Lack of fresh food and grocery stores concerns many in South Los Angeles

Food is an important aspect of our individual and social lives. It is the fabric of our existence. As James Beard, a chef and food writer, once said, “Food is our common ground, a universal experience.”

It is also a big business.

As food trucks spread from one city to another, they are another example of new forms of food access. Our culture’s obsession with food has also expanded to food blogs. From Indian to vegan to organic, it is all there. There is even a television channel dedicated to cooking and gourmet eating.

But in South Los Angeles, this obsession with food is different. Instead, residents there struggle with the purchase of fresh food. There are fewer grocery stores in South Los Angeles than there are in neighboring cities, and the quality of food is of lesser value than those nearby communities.

Mary Lee, a member of the health team at PolicyLink, a research and advocacy organization, talks about the aesthetics of grocery stores and the quality of food in South Los Angeles:

Nationwide Issue

For years, major supermarket chains have been criticized for leaving lower income communities. As a result, many of these communities, including Detroit, Memphis and South Los Angeles, lack healthier food options beyond the ever-present corner stores and fast food chains.

“The lack of grocery stores in South Los Angeles specifically has been documented by multiple people, multiple researchers, so it’s an established fact that this is a nationwide issue,” said LaVonna Lewis, a clinical associate professor at the University of Southern California’s School of Policy, Planning and Development. “They call them food deserts, and what has been demonstrated is that there’s a lack of grocery stores nationally in predominantly African American communities.”

In South Los Angeles, the 1992 Los Angeles riots marked a turning point, said Dave Heylen, the vice president of communications at the California Grocers Association, a statewide trade organization that represents the food industry.

“The civil unrest resulted in burned-down stores, so operators didn’t return to the area,” Heylen said. “The cost to rebuild was too high.”

Food Deserts

Limited access to supermarkets creates a food desert that leads to significant barriers in healthful eating. A food desert generally refers to an area where the consumer’s ability to purchase healthy food is difficult because there are few grocery stores around or the quality of food is poor.

“A food desert can also occur at a place where you buy fresh fruit at a convenience store, which is not known for selling that sort of food, so the store marks the price up on that particular product,” Lee said. “It’s a cruel paradox because people in low-income communities like South Los Angeles are usually the ones who rely on a store in a place where it’s probably impossible to find competition or more than one grocery store.”

Healthy food is also inaccessible when it is physically difficult to get to a store. For communities that rely on public transportation, a trip to a quality grocery store can be onerous if the store is not near a transit corridor.

“It becomes a factor that is beyond income,” Lee said.

Systemic problems continue as well. Lee compared food deserts to racial redlining, where banks and other corporate entities once drew a red line around neighborhoods where people of color lived.

“The banks either did not offer services at all, or they might sell their services at a higher price with less variety,” Lee said. “The same thing occurred with grocery stores. Some have left neighborhoods as they have become populated by one particular racial group. As whites moved further west, grocery stores closed down, and more liquor stores opened up in the area.”

According to a study released by Community Health Councils, a community-based health advocacy organization, South Los Angeles is home to about 1 million people. The area’s 60 full-service grocery stores each serve about 22,156 residents in contrast to the 57 stores in West Los Angeles that average only 11,150 residents.

Lee talks about the number of South Los Angeles residents and why that amount makes the area’s food desert different from others:

South Los Angeles also differs from other food deserts because of its high number of children and seniors, people Lee referred to as “vulnerable residents.”

There are a large number of people in South Los Angeles, but Lee said there are fewer chain grocery stores than there were 20 to 30 years ago.

“That begs for some analysis,” Lee added.

This Project

The idea for this months-long project stemmed from a community workshop conducted by Intersections: The South Los Angeles Report. John Harriel and Maria Isabel Rutledge, both South Los Angeles residents, raised the issue.

The first phase of this ongoing project started with six visits to the Ralphs on Manchester and Western avenues in South Los Angeles. The visits occurred over a three-month period, with Harriel in attendance on three of those visits. During four of the six outings, a number of outdated products remained on the store’s shelves.

See some outdated products:

Harriel said there is a lot of outdated merchandise at some of the grocery stores he goes to in South Los Angeles.

“I want to know why that is,” Harriel added. “I want to know what I can do about it, and I want to know if there are health consequences.”

