A closer look: Food Finders

The Signal Tribune’s feature series on local nonprofits

Tens of thousands of pounds of perfectly good, edible food is discarded across Long Beach each year. Instead of letting that food go to waste, Food Finders food bank in Lakewood organizes pick-ups and prepares and organizes this food to be distributed to shelters, schools and other locations which cater to people in need.

Established in 1989, Food Finders Inc. was inspired by the mass amounts of food going to waste each day across the city. Founder Arlene Mercer formed connections with local vendors and shelters to provide fresh, nutritional and wholesome food to disadvantaged families and children, the homeless and the elderly.

Food Finders partners with close to 400 restaurants, caterers, fresh produce vendors, bakeries, hotels and grocery stores across Los Angeles and Orange counties to deliver the food to other non-profit food
banks. Food Finders will also come to private residences and collect unwanted produce from donors’
backyards.

“We’re basically a food rescue organization,” said Patti Larson, the executive director at Food Finders
Inc. “We are getting donated food…and everyone that has food overages, and the food is still good food we then take it out directly to pantries, agencies and shelters throughout L.A. and Orange County.”

Food Finders has grown from a “kitchen-table business,” the company website states, to a multi-regional foodbank with eight employees and over 300 volunteers, and it also has rescued over 13 million pounds of food.

Rather than collecting and donating non-perishable food items, Food Finders is committed to providing fresh food and meals to the needy.

Among the meals that are donated are fresh produce from the downtown L.A. produce mart and other grocers, as well as meat, dairy products and bread.

“Sometimes we get non-perishable items but primarily what we pick up day to day is stuff that can still be served or eaten, but might have an expiration date or sell by date in the next few days,” Larson said.

Food Finders aims to add more food donors each year so that it can serve more pantries or serve pantries more often so that it can serve more meals each week.

“We add donors all the time…we get new people every year that want to start to donate,” she said.

Those interested in donating food items or volunteering can contact Diana Lara, the vice president of operations, at (562) 498-3003 or via email at dlara@foodfinders.org . Food Finders is located at 3744 N. Industry Ave., Ste 401 in Lakewood, and the office phone number is (562) 283-1400.

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