South LA

South LA Cafe Gives Away Free Groceries to Help Community in Pandemic, and You Can Help Too

The Ward-Wallaces said they have been making a conscious effort to hire from the community and hire people previously incarcerated. All of it they say is a love letter to the place they call home.

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A South LA business is growing again, despite the pandemic, while at the same time accomplishing its goal of lifting up the community when there is so much need.

The lines wrap around the block every Wednesday when hundreds people come to south la cafe to pickup up bags of free groceries. The bags are loaded up with fresh fruits and vegetables -- not just food for the body, but for the future.

Reimagining their community has been the goal of Joe and Celia Ward-Wallace ever since they started the cafe late last year. In its coffees and teas and friendly gathering space, it was to be the kind of place that other communities take for granted.

"As we’re feeding people good food, it's re-helping them reimagine what's possible for our community," Celia said.

"I have to take myself to the westside of Los Angeles to find a nice little coffee shop and I was going, 'wait a minute -- I live here. Why do I have to do that?'" Joe said.

The couple shifted for COVID-19. They turned their small grocery store into a lifeline both for the business and for the community. On South LA Cafe’s website people can buy their own grocery bags and donate one to those in need. Sponsorships also help it give out 1,000 grocery bags a week.

"We don’t want the people in this community who are at the most at risk of catching COVID-19 -- we don’t want them them to not have access to food. We want them to have access to fresh food, and healthy food, in a safe way where they can stay alive and boost their immune system," Celia said.

Immune systems has historically not gotten much help from food choices available in the area. It is still dominated by fast food and convenience stores -- while at the same time, the couple says, it is being increasingly gentrified and people are being priced out. It's a situation made worse by the pandemic.

"My heart is broken when we run out of our bags and we have cut the time and there are 20 cars behind that line," Joe said.

The Ward-Wallaces said they have been making a conscious effort to hire from the community and hire people previously incarcerated. All of it they say is a love letter to the place they call home.

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