direct distributions called Produce Pickups. Those are also on our website foodforward.org that people can get involved in.
Rick Nahmias: But I think the big thing is that people understand, I think on the macro level that we have a ridiculous amount of waste that happens at all levels. But at the micro level, they by simply eating and buying with intention, and I use that word very heavily. I get teased in my office about that. Because I think the word intention and what you bring to a simple drop into the market. Do I buy the quarter of milk, the half gallon of milk or the gallon of milk because it's cheaper? Buy what you need is what I say and buy what you know you are going to consume. If we all did that and we owned a bit more of the responsibility of not wasting, a huge piece of this problem I believe would be solved.
Rick Nahmias: I think we have this, many of us came from parents who either lived through the depression or some kind of poverty. And again we have this ... they might have had a poverty mentality and I think many of us kind of were raised to have-
Quinn: It's hard to shake that.
Rick Nahmias: ... with Thanksgiving tables. So we now have Thanksgiving tables with 15 dishes on them and 6 people sitting around them. And we're like, "Ah, my god, that was a great meal, but I'm full." And instead of thinking what we can do to mitigate the waste, we feel entitled to it. And I know that's a little there, I can go off on a philosophical tangent which I won't. But I do feel like our country and I think where we're at as a country now is a direct product of this, is our sense of entitlement. Because we can do it, we should do it.
Rick Nahmias: And I just-
Quinn: yeah, no, please.
Rick Nahmias: I don't think that's gotten us down a really good path. And I think by reclaiming some of our personal responsibility around issues like this. We can definitely make some massive changes. Will I say that hunger can be solved by what we do or food banks do alone, absolutely not. I think there's a huge systematic piece around poverty and our entitlement around making a profit no matter what it is, and that no matter what we make, we should have that 60 inch flat screen TV in our house. Because if we can buy it at Walmart for $290, right? I think there's a whole lot of just recaliberization that has to happen.
Rick Nahmias: But I also think systems change in the food space, is a piece of that. And when I was say systems change is, if you wrap your head around the idea that California, Los Angeles, in particular is this holding tank for all this produce. And that there's not either a governmental or professional agency that has any let's say air traffic control about what's coming in when. So that when right now we begin this glut of Mexican grown Roma tomatoes, we will almost definitely sometime in the next month, if it hasn't happened already, get a 911 call from the border of Mexico, of multiple semitrailers of Roma tomatoes.
Rick Nahmias: We're talking probably close to half a million pounds of these things that have been watered, fertilized, harvested, transported, and then packaged, and brought all the way to San Diego only to find out the bottom is dropped out of the Roma tomato market because there's overproduction. And so those Romas are going to be dumped. And so we get a 911 call where we as a ledge-laying nonprofit with very few resources to go rescue this stuff, can either choose to spend thousands of our dollars that really should be going to pay our staff, go to pay a third-party trucker so that that stuff doesn't get dumped into the trash.
Rick Nahmias: And so I can sit here with you for hours and say, "Dissect what's wrong with that." What's wrong with that is there is not a system higher up or a governmental agency that actually looks at markets, and the economics and harvest cycles and the planting of all the agricultural communities within our region to do some coordination or assessment. So that the bottom doesn't drop out of Roma tomatoes.
Quinn: And that's why it's so complicated. It's not just stop throwing away the extra food you buy, that's part. It's don't just start picking ugly fruit. I mean that's part of it. Like, we were saying at the beginning, it is a complicated beast and it requires things like what you guys are doing and attacking it from where Apeel Sciences is attacking it, and on so many different levels. But that's why it's one of these rare things. I mean, it's like a lot of things we're doing with today, it's going to require personal level, B2B stuff, stuff in the agricultural and systems level, it's complicated.
Quinn: I mean, like you said, it has grown to such a point and this is where I was kind of going with the 435,000 pounds a week thing. Are you familiar with the Project Drawdown at all?
Rick Nahmias: Yeah, absolutely. The number three on that is food waste.
Quinn: Number three. And this is when we had a conversation with Catherine Wilkerson, who's amazing. And she's a DrawDown and I've heard a lot about that book. When we talked with her about how educating girls and family planning are number six and number seven on that list. That's nothing to sniff at. I mean, six and seven on the list of issues in opportunities we have, is pretty fucking high. And food waste is number three, it's like when people talk about ... and again, that's not just like world problems that's specific to fighting climate change and reducing emissions.
Quinn: To be number three means we've really fucked it up pretty good. But that also means it's a giant opportunity. And I just want to frame it for people. I talked to like four different people, played with a bunch of different calculators, it seemed like 435,000 pounds a week-ish, is in the realm of carbon emission saved. Is like taking somewhere between 9,000 and 20,000 cars a year off the road. So-
Rick Nahmias: Yeah, it's big stuff.
