Sunday, March 08, 2009

The Big Pick: Benefitting Jewish Family Service/SOVA Food Pantries

So what do you do if you have over 400 trees full of ripe oranges and want to donate to a local food bank. Russ Lyon of Chatsworth had this problem and asked Rick Nahmias, a social documentarian film-maker focusing on food and agriculture, for ideas. The two of them realized that SOVA, a program of Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles, that operates major food pantries in Los Angeles could easily distribute the oranges once picked. Rick realized this called for a ready group of volunteers so he reached out to Slow Food-LA, as a social action project. Thus, on Sunday, March 8, more than 60 people showed up on short notice for either a morning or afternoon shift, or both to pick Valenica oranges in the San Fernando Valley. Many more offered their services, but only so many could be brought into this gated Chatsworth community. By noon almost 2 tons of oranges had been picked and loaded onto the JFS SOVA truck. It was expected that over 4 tons of oranges would be picked by 4 pm. This event caught the attention of ABC TV Los Angeles, the Daily News, and Caitlan Carroll with National Public Radio's Marketplace which will be aired this week. Here is a link to the Big Pick pictures I took during the morning before I headed out to catch the Sunday Studio City Farmer Market to support our local farmers before it closed.

An event like this is of major importance to SOVA and JFSLA in time of rising unemployment, decreasing funding for social service programs, and economic uncertainty for those who support social service organizations. The 4 tons of food collected today will be given out by SOVA over the next 10 days. SOVA operates three food pantries for those in need to get groceries. JFSLA is the oldest social service agency dating back to the 1850's and serves everyone who needs help. Both SOVA and Slow Food-LA hope to do this again with others who don't have a way to harvest their trees or produce and are looking for an outlet for their produce. As an individual who just has a fruit tree in their backyard, LA food pantries will always accept such donations.

If you would like to provide monetary assistance to help JFSLA and SOVA feed those in need, then one can give to JFSLA/SOVA online here.


melissa said...

What a great event! I am sorry I was not able to attend, but posted a link on my food blog:

alce said...

I just posted a comment on the Daily Dish blog, which is where I read about this, but I hope you will make a regular occurrence if this. My group in San Jose, Village Harvest, goes out twice a week to glean backyard (mainly) citrus in the winter and stone fruit and apples from small orchards in the summer and fall. Last year we picked more than 120,000 lbs of fruit, which we distributed to various local hunger relief agencies. Just this morning, we hit five houses and harvested just over 1,000 lbs of oranges. Once you start noticing neglected fruit trees, you see them everywhere you look.

Our website is and I know there's another group down in LA called Fallen Fruit, which have mapped out publicly-accessible fruit trees and leads walks to glean them.

Diana Foss
in San Jose

Curt Gibbs said...

Rick Nahmias, who really spearheaded this whole initiative, and is calling this effort "Food Forward" was quoted in the LA Times Daily Dish Blog on this project. The LA Times blog uses one of the pictures in the referenced flickr set above. The LA Times blog posting and ExperienceLA picture is at:

Rick Nahmias and SOVA look to do more of these fruit picking events; you can contact SOVA at(818) 988-7682.

LA Farm Girl said...


This is awesome! I have been trying to create a similar effort in my area, the South Bay, Torrance/Redondo/Palos Verdes etc.

I would love to hear more about it!

Judi aka LA Farm Girl

Rick Nahmias said...

Hi Curtis-

Thanks for the very generous coverage and for being there last Sunday.

People who are interested in learning more about the group, having us pick their trees, or set up a group in their own community can visit our soon be constructed website

In the meantime people can email me at :


Rick Nahmias

Rick Nahmias said...
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