Lewis talks about health consequences:

Intersections: The South Los Angeles Report looked at other Ralphs locations for the second part of this ongoing project. Shoppers can purchase The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf or eat lunch inside the Torrance-based Ralphs, located on Sepulveda Boulevard. The same can be said about the Santa Monica site, located on Cloverfield Boulevard, and the downtown Los Angeles site, located on 9th Street. The Ralphs in Westwood, located on Weyburn Avenue, is clean and spacious. The store validates parking, and there is new hardwood flooring treatment.

But at the Ralphs on Manchester and Western avenues, customers do not get the option to sit inside the grocery store. There is a small Coffee Bean counter, rather than a full-service stand, and customers can only choose from a couple of items. There is a large section where shoppers can buy outdated products with reduced pricing.

Product Dating

“Sell by” and “use by” are common phrases shoppers might find on grocery store products. According to a report issued by the United States Department of Agriculture, these dates are generally called “open dating.” That means the date, as opposed to a code, stamped on a product’s package helps the store determine how long to display the product for sale. It also helps the purchaser know when the product is at its best quality.

“In most cases, dates on products refer to peak freshness,” Heylen said. “The food is still safe. It may not taste as good. That is why you see the Manager’s Special stickers and reduced pricing.”

The report said, except for infant formula and some baby food, federal regulations do not require product dating. But if a date is shown, the day, month and year must be available. Next to that date must be a “sell by” or “use by” phrase.

Types of Dating

According to the report, the term “sell by” generally tells the store how long to display the product for sale. Purchasers should buy the product before the date expires.

The phrase “best if used by or before” refers to the best flavor or quality of that particular product. It is not a purchase or safety date.

A “use by” date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while it is at its peak quality. The manufacturer of the product usually determines this date.

“Closed or coded dates” are usually numbers the manufacturer uses.


It is understood that grocery stores are run by economics. They are businesses that need to make money. If people do not buy certain products, they are taken off of the shelves.

“It is strictly supply and demand, and the store provides consumers what they want,” Heylen said. “Most grocery stores will offer the standards of produce, fresh meat, dried goods and beverages, but the way the stores adjust or twek that deals with what products people actually buy.”

That is a common reason why some grocery stores say they do not sell certain products, including various organic and sugar-free foods. But Lewis believes that is an excuse.

“We have demonstrated that people will leave the community if they want to buy things they need,” Lewis said. “If I’m a diabetic, and I need sugar-free products, we have been able to prove that people will leave to get those products.”

Where there are grocery stores in South Los Angeles, some believe they contain products of lesser quality than those in a well-off area.

“You might find a Ralphs in a more affluent or predominately white area that will have better variety, better quality and lower prices,” Lee said. “But in a low-income neighborhood with people of color, there will be limited variety, poorer quality and higher prices.”

But Heylen said the type of community does not affect how many grocery stores actually exist in the area. Instead, retailers often face challenges, including the lack of available land and a burdensome approval process.

“There are also other variables involved,” Heylen said. “It depends when one particular grocery store opened. At that time, maybe people built smaller stores. You cannot look at one store and say, ‘Look at this one,’ and then look at another store from the same chain and say, ‘Look at that one.’ You have to make sure you compare apples to apples.”


Efforts to improve health and eliminate disparities in South Los Angeles mirror those that occur in other food deserts around the country.

Lee talks about a grocery store’s herd mentality:

Philadelphia, PA created a collaborative effort between fiscal investors and community-based groups. The city developed an initiative called the Fresh Food Financing Initiative, which provides loans and grants to help stores open. The money also helps existing stores upgrade. The initiative has been around for five or six years, and it has resulted in nearly 100 store openings, Lee said.

“California is also in the throws of getting a healthy food financing initiative,” Lee added. “That one would be the result of now-pending legislation. The person who introduced it is from the South Los Angeles area, and he has been aware of how difficult it has been to address this issue of attracting new stores and upgrading existing stores. We’re hopeful that the dollars that might come out of our state budget will incentivize new store development.”

But the ability to eat healthily still depends on other food resources available in the community.

Obesity and diet-related chronic diseases are other problems people in South Los Angeles, and the rest of the nation, face.

Lewis talks about obesity:

The South Los Angeles area experiences disproportionately high rates of obesity and diet-related chronic diseases compared with West Los Angeles. According to a Community Health Councils study, about 35 percent of adults are obese in South Los Angeles, while only 10 percent of adults experience obesity in nearby West Los Angeles.

