Changing the options available at local corner markets and liquor stores—of which there are tens of thousands of in LA—is one way around complicated zoning and economic challenges that make it difficult to build large, full-service supermarkets in underserved areas. These corner store conversions, or “market makeovers,” as they’re sometimes called, have high success rates because they work within the community and with its resources to improve access to healthy foods. Sometimes it’s as easy as moving the junk food to the back of the store and ensuring that there’s at least some access to fruit and vegetables. In a similar effort, community gardens equip neighborhoods with the tools and skills they need to make a small and immediate difference themselves. While urban gardens and farmers’ markets will never take the place of full-service grocery stores, they are an important and growing step toward food independence. Made hip again by the likes of First Lady Michelle Obama, there are many programs that encourage and incentivize new urban gardens. The gardens act both as a source for fresh produce and a classroom for children who learn the importance of eating healthy. While supplemental to households at the very least, could the urban garden movement actually ease the pressing demand for market options?
Aurora Flores, project manager for Healthy Eating, Active Communities (HEAC), which has been working on “Market Makeovers,” in South and East LA
Magali Bravo, a youth ambassador for Healthy Eating, Active Communities (HEAC)
She helped transform her local corner market through HEAC’s Market Makeovers program while she was a student at Accelerated School’s Wallis Annenberg High
Jenny Scanlin, Project Manager, Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA)
Pompea Smith, CEO, Market Manager, Sustainable Economic Enterprises of Los Angeles (SEE-LA)
Nicole Gatto, Director, Milagro Allegro Community Garden; MPH, Ph.D. Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, UCLA, Department of Epidemiology