Shared Table: Food Equality in LA

Our city has long set the trends for the food industry. From food trucks, to celebrity chefs to now, instant farm-to-door services & plant protein substitutes, LA is definitely changing the way we eat. But how is LA making good food more accessible for all of its residents? With 27% of Angelenos living in poverty — and the majority of Americans living in food deserts, what can and what are we doing as residents of the city to make healthy food accessible for all?

Last week, enso opened the Shared Table to a group of leaders working towards food equality in Los Angeles to discuss how LA can leverage its creativity and technology to ensure healthy food can be accessible for Angelenos, and the rest of America.

A big thank you to chef and moderator Jason Neroni. Here are some of the big learnings from the night.

Get better at working together: 
There are people from all sectors trying to address issues of food equality in LA — and we were lucky to have many of them represented at the Shared Table.

  • The Hunger Action Network, The Hive, and Guerilla Gardener Ron Finley who are developing infrastructure and cultural shifts around accessibility and demand for local, healthy food.
  • Brands like Summerland, Thrive Market, Beyond Meat, Pressed Juicery and ShopHouse are reimagining how people can easily and affordably access healthy food.
  • Creatives like Nonny de la Peña of Immersive Journalism and Austin Young from Fallen Fruit are creating new ways to interact with and reimagine food and hunger systems in LA.
  • Pat Saperstein, through her blog Eating LA and Rebecca Whitney of Urban Desert are sharing stories of our shifting food landscape in LA.
  • Farmer Alex Weiser and chef Jason Neroni are going above and beyond to make sure the food we have access to — whether raw ingredients or a family style meal — are the best around.

One key takeaway was the need to create more opportunities to come together, share learnings, and find new ways to collaborate. Here’s to the Shared Table being a step forward in that direction.

All people want food security:
There’s a serious misconception that Angelenos aren’t eating healthy because they would rather not. What we learned from experts around the table is all people want access to healthy food — they just don’t think they can afford the time and money to get a healthy meal on the table. Smashing that misconception is one of the first steps needed to solve for food equality here in LA.

Learning how to eat, with your hands:

“If kids grow kale, kids eat kale. If they grow tomatoes, they eat tomatoes.”
Guerrilla gardener and Shared Table participant Ron Finley

Preparing healthy meals seems much more doable when its not your first time. That’s why our Shared Table participants highly encourage educational programs that promote learning by doing — giving kids and adults hands on experience growing food and cooking with the ingredients they’ll find in their local market. We’ve learned that kids go home and teach new foods and new recipes to their parents — so the entire family is impacted.

Beware of “gourmet” turning people away:
Some of our approaches to attracting people to local, healthy food end up alienating the folks who need access to it the most. By glorifying obscure and hard-to-find vegetables, or showing off how elaborate we can get with our farmer’s market finds, we’re making healthy food seem even more unattainable. That’s not to say we should take food innovation off the table, we just need to be sensitive to audience perceptions when showing off our foam.

Help scale Market Match:
One program in particular that is tested and approved — and now just needs help scaling is Hunger Action Network’s Market Match program. Market Match “provides free coupons to buy fruits and vegetables that make it easier for thousands of Southern Californians to eat healthier, in collaboration with area farmers’ markets.” A $10 donation covers vouchers for one family for an entire month in one of 16 participating markets.

Thank you to our amazing participants.

Jason Neroni, Chef
Alejandro de Castro, Summerland
Laurie Dill, Your Local Hive
Brent Taylor, Beyond Meat
Claire Curtis, ShopHouse/Chipotle
Kate Mulling, Thrive Market
Carly de Castro, Pressed Juicery
Ron Finley, Guerilla gardener
Frank Tamborello, Hunger Action Network
Diana Darwish, Community Action Partnership
Nonny de la Peña, Immersive Journalism, Creator of “Hunger in Los Angeles”
Austin Young, Fallen Fruit
Pat Saperstein,
Alex Wesier, Local Farmer
Rebecca Whitney, Interstitial Explorer and Urban Desert LA
Kerry Stranman, enso
Carla Fernandez, enso
Katelyn Faith, enso
Jill Epstein, enso
Sebastian Buck, enso

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Started by enso, made by all.