Since we launched RootDown LA over four years ago, we’ve viewed our work through something of a “supply and demand” paradigm. We’d heard about corner store conversion projects in South LA and always wondered, is the demand being built to meet the increase in fresh produce folks want to bring into these corner stores?
RootDown launched initial programming to focus on the demand side of food systems change. First and foremost, if we want to sell more veggies, we have to get people to eat more veggies. We do this through after-school and community cooking classes, Healthy Food Tastings, and our new Service Learning project, teaching high school students the tricks to make veggies taste better, then helping them bust the myths that healthy food is too nasty, expensive or inconvenient to eat every day.
In 2011, RootDown LA also started addressing the supply side of food systems change – we are now engaging youth in the growing of fresh produce, through our in-school and residential gardens and neighborhood compost program.
We were honored last year, to be invited to connect with the Community Market Conversion (CMC) program, and other local food orgs. in South Los Angeles, that recognize the importance of engaging the community to support increases of fresh produce in our neighborhoods.
While participating in planning talks with the CMC program, we got excited about the idea of creating a supply of produce right where it would meet consumer demand – directly at the market. Money Saver’s Meats owner, Ozabe Banks, jumped on the idea and invited us to break ground at his store. Since winter, we have brought on three local youth to amend the soil, build raise beds, and help grow and promote the same kind of fresh foods Mr. Banks wants to sell through the market.
Thanks to the Clif Bar Family Foundation who just gave us a small grant to keep this project growing. We intend to build a model to figure out more ways we can engage local high school youth in a market-centered neighborhood local food program.