KCET’s Regional Historical Documentary LA FOODWAYS
By: Judy Shields
Photos The Hollywood Times
Los Angeles, California (The Hollywood Times) 2/5/2019 – “My hope is that you can watch a film like this and look at LA in a different way. To step back and look at it as a garden paradise and then realize that the miracle of LA is the 12-month growing season and the incredible ground that is here. We have the opportunity to reconnect with the earth and with the ground and remember that our food comes out of the ground and not the supermarket. It’s a wonderful thing to remember. ” Raphael Sbarge, Executive Producer of LA Foodways told The Hollywood Times.
This is a wonderful and eye-opening documentary about food waste. It will definitely change your daily use of food, believe me! Don’t miss this informative documentary tomorrow night on KCET – Wednesday, Feb. 6, 8:00 PM PT – KCET-HD
L.A. was the largest agricultural center in the country up until about 1950. Before it was known as the epicenter of celebrity culture, Los Angeles was a farm town – and not just any old farm town.
Interview with Raphael Sbarge, Executive Producer of LA Foodways:
THT: Tell us a little about the upcoming screening of your latest documentary LA Foodways.
Raphael: The Watts Labor Community Action Committee (WLCAC) have been around for 52 years and I knew nothing about them. They have probably done more than any other organization has done for the WATTS community. They are so excited to get this attention. They have never had a fundraiser before. All the tickets that are being sold for the event on Wednesday is going to the organization.”
“The idea of this film was to do several things; one is to telescope the past to try and understand where we have gotten to, right, to understand history, not as a destination in of itself. I love history and enjoy reading it all the time, but trying to use history to be able to pivot into the relevance of where we are now, is what the intent of this film was.”
“Foodways is a title that KCET can up with, which is a term that I was not familiar with, which is, food in the intersection of culture, tradition and history. It’s the perfect title. I became fascinated with the idea that we were the largest farming community in the U.S. and now we are home to the largest community people living in food scarcity or in food desserts in the U.S. The largest population, 1.5 million. That was a shocking turn in less than a hundred years, so I was interested in trying to lay it out.”
“I have friends in the valley that have these great fruit trees in their back yard and I’m not sure if they know that they were part of this enormous 6,000 acres of farmland that existed in the Valley. That all turned into homes, but was a striving industry of citrus. If we help people connect the dots and look around them perhaps in a different way, it might allow people come to some solutions or begin to address these current issues.”
THT: What is the deal about Food Forward and backyard fruit trees?
Raphael: “If you or your friends have a tree in your backyard, you can actually call Food Forward. They have a hotline or online and they will send volunteers out. They have the trucks, the boxes, the equipment to pick the fruit and they know where to take it and you get a tax deductible right-off. It’s kind of taking the food from abundance and giving it to need. What a wonderful way to feel good.”
“The number of wasted food is roughly 40%. One of the challenges in talking about food waste is that it is so depressing. In this case, I have learned through running my own non-profit, you want to keep people engaged and inspired. Feeling like they can make a difference. I do understand the need to ring the bell sometimes to kind of scare people and wake them up because they are not conscious about it. I have felt passionately that it is important to be able to not leave people feeling bleak and nothing left to do.”
THT: Did you do your own research for this documentary?
Raphael: “I did it all myself. I had done a couple of other movies that were funded by The California Institute of Contemporary Art CICA.org and they had given Greenwish money to expand our education reach. So we had this grant and I had done these other two films for KCET and had some grant money left over. I went and met with Juan Devis and talked about this incredible organization called FoodForward, who are recovering over a million pounds of food a month and do a series about food ways in a food tract and history. So the film was co-produced with KCET.”
THT: Is this going to be a series?
Raphael: “This is a pilot for a series, so we are hoping for another season. I had just enough money to hire my crew and no money for research, so I did that myself.”
THT: How can our readers volunteer for these organizations?
FoodForward is particularly volunteer friendly because you can go onto their website and chose a farmers market close to you or pick fruit and even be at food distribution sites.”
THT: How are you feeling now that the screening is here?
Raphael: “A little nervous, but excited. A bunch of my friends will be here tonight. My actor friends who care about the environment will be here tonight as well.”
Everyone reading this article should reach out to foodward to donate their fruit on the trees in their backyard.
