LA CAN has been at the forefront of social justice change in our Skid Row and other under-served communities across South Los Angeles for the past 20 years. We anchor our work to advance food justice in a long history of helping to lead a groundbreaking cooperative response to extreme hunger and food insecurity in our community.
Recognizing that it is possible to eat foods that optimize our health and well-being without compromising the land on which food is grown or jeopardizing the ability for it to be used for future generations, our Food & Wellness Collaborative focuses on four key areas that aim to minimize the consequences coming from poverty, low food security and poor nutrition:
- Being a trusted destination with unprecedented access to the option for choosing good food through our Skid Row Marketplace
- Facilitating participatory education workshops about various types of gardening, the role of ‘food as medicine’ and how and why making good food choices matter through our very popular Rooftop and Community Gardens.
- Amplifying our community voices and stories to inform and inspire lawmakers to establish food policies that positively impact our personal health and wellness of our mind, body, and soul.
- Sharpening our abilities to use food as an organizing tool and educate our community about the benefits of good food.
LA CAN promotes healthy food access, nutrition education, anti-hunger policy advocacy, and community gardening. Our work is a holistic approach to the health problems that afflict the health of low-income and homeless residents because of a lack of sufficient access to health care, nutritious food, and quality, safe housing conditions.
As part of Hunger Action Los Angeles and the California Hunger Action Coalition, LA CAN works on the local, county and statewide levels to create, support and protect policies that alleviate hunger, including the defense of CalFresh (Food Stamps) from annual budget cut attacks and efforts to increase and streamline access to fresh, nutritious food through farmers markets and simplified benefit application processes.
However, understanding that policy change can be a slow process, LA CAN members have literally taken community health into their own hands through nutrition education and community gardening.
Our rooftop and aeroponics garden projects provide opportunities for residents to grow fresh fruits and vegetables in a community aptly described as a “food desert” and lacking full-service grocery stores. Aided by master gardeners, we use skills learned from our gardening classes to grow tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, carrots, lettuce, and much more, that we distribute to the community or incorporate into our membership meeting meals. We combine the distribution of our locally grown food to community members with nutrition education.
Once a week, we provide organic produce at our Skid Row Marketplace, for free, or at a price affordable to houseless and low-income residents of this food insecure community. We also accept EBT/CalFresh. We organize food demonstrations, conduct nutrition education workshops, and distribute healthy recipes for dishes that can be made with our produce.
To date, LA CAN has brought in over 14 tons of organic, low-cost fruits and vegetables in a part of the city where only 51%-68% of residents say it is easy to access fresh produce.
The People’s Medicine
The People’s Medicine Project is a food-as-medicine program that merges justice and wellness organizing at LACAN. This program lives in the Food & Wellness Collaborative at the intersection of health, poverty, and racism. We believe that healthy food is a human right and that by growing our food; we are growing community health. With Skid Row residents as our educators, we celebrate community through advocacy, self-reliance, and hands-on, heart-filled garden and kitchen workshops. This program was created by Devorah Brous and is funded by the California Department of Food & Agriculture. Our steering committee includes: Jackelyn Tejada, Shameka Foster, Matt Horns, Michelle Grant, Ray & Delicia Lewis, Todd Cunningham, and Sukari Finley.