Quinn: Just to paint a picture for people. And that's one organization in Los Angeles and that is instrumental and we have to keep doing things like that. I'm actually kind of curious. Does your founding of and how it's evolved over the past 11 years and how you attack it now. Does climate change play into your mission? Is that something central to it? Or is your direct day-to-day impact just kind of supersede that?
Rick Nahmias: No. I'm really glad you asked that. It's really funny. I used to have this model when we first started. That it wasn't a win-win Food Forward's benefit, but it was a win to the fourth. The pantries got free produce, volunteers got this unique experience, homeowners got their harvest, trees harvested. And most importantly, people in need got produce. Within months, I realized it wasn't a win to the 4th, but it was a win to the 40th. And the climate change piece was numerous parts of that. Trees are actually healthier when their fruit is removed. It's an energy sack and they start putting that energy back into the tree if the fruit's not harvested.
Quinn: Well, it's the same thing as-
Rick Nahmias: But more importantly-
Quinn: ... any herb in your garden, it will start to grow flowers if you don't actually use the stuff. And then it just, it's pointless. It, putting the energy into that. It's like trim the dead leaves.
Rick Nahmias: So, I started really seeing that there was a number of ... really like I felt real benefits. But ironically, there was not easily accessible statistics or science to say what we were doing would help climate change.
Rick Nahmias: Ironically, a few years into the Obama Administration we started seeing the EPA start putting out things like the Food Recovery Challenge which really again, when the government put something out, or a law gets passed, like California State put a couple of laws around taking organics/food waste out of the garbage stream and they required it to happen, suddenly people wake up.
Rick Nahmias: And I was like, "This is amazing." So when you started seeing metrics. We were fortunate enough to win four EPA Food Recovery Challenge Awards in a row, we're the only nonprofit in the nation to do that. And we did it not for the awards, but the awards really gave us a platform on which to look at ... like a calculator they put together exactly what you're talking about CO2 emissions and the metric tons we were diverting. Where we could then reach out to people and foundations because we are funded by foundations and individuals for the most part. To actually make a case that we are our a climate change solution.
Rick Nahmias: Project Drawdown validated that. But it was really Quinn about six years into our adventure where that information started coming out. And I'd say it's only been in the last two or three years where I'm actually able speak to that with enough certainty and with enough data. That we can really talk about Food Forward's work as a climate change mitigator with serious results. And again, we're one organization, but we're doing what you do for $0.10 a pound, it's ridiculously inexpensive organization to fund for the profit. We're also helping to feed two million people in need which is allover, again, nine counties.
Rick Nahmias: So there's these great wins out of it. But I think we're just scratching the surface of the climate change piece. There is I mean a lot of good data out there. But I feel like it's still a few years behind anything I can grasp onto with authority like I could about eating fruits and vegetables make you a healthier person. Look, from the 1950s we've been saying all kind of things about have your veges every day. So we know that's real.
Rick Nahmias: But I think people are now awoken to how bad and how quickly the decline of the climate situation is happening and a lot of people are grasping at things, this again, in a wonderful way. As an individual you can make change, but as an organization that is 100,000 pounds a day of produce that is not going into land field. Last year it was 26 million pounds organizational wide that was diverted. This year, it will be closer to 30 million. And that's big stuff and that's how you move the needle.
Quinn: Yeah. It's like that's a fucking understatement.
Rick Nahmias: I mean, what's crazy too. And I think, as some one who used to document migrant farm workers in the beginning of my photography career and understanding what goes into industrial agriculture from the water and the soil amendments. And the human labor which is a whole other podcast for us to do. And then to package it and transport it. And all of those resources that then to throw the shit out. How fucking shameful is that?
Quinn: No. It's-
Rick Nahmias: It's just fucking wrong. It's wrong.
Rick Nahmias: So I just-
Quinn: It's so fucked up.
Rick Nahmias: Yeah.
Quinn: But that's how you get to number three on the list. Is like, everyone does it. And we're doing it at every level and we're doing it in so many places and we are as a country very bad with it, I mean with most things. I mean, again, you could have an entire separate conversion. And I'm still trying to find the right way into talking about how fucked recycling is here. Which is China was like, "Yeah, we're not going to do it anymore." And we are like, "Oh my God, we have no way to handle this shit or we don't know what to do with it. And it's a nightmare."
Quinn: And people have no idea. But we're just happy to just keep ordering shit. So, could you tell me kind of briefly what's unique about Los Angeles food waste versus other major cities similar in scope or complexity. We talked about how specific the fresh fruits and vegetables are here, which is always the thing that drives me crazy. I'm originally from the east coast. I've been here for 10 years. I have very complicated feelings about California, it does drive me crazy when people are like, "Oh, California's in another drought."
Quinn: And then it's like, "Well, I wouldn't be so ... have so much fun with it because also you're welcome for all of your fresh fruits and fucking vegetables in July." So we've talked about the fresh fruits and stuff. I mean, again, we've said on this show a thousand times, if you are not from here it's very hard to understand Los Angeles County is actually 88 fucking cities. So, it's not-
Rick Nahmias: Yes.