Diet-related chronic diseases, like diabetes and cardiovascular disease, are also more prevalent in the area. Lee said the abundance of fast food restaurants contributes to these conditions.

“The fast food growth absolutely tracked the population growth,” Lee added. “They create a real quandary for the consumer. These places tend to sell cheap and convenient food. You leave people with the option of taking a long bus ride to the grocery store or walking a short distance by foot.”

Heylen said food deserts have been an issue for decades, but he believes changes have slowly been made.

“You see a movement of more and more companies that are cognizant of their responsibilities for good, healthy food,” Heylen added. “The shift is happening. It will not happen overnight, but it is moving in that direction, and we will do what we can to bring more grocery stores to South Los Angeles.”

Grocery Stores

United Kingdom-based Tesco recently opened its Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market in South Los Angeles. The store opening continues a broader movement to bring development to that neighborhood.

But an online search showed no Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods in the South Los Angeles community. The closest Trader Joe’s is in Westchester, some miles away. On the Whole Foods website, a pull-down menu reveals many locations. Compton, Inglewood, Watts and other South Los Angeles cities do not fall among the areas listed.

See a map of grocery stores in South Los Angeles:

View Grocery Stores in South Los Angeles in a larger map


If you have any questions, or if you want to contact health organizations, please visit the following websites:

Community Health Councils

Healthy Eating Active Communities

Los Angeles County Department of Public Health


University of Southern California hosts Festival de Flor y Canto

In 1973, the University of Southern California hosted the first Festival de Flor y Canto, also known as the Festival of Flower and Song. The event featured dozens of Mexican American poets and writers. Discussion ranged from personal stories about families and friends to larger issues people often faced during the Chicano Movement.

Listen: Tyson Gaskill, the director of programming at USC libraries, discusses the history of the three-day event.

This week, dozens of people filled the Doheny Library’s Friends Lecture Hall. Amarilis Martinez, a resident of Milwaukee, WI, said she flew to California to help celebrate Mexico’s independence. But she also participated in the event to honor each participant’s creative writing.

Listen: Martinez explains her love for poetry and why she thinks this three-day event is beneficial to the community and school.

Listen and watch: Martinez reads a poem she dedicated to her family.

Listen: Daniel Acosta, a former teacher, talks about his past career and why he wrote the short story he presented at the event.

Listen and watch: Acosta reads the first part of his short story.

Listen: Acosta shares the rest of his story here.

El Centro Chicano, a division established at USC in 1972, helped organize the event. The department’s purpose is to encourage Chicano and Latino students to celebrate their culture and history.

‘Grim Sleeper’ pleads not guilty to alleged murders

The “Grim Sleeper,” a former mechanic suspected of killing at least 10 women in South Los Angeles, pleaded not guilty Monday, the Los Angeles Wave reported.

Private attorney Louisa Pensanti, who is representing the defendant for free, entered the plea for 57-year-old Lonnie Franklin Jr. As the Daily News reported, Franklin spoke very little during his arraignment in downtown Los Angeles.

Police captured Franklin July 7 after they linked his DNA to evidence found at different scenes; investigators determined that Franklin’s son had DNA similar to the killer. They obtained Franklin’s DNA and discovered that his matched alleged evidence from murders committed between 1985 and 1988, and between 2002 and 2007.

Since his capture last month, Franklin has been held in jail without bail. He allegedly murdered all of the women just a few miles from his South Los Angeles home.
The name “Grim Sleeper” comes from the defendant’s 14-year break between supposed murders.

Family and friends of victims attended the hearing.

Franklin will appear in court Sept. 14 when a pre-trial date will be set. The court will determine whether there is enough evidence to require Franklin to stand trial.

If convicted, the defendant can possibly face the death penalty.

Report: Mass immigration causes California’s lack of education and rise in inequality

The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) released a report last week that said California is last in a list of states ranked by the number of immigrants who have completed high school. The report further attributes this lack of education and the state’s sharp rise in inequality to mass immigration.

But A State Resilient: Immigrant Integration and California’s Future offers a more balanced view of the center’s report. A State Resilient presents California’s standing in terms of education, inequality and the immigrant labor force.

Though California has its share of educational challenges, Manuel Pastor, Justin Scoggins and Jennifer Tran of the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration (CSII) believe it is important to clearly understand the facts.

