Q&A with Laura Jellum; Volunteer Manager at Food Forward

Q: Where are you currently working and how long have you been managing volunteers?

A: I have been the Volunteer Manager at Food Forward since March 2014. Food Forward recovers fresh produce from backyard fruit trees, farmers markets and LA’s downtown wholesale produce market. 100% of the produce we collect (9 million pounds to date!) is donated to local hunger relief agencies. We host 100 – 150 volunteer powered events per month, which are staffed, on average, by 300 – 400 volunteers. I ensure that those events are staffed, and also oversee our outreach, social media, group engagement, office volunteers and anything else that comes across my plate!

Q: How were you introduced to DOVIA-LA and what do you enjoy about the group?

A: I honestly think I googled Los Angeles + volunteer management to see if there were any professional groups I could be a part of! As someone new to the field, I was eager to meet other Volunteer Managers in the area, learn about best practices and hear about the experiences of others. I’ve loved being a part of DOVIA because the group is incredibly welcoming and generous in their insight, advice and support. I also appreciate the diverse roster of non-profits involved!

Q: What’s a memorable volunteer story?

A: I am blown away on a daily basis by how committed and passionate the Food Forward volunteers are. As a small staff of 12, there is no way we could accomplish all we do without our Super Volunteers leading up to 25 produce recovery events per week. They are out at 15 farmers markets per week, driving our vehicles to properties to pick fruit, supervising other volunteers and representing us at community events. Working with the volunteers and hearing about the enthusiasm they have for what we do is just awesome. They come to us for so many different reasons – to fight food insecurity in the community, to support local hunger relief agencies, to address food waste, to be outdoors, to meet people – which, in turn, motivates us as a staff to do even more!

Q: Do you have any tips for volunteer managers?

A: Do your best.

Q: Do you have any hobbies that help you maintain work/life balance?

A: I do a lot of hiking and cooking. I also love wandering around Los Angeles, eating at delicious restaurants and binging on the occasional TV show.