Quinn: ... just the major says one thing and everything just happens. It's so complicated, but what else from your perspective over the past 11 years has painted a picture of I guess where we're succeeding and where we're having our most difficulties. And I guess, where can that be applied to other places?
Rick Nahmias: Well, again, I'm going to start at the 10,000 foot level, if you look at where we are with people in need, I am going to say that we have a population in Los Angeles County and the contiguous six counties around us, let's just call it Southern California. You have a population of food secure individuals that equals the entire population of New Mexico. I mean, start with that, right? That the economy has "gotten better" and unemployment "is an all-time low," it's bullshit. They're still people that are working three jobs to make ends meet. They're taking two buses to pick up their kids, living out of cars-
Quinn: I mean most [crosstalk 00:39:50]-
Rick Nahmias: Yeah. The basic economy and the basic survival of people has not gotten better. So that's a kind of a fundamental thing I want to just put on the table, set it aside that you cannot ... and I set it to the side that you cannot set it aside. It is a fact by which the need has not decreased for what we do, in fact we are still on a weekly basis getting agencies reaching out to us to say, "Can you help us?"
Rick Nahmias: There is also I think this understanding that can use our food bank system as a dumping ground for non-perishable, often unhealthy cast-offs from a large corporation which then receives a massive tax break for it like dollar for dollar. And you have a situation again in the tax situation where if you are Chipotle and you are donating 100 burritos, you are getting a tax-break for the full retail price of those burritos.
Rick Nahmias: But if you're a farmer, who raise the carrots, or raise the rice, or raise the cilantro that goes into those burritos, you are getting pennies on the dollar for your donation. So the incentivization around the philanthropic helping of this food system inequality is totally out of whack. And there are some people like folks ... I'm trying to remember congresswoman Pingree up in Maine who is doing some really good work around this.
Rick Nahmias: And there's a really great organization called ReFED which has recently formed, and there are, you know, nationwide maybe international, refed.com that really are trying to get into some of the systematic issues of, you know, inequality. But I think we have to understand the deck is stacked in certain ways for pro-corporate donations, which again are not necessarily the healthiest way to get people to eat. And when you get down to things like basic nutritional food that people need, there's not an incentivization for those donations.
Rick Nahmias: So that's a big piece of it. And I feel like we have to look at, as California, at least as a Californian have always led the way on how we look at these systems and it's not just that LA is the microcosm for all this produce, but California on average still is 50% the producer of fruits and vegetables for the rest of the country. If you go to, you know West Virginia, or if you go to Nebraska, half of the produce in those stores has come through the state. So, I think we have not just a responsibility, but we also have the leverage to do some of the systems change work in this innovative thinking. And again, you know-
Quinn: It's almost like how California and the South West in general has so much to learn on water efficiency and water use from some place like Israel, which is like, "Yeah, we have in the drought for 3,000 fucking years, you know. We have had to figure out how to use water." And guess what, the Colorado is like half as high as it used to be, and we're all fighting over water rights. But we need to learn from some of these places and hopefully Southern California can pull our shit together on things like this so that we can provide a example on things like that as well.
Rick Nahmias: I totally agree and I would encourage people listening to this podcast to kind of say, "Well, what can I do at a larger level?" Which to me is educate yourself and support organizations like Food Forward that are making change on a big scale. But also, "What can I do as an individual in my daily life?"
Rick Nahmias: We are not on a drought but I'll tell you why I still keep a bucket next to my shower, and every morning when I'm heating up the water for my shower, which could be a gallon or two or three depending on the day, that water is captured and it goes into my garden. It's funny, even though the drought was officially over a year or two ago, that became a habit that I could not get out of, and I really wince. Like if I'm in a hotel and I can't do that, I actually ... like my body tenses up, and I know it's ridiculous because you just ... you got to let go of it sometimes.
Rick Nahmias: But it became a habit in the way that I have my routine where I knew that I was doing something in my daily ritual that was taking waste and turning it into something [crosstalk 00:44:11] and it's diverting into something positive. And we all can do that.
Quinn: Sure and it is quite literally, and most of the time I and so many other people use literally wrong. It is quite literally a drop in the bucket what you're doing, but it matters to have a foot in the game, and obviously you do that in so many other ways. But those things do matter, and it's also completely insane, I mean, we all just turn on our shower and stare at it waiting for it to warm up. You're like "That's drinking water," like, it's fucking crazy.
Rick Nahmias: Yeah exactly.
Quinn: But that's exactly the shit that we've become entitled to over the past 100 years. So before we get into those specific action things that people can do, I want to talk a little bit about what sort of people have started to work for you. Tell me a little bit about the biggest obstacles your organization continues to run into on a day-to-day basis whether that's central to the food system or specifically what you guys do or just Los Angeles specifically. Because it's not all just grape fruit drinking-mimosa parties. It's got to be pretty hard.