LA FOODWAYS examines the history of food in Los Angeles. This documentary from filmmaker/actor Raphael Sbarge (A Concrete River; Reviving the Waters of Los Angeles) and KCET looks at the storied agricultural history of Los Angeles to understand present food waste challenges and opportunities to bring fresh foods to urban communities. From the importance of orange crops in the 19th century to the massive scale of food waste in the U.S., the film is a deep dive into the different manners in which local organizations are coming together to ensure the future of agriculture in the region in order to identify environmentally friendly solutions for the future. Food Forward and five of the local food organizations featured in the series are co-hosting this special premiere screening of the film, followed by a panel discussion.
Filmmaker, Actor and LA FOODWAYS’ Executive Producer Raphael Sbarge (Once Upon a Time, Murder in the First), Actor Patrick Fabian (Better Call Saul), Actor Ed Begley Jr. (Ghostbusters, St. Elsewhere, Pineapple Express),
Actor Tony Amendola (Annabelle, Once Upon a Time), Vivian Bang (Swedish Dicks), Actor James Ksyon (Heroes) Actor Jonathan Chase (Gamer) Actor Mateus Ward (Murder in the First) and Host Rosey Alvero (KCET’s SOCAL WANDERER).
Premiering Wednesday, February 6th.
The Hollywood Times had the opportunity to interview some of the attendees at the pre-screening:
Ed Begley, Jr., Actor, (Ghostbusters, St. Elsewhere, Pineapple Express):
THT: What have you been working on?
Ed: “I’m doing a new show on ABC called “Bless This Mess” which starts on April 16th.”
THT: What brings you out tonight?
Ed: “My dear friend Raphael Sbarge is such a great guy and great friend of mine, we have done a green show together and LAFoodway is a great organization and we will help in any way we can. I’m anxious to see this movie.”
Celeste Thorson, Actor (Antidote):
THT: What brings you out tonight?
Celeste: “I’m really excited to get a little bit of an education on the history of the LA agricultural background and food waste. How the landscape has changed from back in the day. How we rely so much on water from other regions like Colorado and how are rainwater is not being captured.”
THT: Have you seen the film yet?
Celeste: “No I haven’t. I’m look forward to it”.
THT: Are you an environmental activist?
Celeste: “Before I started in film and television, I was working as an environmentalist and women’s rights advocate for a number of different organizations. They do go hand in hand around the world and specially here in the States. Honestly animal conversation is also a big issue, these are creates who can’t speak for themselves and the first ones to be thrown under the bus.”
THT: Do you garden at all?
Celeste: “Oh yes I do garden. I was trying to do snow peas, but that didn’t work out so well. I don’t use pesticides and it seems like I’m just really making an insect buffet for all the ego system in my garden. I do have lots of eggplants, tomatoes and herbs. Figs and I just planted a pomegranate tree that I got from Armstrong. It’s a draft tree and appropriate for the climate. I got about 8 poms off of it last year. Blueberry bush too that is not too tall and not use as much water.”
THT: What are you currently working on?
Celeste: “I just finished a project called “Dutch.” My film “Antidote” was out in theaters this past December, so it will be coming out on demand shortly. I just finished filming a show called “The Have and Have Nots” in Atlanta with Tyler Perry and it will be on the OWN Network. Very excited for the new year and I have a script I’m working on right now.”
Mateus Ward, Actor (Murder in the First):
THT: What brings you out here tonight?
Mateus: “I’m out here to support Raphael. He is one of the nicest guy I have ever met. He is doing his part in the world and it’s amazing to see actors using what they do to bring education to people and talk about things that are really important to them. I’m always here for him.”
THT: Is some of his environmental knowledge rubbing off on you?
Mateus: “Absolutely! I have been doing some activism on it, but not like he has. I went through the training program that Al Core offers about the environment. I have gotten into the plant-based vegan activism, which is something interested and educated on. He is such an inspiration.”
THT: Did you know that LA used to be a large agriculture land.
Mateus: “I did. I have seen lots of pictures from back then. It’s important to know the history of LA and the education.”
THT: What are you currently working on?
Mateus: “I just finished producing my first film. That was incredible. It is called “Realish.” We just had our cast and crew screening and in the distribution stage right now. I can’t talk much about it, but really proud and excited about it.”
Tim Alderson (Seeds of Hope and Solutions for Urban Agriculture)
THT: You were really great in the film.
Tim: “Thank you.”
THT: Tell us about your organizations.
Tim: “Seeds of Hope is the food justice program of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and what we needed was to start it with a very simple concept. Which was to take unused or underutilized church owned property and turn those into small farms. We can grow food and distribute it throughout our food pantry network programs across about a hundred communities throughout the six country diose of Los Angeles Country. Santa Barbara, Ventura, LA, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino countries. We are doing this kind of work in about 100 locations, mostly low-income communities across that geography.”
