Taste of South L.A. is an outdoor food festival showcasing the diversity and ingenuity of South Los Angeles-based food businesses. Lack of food access, especially to healthy and nutritious foods, has become a part of the legacy of South Los Angeles. Already a community deprived of resources South LA residents face generational poverty, violence, higher than average unemployment rates, and a deficit of financial and supportive resources to allow families and businesses to recover from the socio-economic ills that have plagued their neighborhoods.
While social change-makers scramble for a panacea, local community-based organizations, with the support of the California Endowment, formed a collaborative: Building Healthy Communities – South L.A., to address the economic development concerns of the residents. Partner organizations convene regularly to determine key initiatives to implement in the community while leveraging the resources, reach, and capacity of their partners.
If you were given a map of South L.A. and asked to circle with a red pen the major grocery stores in the area you would have a fairly bare map. Try identifying all the food places where healthy food is available and suddenly the picture becomes clear; South L.A. is a food desert. Since markets can be few and far between residents must make do with often expensive and unhealthy alternatives. Liquor stores, convenience stores, and even street vendors are all part of the “food network” that “feed” these communities. And their contribution to the economic vitality of the community is equally important as the service they provide. Street vending is currently an illegal activity in the City of Los Angeles, which equals to hundreds perhaps thousands of entrepreneurs at risk to fines and equipment seizure. Through our Street Vendor Initiative we have began an over two-year awareness campaign around street vendors and have also set up a special loan fund to provide these and other food-based businesses with micro-loans up to $5,000 with no collateral or credit check, to acquire permits and equipment. Now our focus is on how we can make these businesses sustainable. In addition to providing access to capital, technical assistance and small business services to our street vendors we have the opportunity to showcase our clients on a grand scale; thus Taste of South L.A. was born.
Imagine transforming an underutilized area of South L.A. into a fair for local food businesses. Taking a page from the very popular Taste of Chicago and other “Taste of”s throughout the nation, Taste of South L.A. will celebrate the diversity of food businesses there as well encourage the continued patronage of these businesses for the future.
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