Rick Nahmias: Oh exactly yeah. I got to tell you it's been a long time since I've had a grape fruits drinking-mimosa party, but on that, we actually mimosa have a big one coming up on April 4th.
Rick Nahmias: Just a side note, it's called the Spring Melt and that's our annual fundraiser, I call it our anti-gala because there's no white-table cloths, there's no rubber chicken dinners. It's gourmet grilled cheese and amazing cocktails often made with grape fruit or many other things, but none of the stuff that we harvest because 100% goes to the hungry on that.
Rick Nahmias: But it is a way for people in the LA area to get out, learn about us, support us, it's a really affordable ticket. April 4th in the evening at Henson Studios, it's an opportunity to get inside the Historic Chaplain Stage there which is a great thing. The food is amazing, the spirit is great, and it's a great night out. So that's April 4th, tickets for that are on our website, so-
Quinn: We'll put that in our show note to-do that's supercool.
Rick Nahmias: Great.
Quinn: So yeah, but what's hard? What's the shit that drives you crazy?
Rick Nahmias: Capacity-
Quinn: People or?
Rick Nahmias: No, capacity is kind of this word that's blanket word they use in non-profit, you know, that you get a grant for capacity boosting. And it's very well-meaning, and sometimes it's a year, or two or three-year grant, but it's basically to grow your organization. And look, that's a really healthy thing, but we also as non-profits have this starvation mentality ourselves, where you get a funder, or you get an institution that supports you for a limited amount of time and then that money goes away.
Rick Nahmias: And it goes away in a way that they've made it, so the grant is about building a new program or building new capacity, but what they don't realize ironically is that when that money goes away, you have to spend twice as much energy to support those new people who you are paying to do the work. And so the funding streams for non-profit is still a very dysfunctional thing. And I'd say that we have the ability ... I would think, maybe not at the moment, but overtime to probably double what we do in the way of food rescue. Instead of 25 to 30 million pounds of fresh produce a year, we could probably do 40 to 50.
Rick Nahmias: And I don't say that lightly, we've actually had people study it, we now have the relationships, we now get the calls. We are turning away produce weekly because we can't fit it through our pipeline, why? Because I have a staff of 35, I can't afford to make that a staff of 50 or 60 right now because I don't have the regular income streams. We do fundraising with foundations, we do fundraising with individuals. You yourself are a very great supporter, and I say that not just because you donated once, but you became a monthly donor with us. Which is wonderful because that's like longevity.
Rick Nahmias: That's like the jackpot. And it doesn't matter if someone joins us with 5 bucks or 500 bucks a month, that monthly income streams is something we get to depend on so we can build the capacity. So capacity/fundraising becomes this kind of hamster wheel that those of us in non-profit are constantly running on and trying to figure out a way without getting too co-dependent on anyone source, of how do we diversify the streams, and how do we get the individuals of high net worth, the foundations with deep pockets. Those that have again a systems change desire to see what we are doing grow, and reach more regions within the United States, dig in deep and say, "Okay, here's a five-year grant.
Rick Nahmias: Obviously there will be checks along the way, so you're not going to take that money and, you know, go some place down the rabbit hole with it, totally get that, but that you can give us a runway so that I as the executive director do not have to spend 40%, 50%, 60% of my day raising money, you know?
Quinn: Sure, right.
Rick Nahmias: That's really one of those things, I can be solving problems, I can get into the systems change work, I can hire staff that are just incredible, and not have to feel, "Oh-oh, what happens six months from now when the grant ends," or, you know, X, Y or Z is happening, and I have to worry more about the day-to-day keeping our lights on.
Rick Nahmias: So I do wish that in our cycle we were finding more institutional and foundations, and individuals that really understood that vision. And there are more and more, then as we grow we couldn't get to where we are at as a 3 million-dollar organization. But what's kind of important for people to understand is at a 3 million-dollar organization, we generate a value in produce of close to 50 million dollars.
Rick Nahmias: I mean that's just the fact of, you know a value of a pound of food as feeding America, value is around $1.60, $1.70. So it's an incredibly economical thing. And then you've got this wonderful climate diversion element as well, so I think that again, capacity and fundraising are two of the things that we grapple with the most.
Quinn: It's interesting, in 2008 one of my young cousins was diagnosed with leukemia and I was very close to her, and I struggled with sort of one of the first times in my life going like I feel very helpless in this situation because I'm not a scientist much less like a cancer scientist or doctor or anything like that. How do I help? And I realized, "Oh, I can sweat," you know, like I swum and played baseball in college. This is basically a [chirpa 00:50:48], what's the one thing I can do?
