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

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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


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Morning greens: Obama against Prop 23, Chevron for Prop 26

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obama1 le Morning greens: Prop 23 got another powerful foe: President Obama. If passed, Prop 23 would put the brakes on AB 32, California’s landmark global warming law. In case you haven’t heard yet, Obama is in Los Angeles today.

As we mentioned before, some oil and corporate business interests are pouring money into Prop 26 while distancing themselves from Prop 23. “The California Chamber of Commerce has pumped at least $3.3 million into Prop 26, and California’s Chevron has spent $2.5 million,” reports Grist.

In addition to pushing for Prop 26, Calif.-based Chevron’s ready to get back to drilling. NY Times’ Green reports “Chevron announced on Thursday that it was going forward with a $7.5 billion project to develop two giant deepwater fields in the gulf.”

Former LA DWP CEO David Nahai answers questions about L.A.’s lawn watering ordinance — that saved a lot of water but may have caused waterline breaks — on KQED’s Climate Watch: “My concern is some of the council members made certain statements that tended to undermine the resolve of Angelenos as far as water cutbacks, and it left only the price signal of the rate adjustment…. It would help if city council members weren’t being defiant of the law.”

Expect a warmer, drier winter in the Southwest, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasts released yesterday. “The weather driver this season is La Niña, the feisty distaff to El Niño, that other well-known offshore event,” reports L.A. Now.

California’s long-term weather forecast sounds more dire. Grist reports that “Aiguo Dai, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado … thinks that unless greenhouse-gas emissions are cut, large areas of the planet, including the U.S. Southwest, are in for some very long, very damaging dry spells within the next 30 years.”

Lastly and playfully: In Culver City, a new sidewalk game Culverland seeks human game pieces. The interactive piece offers sidewalk engagement for pedestrians — but also depends on L.A.’s car culture for fun play. According to LA Times, “The game should take 10 to 15 minutes to play, less time during rush hour, said its creator: ‘It’s one time when you can say, “Yah, it’s rush hour!”‘”

Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images


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Prop 21: Parks, taxes, and a party in Venice

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prop21 Sorry for the last minute notice, but Angelenos who’d like to see state parks funding increased by passing Prop 21 passed have a party to go to tonight.

A “21 on 21″ party is happening at The G2 Gallery, an eco-conscious art space in Venice. Environmental nonprofits Surfrider Foundation, Audubon California, and California State Parks Foundation have put together “an evening of art, activism, and awareness” — an event free and open to the public. It happens tonight, Thu., Oct. 21 from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm at The G2 Gallery, 1503 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice.

What’s Prop 21? If passed, the proposition would add an $18 surcharge on vehicle registration — and use that money to fund state parks and wildlife conservation programs. According to the legislative analyst’s office, Prop 21 would raise $500 million a year, providing at least $250 million more a year for state parks and wildlife conservation — and leaving about $200 million currently spent on parks in the general fund. As a bonus, Californians would no longer have to pay day-use fees or parking charges at state parks — so if you generally spend more than $18 on these fees and charges in a year, you’d actually come out ahead.

Of course, not everyone takes advantage of the state parks. LA Times reports that “various taxpayer groups” are against Prop 23. So are auto industry groups, reports LAist.

Park lovers, however, point out that California’s known for its iconic parks — often used as the backdrop for car commercials! And those parks are in trouble. “While widespread closures have been avoided, parks around the state have closed campgrounds and cut back visitor services,” reported LA Times earlier this month. “Some have been unable to pay bills and are facing utility cutoffs.” And unfortunately, California’s new budget didn’t give the state parks much more to work with.

KPCC’s Pat Morrison took a closer look at this issue earlier today — and generated a healthy comment stream! How will you be voting on Prop 21?

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Photo: David McNew/Newsmakers


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Morning greens: Recycling fraud, smoking ban, Prop 23 and BP oil spill updates

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aluminumcans Morning greens: Three people arrested for recycling fraud in Riverside. The arrested allegedly got aluminum from Arizona — not eligible under California’s recycling program — and got millions from California’s recycling funds, reports L.A. Now.

Long Beach banned smoking in city parks and recreational areas. “Under the ordinance, those caught smoking in recreational areas will be fined $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second offense within a year, and $500 for each subsequent violation within a year of the previous offenses.,” reports LA Times.

SoCal Edison got a $25M federal grant for wind energy storage. Southern California Edison got the grant from the Department of Energy to develop a lithium-ion battery bank for storing wind-generated electricity.

A Big energy plant in the Mojave desert got the go ahead from Interior Secretary Ken Salazar yesterday; the plan now goes before the California Energy Commission. AP reports the approval “authorizes the Bureau of Land Management to offer Tessera Solar the use of more than 4,600 acres for 30 years to build the Calico Solar Project. The Interior Department says the 663.5-megawatt project could power 200,000 to 500,000 homes.”

Cal State L.A. Senior challenges Charles Koch to debate Prop 23. Koch is the chief executive of Koch Industries, a major backer of Prop 23 (via Green).

In other Prop 23 news, Bill Gates contributed $700,000 to fight Prop 23 (PDF), while Prop 23 backers launched new TV ads in L.A. A new Public Policy Institute of California poll found voters oppose Prop 23 48% to 37%, reports LA Times.

Are polar bears endangered? A federal judge wants to know. “U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan wants the Interior Department to clarify a decision by the administration of former President George W. Bush that polar bears were merely threatened rather than in imminent danger of extinction,” reports NPR.

In BP news: Three environmental advocacy groups sued BP yesterday, reports LA Times, “alleging the company’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill harmed and killed both endangered and threatened species.” Lawmakers are steering clear of BP cash, NY Times reports. NPR reports microbes may have eaten methane from the spill.

Lastly and economically. The BP oil spill may have been good — for the economy, writes public radio correspondent David Brancaccio. “Let’s agree this is not the way to grow,” David writes — and answers a few questions about his post on NY Times’ Dot Earth blog. Along that line of thought, NY Times covers how the value a healthy environment provides is invisible in the global economy — as well as how water shortages could make municipal bonds riskier and how biodiversity can mean “large and unappreciated economic benefits.”

Photo: Wes Peck/Flickr


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Tour de Fat coming to LA

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The New Belgium Bewing Company is serious about its environmental values: wind-powered operations, high-efficiency beermaking (I can imagine at least one of my cousins saying that they believe in high-efficiency beerDRINKING here - which one will find this first?). They're even serious when it comes to doing something kinda ludicrous. Like encouraging people to dress up, ride bikes in a parade, and return to park to listen to music and enjoy a little sunshine and beer shine. Though, the point of Tour de Fat isn't to sell beer. It's to raise money for bicycle groups in different places around the country and raise awareness about alternative forms of transportation.

Share your bike routes @

In Los Angeles they're raising money for Cyclists Inciting Change through Live Exchange, The LA County Bicycle Coalition, and The Bicycle Coalition/La Bicicocina.


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