What to Know
- An 'Urban Food Desert' is a neighborhood that doesn't have access to affordable fresh fruits and vegetables.
- These areas usually have an excess of liquor stores, fast-food restaurants, and corner store that sell candy and junk food.
- Low-income families in these areas (predominantly people of color) often lack the means to travel to other areas to buy fresh food.
Lupita's Corner Store is located at the intersection of 3rd and Lucas, an area the Los Angeles Food Policy Council has designated as one of LA's food deserts.
For miles around the store, there is a plethora of liquor stores, fast-food chains, and corner stores selling junk food. But you won't see a store that has fresh food at affordable prices.
"Los Angeles County is home to the largest food insecure population in the country," says Claire Fox, of the LAFPC. "It's a combination of economic hardship and economic inequality combined with racism. And combined with the fact that people don't have healthy food options in their neighborhoods."
Lupita's Corner store was opened by Lupita 27 years ago by a single mother of two children. This year, her daughter Luz is set to take over the family business, and with the change of ownership, she hopes to help address the problem of 'fresh food apartheid' in her neighborhood.
"Our ZIP code shouldn't impact how long we live or the quality of life we have." Says Fox.
The LAFPC is making Luz's dream a reality by selecting her for one of their small business "makeovers." Some of LA's construction heavy weights (including world-reknown architecture firm Gensler, and Build Group who are providing all the sub-contractors and construction) agreed to come on to this project - most volunteering their materials and labor for free.
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"Race is the underlying determinent to wether a family has access to fresh food or not." Fox says racial segretation explains the food desert phenomenon, "it's why we see high rates of diabetes and heart disease among African-Americans and Latinos."
The newly revamped Lupita's Corner store is not only a place to buy fruits, vegetables, and healthy snacks (all displayed prominently at the front of the store) but the bright windows and welcoming design of the space also invites the neighborhood to come in and participate in workshops and discussions about issue impacting food and health of the community.
Both Luz and her mother Lupita were crying tears of joy at the grand opening.
The store is situated right in between several schools, so the family hopes this makeover will bring about change to the community in a visible way. The LAFPC will continue working with Luz and Lupita for the next few years in order to ensure their continued success.