Quinn: So I went and I raised a bunch of money with team in training, with Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. We raised a ton of money, and it seemed very noble at the time, you know, that people could donate online, and it was like, "Oh my God, Quin is doing this thing, and he's running a race, and we can throw money at it. And that's great is very cool." And now 12 years later between politics and ActBlue and GoFundMe and all the different ways the world is on fire. And funding court cases for kids in cages at the borders, and fresh fruit rescue and climate in the ACLU, and ocean ... people were being pulled in institutions and family offices are being pulled in 10,000 different directions every fucking day.
Quinn: And so it is both so much more accessible for people to do that, and easy, which is wonderful. These organizations are being funded, and new organizations exist whether to run for something or swing left or people like you where it used to be like, "What? I got to put a check in the mail?" And now you can put a monthly donation from your phone, it's amazing.
Quinn: But that means it's really hard to get people to focus and to sell them on your story, and so I commend you for what you've been able to do, but I guess I empathize from the fact of working formally with a lot of these folks and advise. I try to contribute to as many as I can where it makes sense, but it's hard. It's hard because there's so much fucking going on, and it's so hard to convince people.
Rick Nahmias: I commend you on the Leukemia fundraiser, I did the AIDS ride the first year from San Francisco to LA.
Quinn: Oh, nice.
Rick Nahmias: And there was something about that which was not ... I wasn't just sending them a check, but I actually got my ass ... It took months and months of training, but I got my ass on a bike. And every mile I rode which was about 500 miles, you feel you own, you understand that situation that much better. And I think doing that kind of double headed thing, that's one of the things also with Food Forward I feel really fortunate about. We are a high-impact organization, so you send us your dollars, you're going to see ridiculously positive benefits.
Rick Nahmias: But you can get out and volunteer with us in a multitude of ways, once or become a leader where once a month we are counting on you to help be an ambassador and do this great work. And so there's a civic engagement, and there's this kind of high impact wholesale stuff which are married really for the first time. And that's one of kind of ... I call it part of our secret source, is individuals can feel that childhood greed that I felt being up in a tree and being five years old harvesting oranges that you know two hours later of feeding a hungry immigrant family or you can actually open and/or you can open your wallet, and we love when people do both.
Quinn: Sure, we'll take whatever, yeah.
Rick Nahmias: I wanted to ask you a question Quin because your investment if you will, into Food Forward this past holiday season was wonderful. It was one of those things that I get those reports every day when I come in, it's like, "Who is this guy and ... " But I'm talking to you for the first time. What made you say, "Hey, I want to invest and support this organization?"
Quinn: You know, that's a great question. My wife and I have worked, we work work very hard at what we do in our day jobs, and we are somewhat fairly for the industry compensated well for it. It's still very high cost of living in Los Angeles, but we feel very lucky and we know we are very lucky to be in Los Angeles, basically upper middle class white people. Which is not the case for most people here by any stretch. And I come from Virginia and my town is fairly well to do in parts, but then in parts isn't. My schools were 16%, 17% African American, and there are so many kids on free lunch dealing with that. And you can just transpose that over to Los Angeles where it's incredible, I mean, it's shocking.
Quinn: Homelessness is growing every year at 18%, we have 6,000 vets on our streets, I mean vets, which is completely insane to me. Our vets should have like ... it should be healthcare, they should sci-fi-level healthcare, whatever they want. But instead we have 6,000 fucking vets on our street on top of everyone else and people always joke, "Oh, well, the homeless people come to California because the weather is nice." It's like, "No, the fucking research puts it out there." 90% of homeless people in Los Angeles became homeless here, became impoverished here, because it is completely unaffordable. And guess what? Then they've got nowhere to fucking go. They're under the over ... leave Los Angeles, they came to leave under the overpass.
Quinn: So, that's all to say, I have tried over the past few years to hone and focus, but also expand where my wife and I are contributing and where we can convince our other friends who are lucky to be in a similar position to contribute. Again, it does feel like you're being pulled in a thousand different directions, but I think finding the things ... and I love data very much. It's not always about the data but finding the people and the organizations that are extremely effective is really key to that.
Quinn: Using resources where you can ... if it fits like Charity Navigator or GiveWell to learn about giving and how it can be effective and what makes sense and to point that on international and national and in your case local levels is very important to me. Because you can't just walk the streets of this town and not doing anything about it, there's nothing that makes me angrier, it is an incredible injustice.
