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Food Desert Solutioins for LA Urban Businesses and Communities

The problem is that South L.A. has a "food desert" infrastructure. The area has some of the highest rates of obesity in California. The solution is healthy foods -- and getting them to residents.

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Healthy Food in LA

Healthy Eating Active Communities Initiative (HEAC) developed programs in South Los Angeles beginning in 2007. HEAC originally commissioned Public Matters to work with high school students from The Accelerated School (TAS) to create short videos about the reasons underlying poor access to fresh produce and nutritious foods in South L.A.

Public Matters expanded the scope of the project to include youth civic engagement projects, a partnership with the local City Council office, and positioned the videos to help achieve HEAC’s policy-related goals.

The CORNER STORE CONVERSION program develops solutions for the South L.A. "food desert." The area has some of the highest rates of obesity in California.

You Can't Put A Price On That from Public Matters on Vimeo.

The realistic food (and obesity) problem is that junk food costs less and is more available than healthy foods. In urban Los Angeles there are few supermarkets and those carry low quality produce. The main outlets for buying food, corner and liquor stores, offer little to no fresh food. Building relationships and transforming local stores are key to increasing healthy food access and improving health conditions in South L.A.

HEAC is taking action. Students like Magali Bravo are initiating conversions of local corner stores, emphasizing healthier food choices. The first, innovative "market makeover" serves as a model for other local stores and helps HEAC establish a corner store coalition with enhanced collective buying power that ultimately provides the community with healthier food options.

Learn more about how Public Matters is helping transform the Los Angeles "food desert" one profit-making store at a time: Public Matters Group

Public Matters issued students a creative license to tackle the long-standing, complex question of health disparities. This set the tone for a project that stressed ingenuity, wit, media strategies and community relations – all skills future community leaders require. Public Matters created curriculum, taught and led weekly school-year workshops and an intensive summer program. Creating the videos became a springboard for public health discussions, youth development, and community involvement. Students learned about the root causes of health disparities, neighborhood history and politics, story writing, video production and public speaking.

Much of this food improvement program is based on the California Food Policy Advocates’ landmark 2003 study Download the report.

Nathan Cheng is one of the feet on the street for Public Matters. He designed, and later piloted a program to make healthy food available in low-income communities by outfitting liquor stores in these areas to carry produce and other nutritious foods. He has worked extensively in California, supporting the implementation of his liquor store conversion model and consults with organizations throughout the country on issues related to food access and community development.

But the diverse team of Public Matters brings innovation and creativity to the lifeblood of local Los Angeles communities. Mike Blockstein is a visual artist and educator. Reanne Estrada is a visual artist specializing in collaborative public art projects. David Lawrence is a media artist working with electronic and broadcast media and conceptual design. Ron Milam provides community sustainability leadership training and development. McCrae Parker is a youth development media and advocacy developer. Rene Yung is a public artist and designer. 1439 Elevado Street Los Angeles, CA 90026 323.953.0691

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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