Updated: Feb 28
My Mama is from New Orleans where folks show love by bringing food. Los Angeles, like NOLA, is known for both its food culture and food deserts. In parts of town, you can walk 10 blocks without seeing a grocery, but pass 10 liquor stores. Maybe it's the Southern hospitality, maybe it's because my brother was homeless for a while, but Mom used to carry Subway gift cards in her car in case she passed someone hungry in the streets. Two years, several flat tires, and 65,350 lbs of fresh produce later, clearly I followed in her footsteps.
When the pandemic hit, I knew people were struggling but I wasn't sure how to show up where needed. At first, the urgent need was supporting direct actions during the George Floyd Uprising. That's when I formed Just Media LLC to support the social justice Movement through conflict resolution.
However, I figured, if I was going to gain the community's trust -- especially enough to mediate disagreements -- I better arrive with more than platitudes. So, I thought about my privilege and the barriers to wellness in the city. Distance and traffic make distributing resources hard, but since I had a car and knew where the free, fresh food could be gleaned, my only cost was gas.
For a while before I started building up paid clientele, I spent all my free time driving across the city making pro-bono food drop-offs to people in need. What started as bringing snacks and water to protests turned into a weekly produce pick-up from Torrance Farmers Markets. So, every week for 120 weeks, my friend Max and I drove to visit Food Forward, loaded 12-20 boxes of fruits and veggies in our cars, and brought them to community centers across L.A. County.
Every community utilized the produce differently. The "Music Spot" in Inglewood requested disposable bags and called up RVs in every direction to share their groceries; the camp under the 10 freeway housed several vegans who wanted all-raw foods; Care First South Pasadena made multi-course meals for anyone who came to their clothing collections; Protect Puvungna started a Care Package giveaway during their Sunday sacred site cleanups, catering to the elders living off Social Security. Most recently, we switched our pickup to the Santa Monica Farmers' Market where Eleu runs a rotating free market at low income housing complexes.
65,350 lbs and counting; 33 tons of food distributed; countless community ties with folks who care about sharing.
The road to a healthy society runs through the stomach. When we share food, we build reciprocal bonds of nurturance. Breaking bread togethers says "I trust you with my sustenance, I trust you with my survival."
I promise, it isn't that hard. I challenge you to find a food rescue program in your area, and, wether it is 1 meal for 1 elderly neighbor, or 1 carful of groceries for 1 apartment complex, next time you are hungry for purpose, feed yourself by feeding your neighbors.
Happy Mardi Gras, ya'll.