Quinn: So we're lucky to feed our kids healthy lunches everyday. There's a lot of kids in this town that don't have access remotely like that. So, if there's an organization like yours that is literally funneling very effectively fresh fruits and vegetables from trees on Laurel Canyon at 9:00 AM and feeding people at 1:00 PM, it's like, my god why wouldn't you contribute to that? I think of other organizations and there are so many that we won't name, but like Hollywood Food Coalition that are just doing just incredible jobs and you have to do it, it's where you live, like why would you not try to make that better. So that's my rant about why and-
Rick Nahmias: So, that's great. No, I think it's important to get the insight of the folks that support you because again you get solicitations, right and left, I get them and you make choices on how to do it and to me it's always interesting talking to donors. This is actually a conversation I often have on a phone call after we get a new donor to introduce the organization and find out and to do it on a public podcast it's kind of cool, so I appreciate you [crosstalk 00:58:12]-
Quinn: No for sure. And honestly I forgot, but I think also part of the reason was I had asked some friends who are very involved in things and who have either been here longer or have been in touch with what they've been trying to do for longer here about organizations where my own kids can get involved. And I think they're actually still too ... they mentioned, "Oh Food Forward does harvest and things." My kids are actually still too young for it. But they need to be involved and they understand that and we try to get them involved, they have lemonade stands for Alex's Lemonade Stand and they protest and they do what they can. But obviously at a point small children are clearly a liability, but that was something that was apparent to us-
Rick Nahmias: We'll get those, yeah.
Quinn: ... that was something that was apparent to us as well, so.
Rick Nahmias: Great. We will get those fruit monkeys up in the trees as soon as they're [crosstalk 00:59:00]-
Quinn: Oh yeah. They'll be happy to do it. And I want to actually [crosstalk 00:59:03].-
Rick Nahmias: You'd be surprised how many families actually we see, kind of that multi-generational connection where they want their kids to do something. They bring them out either on a school event or a group harvest or just one to-one, and then you're like you look around like, "Where is dad?" Well now dad is up a tree.
Quinn: Yeah, 100%.
Rick Nahmias: I mean he is tossing the grape fruits down for the kids who are cleaning them up and putting them in the box, it's just this wonderful moment where you know again this middle-aged guy who is got two or three kids who are old enough to come to the harvest, but they can't get up in the tree. But dad is found to them a child and becomes like, "I'm going to pick my weight in fruit today."
Rick Nahmias: And I've seen it many times and I love it because there's a sense of discovery and a sense of education. And these kids are getting a first hand knowledge of where their fruit comes from, it grows on a tree and it's not infinite. That tree has a cycle, that tree has needs, that tree has a lifespan. And then they're also understanding that they can carry that box into our truck or onto the truck of the food pantry that's picking it up. And they can have that connection of what we call fruitanthropy, not philanthropy, but fruitanthropy which is the giving of produce for humanitarian need.
Rick Nahmias: And they get to be part of that cycle and I'd find that's something in my own subversive way, if you can sneak that into a kid's mind especially with their parent's approval and their parent beside them and you can do it once or twice or three times, it's going to stick. Because there is a feeling in that, that selflessness, that sense of actually being part of something bigger than yourself, that's pretty priceless. And by no means does Food Forward have a patent on that, but all of the activities we do factor into that and amplify it.
Quinn: Yeah. And it's the organizations that can make that connection, and some are clearly and understandably more difficult than others. It's so effective. I mean again one of the organizations we really love and support is Alex's Lemonade Stand and they do such a good job of saying, "Okay kids might only raise anywhere from 20 to 50 or whatever dollars on their lemonade stand if they're lucky." But they do a good job of kind of showing, "Hey kids, 50 dollars is an hour of research." Whatever it might be and that just helps paint a picture and helps them grasp and understand and deal with a feeling of what they're trying to do.
Quinn: So, I want to dive into these specific action steps here. So, before we get to actually literally how they can volunteer with you or spend their money with you, we talked about how people can use their voice because one of our goals is to shine a light on where we can go as a people. So what would you say are the one, two, three, actionable specific questions we should be asking of our representatives? And it feels like we should be pretty local-focused for this conversation.
Rick Nahmias: Yeah. Well, I'd say California state legislature is a little bit ahead ... not a little bit, they're very much ahead of the curve. And I've had the good fortune ... Food Forward had the good fortune of building relationship with CalRecycle which is Cap and Trade agency that takes the money from Cap and Trade and puts it into granting programs for clean air, clean water.
Rick Nahmias: And guess what? A few years ago they said food waste and organics waste was a big enough issue that needed big buckets of money. If people want to get to their state legislator and say, "Please support continual funding of the food waste grants that are going through our state legislature with money," we've seen two grants come from them that have been game changers, and this is the type of money that we don't see. They are six-figure grants that are multi-year, there's a lot of work to get them and there is a lot of reporting to keep them. But they allow us to take bold initiatives and make them happen like the produce pit stop.
Rick Nahmias: Those types of support .... and again it could be a call, it could be a letter to your state assembly person and just say, "Hey, I heard about the great work that's happening through CalRecycle around food waste, and can you keep those grants happening. Because if they don't see the needle move on that, if they don't get the public support, those grants go away."
Rick Nahmias: And that public money which becomes a good chunk of Food Forward's budget will evaporate, so that's something they can do. I do also think there's an organization that I'm on leadership circle of called the LA Food Policy Council, goodfoodla.org is the website. They have myriad ways in which people interested in food, healthy eating, sustainability and climate change and food waste can get involved. Whether it's actually showing up for working group meetings, volunteering to parts of actions and initiatives, they help convert corner stores into healthier, more dynamic, more community-based establishments.