Pastor, Scoggins and Tran said California is simultaneously one of the most and least educated states in the nation. In their analysis, they found that 40 percent of California’s doctorates are foreign-born. They also found that, though inequality is an issue in the state, the rise in inequality has occurred mostly among the native-born. They said the “changes in our economic structure have not been driven by immigrants, but rather, have drawn immigrants to the state.”

They also argued that, if the state’s immigrant workforce really contributed to a slip in the quality of the workforce, it is difficult to parallel that with the state’s high standing when it comes to median household income and gross domestic product employed per worker.

“With the tough economic and fiscal challenges facing California, we need a balanced and common base of information,” Pastor, Scoggins and Tran said in an article. “[But] for those of us in the Golden State, the future remains bright, particularly if we can maintain the sense of openness and opportunity that have helped make California both resilient in the face of restructuring and a beacon to the people of the world.”

Los Angeles County sees first ‘green’ park

imageWhat used to be a devastated, vacant lot is now Los Angeles County’s first park with drought-resistant plants, permeable pavement, recycled materials for both park benches and tables, and solar lighting.

“Over the last few years, we have worked hard to get rid of eyesores like [vacant lots],” Gloria Molina, county supervisor, said. “We have transformed blight into much-needed affordable housing and community parks.”

About 100 students from Lillian Street Elementary School in Los Angeles participated in a contest to name the “green” park. Third grade student Natalie Torres submitted “El Parque Nuestro,” the winning entry.image

“We are very proud of Natalie and all of the kids,” Gloria Molina, county supervisor, said. “They [learn] early the rewards of civic participation.”

imageThe park is just a little less than an acre, but offers fitness equipment and a walking trail, something Molina referred to as the community’s “very own fitness zone.”

Before the park entered the community, an area often referred to as “park poor,” the nearest park in the neighborhood was Roosevelt Park, one that was about a mile away on Nadeau and Beach streets.

imageBut with the addition of private-public partnership housing, Molina felt it was necessary to add “green,” recreational space for neighborhood residents.

“We [will] save [on] energy, water and overall energy costs,” Molina said.

Proposition 40, the California Clean Water, Clean Air, image Safe Neighborhood Parks, and Coastal Protection Act of 2002, provided funds for the $2.1 million project.

“Now, there is a close and convenient park for everyone in the community to utilize,” Molina said.


Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation planned a summer of activities for Los Angeles county families and youth.

Youth summer camps will begin between the last week of June and the first week of July. They will run from Monday through Friday at about 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Hours and fees may vary from park to park.

Camps will be offered at the following parks, among others:

Belvedere Park: 4914 E. Cesar E. Chavez Ave., Los Angeles, 90022

City Terrace Park: 1126 N. Hazard Ave., Los Angeles, 90063

Eugene A. Obregon Park: 4021 E. First Street, Los Angeles 90063

Ruben F. Salazar Park: 3864 Whittier Blvd., Los Angeles, 90023

Saybrook Park: 6250 E. Northside Dr., Los Angeles, 90022


Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation will begin registration for summer swimming lessons on June 26, July 10 and 24, and August 7 and 21. The fee is $20 for a 10-lesson course.

The following pools, among others, will be open seven days a week during the summer, and all sites provide certified lifeguard supervision for swimmers:

Atlantic Ave. Park pool: 570 S. Atlantic Blvd., Los Angeles, 90022

Belvedere Park pool: 4914 E. Cesar E. Chavez Ave., Los Angeles, 90022

City Terrace Park pool: 1126 N. Hazard Ave., Los Angeles, 90063

Eugene A. Obregon Park pool: 4021 E. First Street, Los Angeles, 90063

Ruben F. Salazar Park pool: 3864 Whittier Blvd., Los Angeles, 90023


For more information about park services, please contact (213) 738-2963.

Office for Civil Rights investigates LAUSD for discrimination

The federal Office for Civil Rights will investigate whether low academic achievement of African American students results from discrimination by the Los Angeles Unified School District, the Los Angeles Times reported.

In a letter to community groups, the Office for Civil Rights disclosed the probe, with details about the investigation. The group will look into services provided to students who are learning English.

Black community leaders welcomed the news at the Southside Bethel Baptist Church in South Los Angeles, but also felt disappointed that the investigation did not come at an earlier time.

