Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

L.A.: City of eco-foodie fests - and food deserts

tendergreens mnn onlySustainable food’s a strange topic to tackle in Los Angeles. Locavoring and organic, healthy food’s gotten a big boost from health fad followers to backyard gardeners alike — and gotten so popular that this weekend, we’ve got a couple big eco-foodie events that will showcase sustainable, organic, healthy, artisan delicacies that are locally-grown and made.

And I’m lucky to be one of the people who can take advantage of this trend. For a green meal, all I need to do is walk a block down to the stretch of Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood where I live, and I can spend my lunch dollars on organic veggie burgers from O! Burger, Grilled Miso Chicken with all natural Jidori Chicken at Fresh East, or a fresh, organic salad with locally-grown produce at Tender Greens (right).

Go to South Los Angeles, however, and the options are much slimmer. Here, finding fresh produce in and of itself can be a challenge, let alone finding organic, locally-grown produce. Large chunks of South L.A. are what health and social justice groups call a “food desert,” where healthy food’s tough to find.

mcdonaldsnuggets mnn onlyThat’s why Los Angeles is currently debating whether or not to allow more fast food restaurants in South L.A. Last week, KPCC’s Air Talk delved into this issue, as the City Council’s planning committee will soon consider placing permanent restrictions on new stand-alone fast food restaurants in South L.A.

The proposed regulations have often focused on the high proportion of fast food restaurants in South L.A. But If you caught that episode of Air Talk, you heard Bill McCarthy, Professor at UCLA’s School of Public Health, mention that car access also plays a big role in affecting food options. “For people without cars, they have fewer choices, and more by default end up eating at fast food restaurants, and thereby increasing their girth and the risk of obesity-related conditions,” Bill said.

Now, a new mapping tool combines multiple factors to give us a look at food deserts. Put together by a community investment group called The Reinvestment Fund, this mapping tool focuses less on fast food restaurants than on supermarkets. As Bonnie Azab Powell describes it at Grist, the tool “layers data about supermarket presence with income levels, public-transit commuting, federal nutrition and housing program participation, and other key demographics to pinpoint those communities it calls Low-Access Areas — those most affected by the lack of a full-service supermarket.”

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Above is what the map looks like for South L.A.; the purple areas denote Low-Access Areas. (You can also visit the map yourself and plug in a zip for a closer look at any area) Do you live or work in South L.A.? Does The Reinvestment Fund’s map match your experience with food shopping in these areas? Let KPCC know what your local food landscape looks like to help shape our coverage of this issue.

Also on KPCC: Navigating L.A.’s food deserts: solutions from the bottom up

Photo of Tender Greens salad by George Ruiz/Flickr; photo of McDonald’s chicken nuggets by Jacob Enos/Flickr