Rick Nahmias: So the LA Food Policy Council which was one of if not the first food policy council that became the model for national replication, it's still going strong, and I think there is a lot of ways people can get involved with that.
Rick Nahmias: So those are like the two things that come to mind.
Quinn: Okay, that's super helpful. So we've hinted it a little bit and we've talked about it, but what are ways our listeners who are spread around the world, but we've certainly got a healthy number of California and LA folks, but what can they do with their body and their dollar to help your mission?
Rick Nahmias: Well, I would say let's start with the folks who may not be in LA or in LA, but your whole audience could help by making a donation to Food Forward at foodforward.org. We received last year donations from over 40 states, because people understood again that California equation of what happens in California in the food chain affects the entire nation. And our food did reach last year people as far away as Arizona and Las Vegas, and Seattle. Because of surplus that we couldn't absorb in SoCal, we were able to broker to partners up in areas that were in need. So our food gets pretty much all over southern California region but on many occasions it goes well beyond.
Rick Nahmias: So if they want to support us with a financial donation that's great, but if you're in the Southern California region, we have an office in Ventura, which services all the way up to Santa Barbara. We have the SoCal office that basically has events that go from Long Beach in Palos Verdes all the way through the county and beyond.
Rick Nahmias: By signing up at foodforward.org and putting in your zip code, you will find upwards of 200 events every single month that could use your volunteer sweat. And you can come once, or you can actually sign on as a volunteer leader, where once a month we have you leading something in your neighborhood, so you don't have to [shlack 01:05:59] to another part of the county.
Rick Nahmias: And the trainings are happening virtually every month, and you can do stuff harvesting trees. You can do stuff at our farmer's market program. You can do stuff as a community ambassador, you can do stuff at our Spring Melt again which is coming up April 4th. But volunteering has many shapes and sizes and ages. We have a wonderful need for folks who are just newly retired. We understand there's this great energy, wisdom, and passion that comes with folks who are newly retired. So if you're kind of like winding down from a job and wondering what you're going to do, hit foodforward.org, and you're going to find a multitude of ways to help.
Rick Nahmias: But I would say from a financial level too, let's say you run a small company or corporation, and you want to be part of a sustainable solution, we do team building events where you can bring out 10 to 50 people. And for a modest donation you can get them engaged for a half a day in doing really cool stuff that they literally feel part of the solution. But you could also sponsor our Spring Melt at any level of $1,000 on up and get the notoriety and get tickets to the event and really start to be part of the Food Forward community. So sponsorship with that Melt is a great way to get your company out there and be seen.
Rick Nahmias: So those are just a handful of ways, but our website, we've won awards for website. We get a lot of kudos for it, it's really easy to maneuver. It has very strong social channels, and by following us on Facebook, and Instagram and Twitter, you can also be getting a lot of information on what's the latest and greatest, and some yeah, of the troubling news. Like, "There's a citrus quarantine here," or, "There is drought there." We actually feel it's our responsibility to get good and bad news out to our community at large. So we use our social channels really robustly as well.
Quinn: Awesome. Well that's all super helpful and we will of course put all of that in our show notes for folks. Can't thank you enough for your time today and everything you do, I just want to take you through our last ... Brian has told me I'm not legally allowed to call it to lightening round. But last few questions here real quick. When was the first time in your life when you realized you have the power of change or the power to something meaningful?
Rick Nahmias: Oh that's a good one and I will flash back to sixth grade. We had a teacher who had spent close to a semester breaking some ground, and this was ... okay, I'm going to date myself. This was in the mid '70s and she was teaching about MLK and about civil disobedience. And me and my buddies, we were rebel rousers, we were not like bad kids, we're smart kids of high intelligence, we used to think we were. But we also questioned authority from the word, "Go." And this woman in effect indirectly encouraged that.
Rick Nahmias: So when we were doing ... I don't know if you ever took part in collecting or trading racing stickers from these really cool ... they're really colorful stickers that would ... you'd ride away to a stock car manufacture and they'd send you these stickers and whoever got the coolest ones, you'd be glad on [crosstalk 01:09:09] and trade them.
Quinn: I'd was more baseball cards and magic cards, but I'll take it.
Rick Nahmias: Yeah, so it was of the same [inaudible 01:09:14]. We traded racing stickers and somehow [inaudible 01:09:18] came down from high up at the school, but that was no longer allowed, and we lost our shit. And basically what we did is five of us had a sit-down strike in the principal's office in demand of our stickers being returned first, because they confiscated them, and then for rules to be changed.
Rick Nahmias: The sit-down strike did not end well on our behalf. We basically got these incredibly angry calls from our parents that scared the shit out of us, and we ducktail and left that sit-down strike of about five hours. But it was a stake in the ground. And I'll tell you one of my buddies from that went on to be an amazing attorney who now does legal defense for earth Justice. He just argued his first supreme court case this year. I have gone on to Food Forward and other rebellious activities. But it basically gave us the sense of questioning authority and the power of saying no when we felt there was an injustice thing done.
