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Check Out Natalie Flores’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Natalie Flores.

Hi Natalie, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
I am the founder of Nourish.LA, a nonprofit organization aiming to reduce food waste, help get it to those that need it AND ENCOURAGING more local food production as means to bring health and wellness into neighborhoods that would otherwise not have access to organic produce. I founded Nourish during after seeing countless parents asking for help with groceries and food in our community and got to work. We have now been operating for an entire year and have casted a huge net around the city to help prevent food from going to waste and get it to neighbors that really need it and our lines have not gotten any smaller.

My background is in Urban Farming, Waste Management and Community Engagement – I just put my skills together and found a way to serve my community by working with my community. Every week over 40 volunteers help us take on the task of feeding roughly around 3000 people, we pick up food from various locations, sort it, organize it, compost the scraps, deliver it and then do it all over again. I, of course, can not have done this myself, at the very beginning we were doing this out of my alleyway in Mar Vista, but after running out of food very quickly and spaces to store it, I had to call for help. I did what I do best… I reached out to my community. First person I called was a good friend of mine and old boss Demetrios Mavromichalis to see what he was doing with his closed restaurants… unfortunately he had to lay off 70 of his employees but had a walk in refrigerator and a parking space for drive ups, so we joined forces and grew… very very quickly. The first food drive we did at The WOOD Cafe was just to provide groceries for his ex-employees, in 30 min the food was gone. We used social media as a way to get donations and figure out what folks were doing with excess food (farmers, neighbors with fruit trees) and our operation just kept growing and growing. Week after week, his family and our friends and neighbors would make bags of groceries to help provide a little relief during this extremely crazy time. We couldn’t stop!

Now that folks know where to get access healthy food our lines are full and so is our volunteer list. We raise money through gofundme, flower drives and are having our very first benefit show to help raise money for a van (to haul food). We have the most incredible heart-centered, loyal and dedicated volunteers and every week come Sunday, it’s like going to church, our hearts are full knowing our neighbors have access to incredibly nourishing food items and they don’t need to worry too much about not having enough food for their families. Our Wood hub site got so large that we had to expand, we partnered with St. Marks church as well and now they operate in Venice every Saturday which helps to get folks in that part of town healthy food as well.

We know there’s abundance in every pocket of this city, but with that comes a lot of WASTE, we need to look at the waste as a resource and figure out how to best implement systems that encourage community, health, jobs and education around this precious resource we call food. There’s enough food to feed the hungry, what there isn’t enough of are people whiling to do the work. We’re here to change this.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
With any new project, there are struggles. Some of our biggest challenges are getting folks in other neighborhoods to create these systems, in order to feed the masses we need to localize our food economy and see the value in partnering up to help neighbors be healthy. We also need large funding, this project has a lot of potentials to create jobs and we need teams to help us make this even more fruitful.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I got into farming as a means to get to know my neighbors. 12 years ago, I joined transition mar vista and started doing good karma garden projects. We would show up to a neighbors house and rip out their front yard and install food, I got to meet new folks and learn the value of growing food, It brought me the best friends and helped to give my life a lot more meaning in a city that always felt very busy.

What makes you happy?
Neighbors helping each other makes me happy. There’s something to be said about serving from a grateful heart… it’s contagious and it’s also our purpose in so many ways. I’m into simple things and to me food helps us get there a lot quicker. Who doesn’t love a good meal or good company.

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Image Credits:

@onegratefulmama Bree Lazalde

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