“To initially focus on one group and exclude others could have been divisive and counterproductive to overall reform,” the Rev. Eric P. Lee said prior to the forum. “It is unfortunate that it required the civil rights community to demand from the Department of Education that children be provided educational equality.”

The group will focus on English learns because the Los Angeles Unified School District has about 220,000 students, which is more than any other school system in the country. English learners, most of them Latino, make up about a third of students. Black students make up almost 11 percent of enrollment.

Federal officials said they will also pursue potential discrimination concerns involving black students in other parts of the country. They added that their evaluations should benefit all underserved students, but black community leaders are not satisfied. Civil rights leaders have also argued that black children never achieved the equality promised by past reform efforts.

“The message being sent to Los Angeles’ African American community is that the devastation to black students being caused by the failure of public education is of little consequence to you or your department,” a coalition of black leaders wrote in a letter to the federal Department of Education.

Federal analysts have been examining how English learners are identified and when they are judged fluent enough to handle regular course work. Officials will also look at whether English learners have qualified, trained teachers.

The investigation will compare five largely black elementary schools in Carson, View Park and Hawthorne with five largely white elementary schools in Bel-Air, Tarzana, Studio City and Encino.

“Our administration is committed to responding to communities and the civil rights issues they confront for all students,” Russlynn Ali, assistant secretary for civil rights, wrote in her letter to community leaders.

Federal officials have stressed that poor academic results do not, by themselves, prove discrimination. But federal officials also said discrimination does not have to be intentional to be subject to federal remedies and sanctions.

Past year sees many women in politics

So far, it has been a good year for women in politics.

In the past couple of decades, hundreds of female candidates have set their sights on Congress, governorships and state legislatures, the Associated Press reported.

And in Tuesday’s primary election, a few women racked up big wins.

In California, Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, two wealthy businesswomen, captured the Republican nomination for governor and Senate. State Legislator Sharron Angle, in Nevada, received the GOP Senate nod and will face Democratic Leader Harry Reid in November. Despite allegations of infidelity, Nikki Haley grabbed the spot in the GOP gubernatorial runoff, the Associated Press reported.

But one of the biggest wins of the night came from two-term Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln, the Associated Press reported. Lincoln received just a few more votes than Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. In Iowa, Roxanne Conlin won the Democratic Senate, and in Maine, Elizabeth Mitchell is the Democratic nominee for governor. Mitchell is the first woman in the nation to serve as both state Senate president and state House speaker.

In 1992, 24 women went to the House and five women went to the Senate. Now, 75 women are in the House, including the first female Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and 17 women are in the Senate.

“Many women are running and taking advantage of this moment,” Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, said. “When voters are looking for something new and something different, women can really fit that bill because they are not the status quo, they look different.”

Just two years ago, Sarah Palin was the first woman on a Republican presidential ticket, and Hillary Clinton almost won the Democratic presidential nomination.

Today, two women sit on the Supreme Court, and there is a chance Elena Kagan will join them.

Tips on how to make the temporary-to-permanent transition

As the economy improves, contract work and temporary employment are on the rise; many companies are hesitant to commit to permanent employees and higher benefit costs, the AP reported.

Erin Conroy, an AP business writer, said working a temporary job has its benefits. It is a reliable way to keep skills current and make new networking contracts, while still looking for permanent employment. But Tim Schoonover, chairman of career consulting firm OI Partners, said some should be cautious when attempting to turn some of these positions into full-time jobs.

“There are often no guarantees and no promises that they will be hired full-time, even if suitable openings arise,” Schoonover said. “The downside of contract work is there is this possibility that it can detract from a regular job search and create false hope about a full-time job.”

OI Partners generally offers this advice, and more, for making sure people get the most of their short-time position; it is important to make a smooth transition into permanent work.

The firm also suggests people ask up front if there is a full-time position available during the contract period. OI Partners stresses the importance of out-performing full-time employees who do the same, or a similar, job.

Part-time employees should be positive and upbeat about their commitment to the company. They should also act as if they are a full-time employee, Conroy reported.

“Don’t go around the workplace thinking of yourself as ‘only a contractor,’ and never display a negative attitude,” Schoonover said.

If one can understand the reasons for the contract job and the circumstances surrounding the position, he or she can also determine whether there is a future with the company. Another piece of advice offered is to meet as many people in the organization as possible. Sit in on staff meetings, keep in contact with the people who recruit for the company and complete any projects anyone assigns.

“Leaving projects unfinished will hurt you if you need to be a contract worker again or want a reference for your work,” Schoonover said.