Quinn: I love it. Well you know going from playing cards to feeding millions of people fresh grape fruit works for me, we will take it. Hey, who is someone in your life that has positively impacted your work in the past six months?
Rick Nahmias: There is a gentlemen. So my past life was a documentary photographer. And in addition to doing my own project, I was often hired to profile or do reports or work for other non-profits. And I came across a lot of heroes and a lot of really interesting people. And one of them who is still fighting a great fight is named Micheal O'Gorman. And he runs the Farmer Vet Coalition, and what he has done for well over a decade is as a former farmer, he used to do a lot of work with Del Cabo which is a really great large farming operation that works in SoCal and Mexico. They're actually a big donor of ours.
Rick Nahmias: But before we knew Del Cabo I knew Michael. And I got to spend a few days with him watching him take vets who were coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq, and unlock their potential to be farmers and deep contributors to our society in a way that was so metaphoric and so symbolic and so beautiful. And he did this on a shoe string, he did it with no money. And then he slowly built this non-profit into now what is now a national organization. And he remains a model for someone who can do and who has vision.
Quinn: That's pretty awesome, thank you for calling him out. Last two super quick, what do you do when you feel overwhelmed, what's your self-care?
Rick Nahmias: Oh boy, I'm a burner. I go to Burning Man every year. And so there's a number of activities that has kind of brought to me, is I have found great solace in going dancing with friends at oddest hours, oddest places, and all kinds of different ways of approaching life through that activity. So dancing is actually something that's big.
Rick Nahmias: I also about five years ago picked up a steel guitar. I'd never played an instrument in my life, I'm not sure if you're familiar with a steel guitar, but it's yeah that great instrument that you'd hear basically accompany Hank Williams on every song he ever made. And that to me holds a certain place in Americana that's really quite melodic. And I'm dyslexic, so playing a regular guitar and not seeing a fret board has always been a struggle, so I've never done that. But I've picked up steel guitar about four or five years ago, I'm not very good at it, but it is a regular weekly ... actually about an hour ago before I started this interview I was playing. And it's just something that kind of grounds me, it gets me out of my intellectual mind and it's purely about sound, touch and being in the moment.
Quinn: Awesome, I love it. We've had all kinds of responses on that from forced-bathing to video games to ice cream and alcohol and we'll take the steel guitar that, works.
Rick Nahmias: Yeah.
Quinn: Last one. If you could Amazon Prime one book to Donald Trump, what would that book be?
Rick Nahmias: I don't know the title of it, but there is a book I believe Dalai Lama wrote on empathy. And I think I ... enclosing everything about what I aspire to do as a person and what Food Forward is about is about empathy. And if there could be a kernel of empathy injected into that regime, that could take root, to me that would be an amazing thing. It has been such a challenging time to watch action after action that reflects none of that, that to me, that would be the piece that I would send over the [inaudible 01:14:25].
Quinn: I love it. Empathy can move mountains. It is instrumental as we are going forward. Awesome, well we will figure out what that book is and we will throw in the show notes as well. Rick, can't thank you enough for your time today. Where are the technicals of where our listeners can find you guys online?
Rick Nahmias: We are @foodforward.org, we are @foodforwardla on Twitter. We are @Food Forward on Facebook. And all the information about volunteering, donating, sponsoring whatnot is right there. We try to keep it simple, one-stop shopping. And yeah, I can be reached through the website as well. My email is up there under our team, if anyone had any questions or wants to get in touch. And we so appreciate what you guys are doing with this podcast. I am I have to say a new convert, but what I've been able to listen to this week, I'm flattered to have been given the opportunity to be kind of a guest on it, so thank you so much.
Quinn: Well, you say that now, give it time.
Rick Nahmias: Wait till I hear the edited version of this, right?
Quinn: Yeah, it's going to be monstrosity.
Rick Nahmias: Yeah.
Quinn: Well, listen we already have to like fake Brian in here somehow. Rick thank you so much and to everyone at your organization for what you guys are doing. Excited to get out there with you guys in person. And yeah, that's it we will follow up and we'll talk to you to you soon.
Rick Nahmias: Great, thank you so much Quinn, I appreciate the opportunity.
Quinn: Thanks to our incredible guest today and thanks to all of you for tuning in. We hope this episode has made your commute for awesome workout or dish-washing or fucking dog-walking late at night that much more pleasant. As a reminder, please subscribe to our free email newsletter at importantnotimportant.com, it is all the news most vital to our survival as a species.
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Quinn: Just so weird.
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Quinn: Thanks to the very awesome Tim Blane for our jamming music, to all of you for listening and finally most importantly to our moms for making us. Have a great day.
Speaker 3: Thanks guys.