THT: How can our readers volunteer?
Tim: “We love volunteers. Seeds of Hope LA.org to contact us. We are always hosting volunteers groups, corporate groups, other non-profit, schools, churches, anybody and everybody. It’s a great educational opportunity as well. They can come out, get their hands dirty and learn something about what it takes to pull nutrition out of the soil. Learn about the unfortunate realities of a lot of our neighbors in this community who just don’t have basis affordable access to proper nutrition. That is what our collaborations that are in the film are trying to do.”
“We have more than enough food to go around, but it doesn’t go around to everybody. The number is 40% of the food we produce, never gets eaten. Some of the food never gets out of the field, some is lost in transportation and by the time it gets to the wholesaler there may not be a market for it, so it doesn’t get to market. Some it not pretty enough to sell, it goes bad in the fridge and we toss it out and in the restaurants the food doesn’t always make it to the customers plate. Be mindful. If we can’t use it all pass it forward.”
Lakisha May (Food advocate and actor/writer/producer) started off the panel discussion after Raphael’s wonderful documentary.
“Hello everyone, my name is Lakisha May, I’m an actor/writer/producer, more importantly for this conversation I am a food advocate and educator and I am so thrilled and honored to be here tonight. Let’s give another big round of applause for this documentary. Raphael, KCET and Foodforward thank you so much.”
It was a great Q&A with the panelists and then the Q&A was open to the audience.
Rick Nahmias (Food Forward) “To do what we do in diverting millions of pounds of waste is amazing. Just today we hit the send button to the state of California on a half a million dollar grant for Tim’s organization and every other week we are out at WCLAC, so the collaborative spirit to me is something that is front and center. I have the honor to sit on the leadership board with Clare at the Food Policy Council. In community base, I’d say it’s a collaboration, find out what is not being done and don’t replicate it, but compliment it. Be part of that equation rather than having to make it be yourself. It is about the individual choice, it’s about intention and to me eating and living and working around food intentions is the best thing that we each can do. Take a look at that tree next to your house that is producing 300 lbs. of grapefruit a year, what is happening to the rest of it, what is happening at your kids school with the produce not being used. Being aware of it is the first step. We have to own it and we have to live it and that is where is starts.”
“Bottom line is to get involved. Reach out to find out what each and every one of us can do to help with food waste, gardening and volunteering.”C
Post-Screening Panelists include:
Tim Alderson (Seeds of Hope and Solutions for Urban Agriculture)
Clare Fox (Los Angeles Food Policy Council)
Rick Nahmias (Food Forward)
A.G. Kawamura (Former Secretary, California Department of Food and Agriculture)
Rachel Surls (UC Master Gardeners of Los Angeles County)
Tim Watkins (Watts Labor Community Action Committee)
“Foodways” was first coined in 1942 by anthropologists, folklorists and food scholars to describe the study of why we eat what we eat, and what it means: “Food at the intersection of culture, tradition and history.” Our attitudes, practices and rituals around food are a window onto our most basic beliefs about the world and ourselves.
In each episode, we use the past to frame where we are today, to understand the food we grow and the land beneath our feet. We span 150 years of change, from 1870 to the present, focusing on the land in and around Los Angeles, how it has been used and developed into either farms, freeways or front lawns. Over the course of these stories, with this historic view of the change that has come before us, we gain a greater understanding of what Los Angeles is today and invite viewers to consider the future.
LA Foodways is a documentary exploring LA’s past, present and future as a food producing center. This episode looks at how issues of food waste are being addressed in Los Angeles today.
Wednesday, Feb. 6, 8:00 PM PT – KCET-HD
Sunday, Feb. 10, 5:00 PM PT – KCET-HD
Wednesday, Feb. 13, 11:02 PM PT – KCET-HD
On-air, online, and in the community, KCET plays a vital role in the cultural and educational enrichment of Southern and Central California.
In addition to broadcasting the finest programs from around the world, KCET produces and distributes award-winning local programs that explore the people, places and topics that are relevant to our region.
Whether it is through our broadcast, via cable, over digital platforms and devices, or from our extensive community outreach and education programs, KCET consistently delivers inspiring global content that informs, educates and enlightens millions of individuals in Southern and Central California.
Nearly two million viewers watch KCETLink’s primary channel, KCET in the average month month in 11 Counties across Southern California: from as far north as San Luis Obispo, as far south to San Diego and as far east to the Nevada / Arizona border.