Candidates compete for 33rd District seat

On June 8, voters will decide who will win Congresswoman Diane Watson’s 33rd District seat when she leaves office. On February 17, Watson announced she did not want to seek re-election this year because she wanted to spend time with her 100-year-old mother.

Whoever replaces Watson will work in one of the most diverse districts in California, Watson, who represented the district since 2001, said. There is a large population of South Koreans, the largest outside of South Korea, as well as a large number of Hispanics. The 33rd District is also home to Armenians, Pacific Islanders and African Americans.

Democrats in the upcoming race include Karen Bass, Morris F. Griffin, Nick Juan Mostert and Felton Newell. James L. Andion, David C. Crowley II and Phil Jennerjahn are the republican candidates.

Though Watson highly endorsed Bass, Bass said she will not take any part of this election for granted. The speaker emeritus of the California State Assembly said she has continued to walk neighborhoods, attended house meetings and sought endorsements.

“I feel that it is important for me to work at this level right now in terms of going to Congress,” Bass said, referring to Republican Scott Brown’s January victory over Martha Coakley for the late Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat. “Also, I think it is a question of respect. Respect for voters.”

For about 30 years, Bass has been involved in foreign and domestic issues. She founded Community Coalition, a community-based social justice organization. She started the organization about 20 years ago to deal with issues like drugs and crack cocaine addiction, which Bass said led directly to the “explosion” in foster care. Other issues Bass has addressed include criminal justice reform, health care and affordable housing. Bass also became the first African-American woman to be elected Speaker of the California State Assembly.

When Bass was first elected to the Assembly, she organized People’s Council, a group of volunteer community leaders who attempted to involve constituents in the public policy process. If she is elected June 8, she said she will possibly use a similar strategy to address issues in the 33rd District.

“I don’t know what I will create this time, but what I plan to do is bring together the leaders who are in the People’s Council and do a half-day retreat and say, ‘Now it is a congressional district. What do you think we should do, how do you think it should be organized?’” Bass said.

One current focus is policy issues, Bass told the Los Angeles Watts Times. Though her main focus is not on campaign promises, health care, jobs and advancement of green technology remain areas of interest for Bass. Her main focus, however, is on June 8.

“From June 8 on, if I am successful, I will have six months” to work on policy matters, Bass said. “I need to learn the federal process. So I could make up stuff, but I do’t want to do that. After June 8, that’s when I want to spend the time learning the federal system and trying to see what is realistic.”

Research: Latino children lose social skills in middle school

The American Psychological Association found that Latino children, even those who grew up in poverty, started kindergarten with strong social and classroom skills.

“The vast majority of Latino homes, especially immigrant households, is headed by two parents, and there are often grandparents around who help raise young children,” Bruce Fuller, professor of Education and Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, said. “Kids are taught to respect other family members, [which] gives young kids strong cooperative skills in terms of how they play with siblings and how they contribute to housework.”

Students who have these skills generally become better learners. But the association also found that those good qualities eventually wore off during the children’s middle school years, said Fuller, who co-edited the section highlighting this research in Developmental Psychology, an American Psychological Association journal.

However, Fuller believes steps can be taken to prevent this loss of social skills. Culturally sensitive teachers and strong parental advocacy can help these children, LA Beez reported.

“Enthusiasm helps children learn at a rapid rate,” Fuller said.

Fuller noted this loss of social skills can come from negative peer pressure and teachers who have low expectations for kids of color.

“For those Latino families who cannot afford to leave poor neighborhoods, there are negative peer influences as soon as middle school, such as young gangs emerging and friends whose parents do not value education,” Fuller said. “Secondly, in some poor [neighborhoods], we often have a concentration of uninspiring teachers or teachers who think brown kids are not going to college [anyway].”

It is unclear whether income level makes a difference in children’s classroom skills, but Fuller said it may be a factor.

“Overall, Latino children start school with social skills comparable to white middle-class kids, but we also find Latino kids coming from very poor households,” Fuller said. “Those [living] below the poverty line show weaker social skills and language development.”

Research from the American Psychological Association showed that children of color often looked around the American society and noticed that white children got ahead more than they did.

“[Kids of color] start to make judgments about whether the society is being fair to kids [who] look like them,” Fuller said. “I think we have to provide middle school youth with positive role models to make them feel that they can get ahead.”