Healthy options pop up in South LA, but old eating habits die hard


Adrian Florido | KPCC (text and audio)
Maya Sugarman | KPCC (photos)

This article was produced for Watts Revisited, a multimedia project launched by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism that explores challenges facing South L.A. as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Watts Riots. Learn more at

Mary Muñoz, left, and her daughter, Melanie, smell fresh herbs grown at one of Community Services Unlimited's five mini-urban farm sites. | Photo by Maya Sugarman for KPCC

Mary Muñoz, left, and her daughter, Melanie, smell fresh herbs grown at one of Community Services Unlimited’s five mini-urban farm sites. | Photo by Maya Sugarman for KPCC

Each Friday afternoon, the corner of Western Avenue and 39th Street in South L.A. gets a little brighter. Just before 2 o’clock, Rosario Mireles pulls up in a utility truck, unloads crates of organic fruit and vegetables, and sets up a produce stand in the parking lot of a liquor store where addicts used to loiter.

The produce stand popped up not long after a nearby Ralph’s grocery store shut down in 2013, leaving only a Food 4 Less in the area, where neighbors say quality can be hit and miss. It’s one of a constellation of small efforts that nonprofits have launched to increase access to fresh produce across South L.A., where options are limited. They’ve included farmer’s markets, community and school gardens, and corner store conversions. [Read more…]

OPINION: Why Latinos need to speak out for Black lives

Ferguson protesters reach the site where Ezell Ford was killed last August. | Daina Beth Solomon

Ferguson protesters reach the site where Ezell Ford was killed last August. | Daina Beth Solomon

By Alberto Retana, Executive Vice-President, Community Coalition 

How much unrest will our country experience before we substantively address the injustices acutely impacting Black people?

For months, across the nation, tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets to demand police accountability, transparency and justice for the families that have fallen victims to state violence.

I am Latino and I stand in support members of the Black community seeking justice for their children and families.  It’s time that we, as Latinos, boldly speak out in support of justice.  If we are to truly deal with racism in America impacting Latinos, we need to understand what is happening right now with Black America.

[Read more…]

South LA liquor stores may put residents’ health at risk

Kenny's Market | Morgan Greenwald

Kenny’s Market | Morgan Greenwald

On West 48th Street in Hyde Park, a neighborhood of South L.A., children soak in the afternoon sun on swing sets and plastic slides at Angeles Mesa Park. Just down the street, amid residential streets lined with quiet houses, Kenny’s Market & Liquor stands covered in bright yellow paint, its luminescent ‘liquor’ sign inviting passersby to peek inside.

According to the 2012 “Health Atlas” compiled by city and county departments, Kenny’s Market & Liquor is just one of 152 establishments with an off-sale liquor license in South L.A.

This license allows a person to purchase alcohol at the establishment and consume it off the premises. South L.A. has one of the highest numbers of off-sale licenses in Los Angeles. [Read more…]

Century Liquor becomes Century Market, bringing freshness to South LA

Residents gather around the fresh produce samples at Century Market grand opening. | Jordyn Holman

Residents gather around the fresh produce samples at Century Market grand opening. | Jordyn Holman

A store stayed true to its new title of “Market” instead of “Liquor” by introducing fresh food options after years of pressure from the community. And with that, the number of stores offering fresh food options in South Los Angeles increased yet again.

Century Market is the most recent liquor store in the area to commit to stocking its venue with fresh produce. The store located at Western and 39th streets opened in its new incarnation last weekend, debuting shelves with fresh fruits and other healthy food options.

See also: South L.A. corner stores turn full-service

“We now have something that’s local for folks,” said Ansley Jean-Jacques, who helped press for the transformation along with activist organization Community Coalition. “They can now buy their eggs right here on 39th and Western.” [Read more…]

CDC gives South LA’s Community Coalition $3 million grant

Karen Bass check CDC | Taylor Haney

Karen Bass hands over a check to Community Coalition. | Taylor Haney

The Centers for Disease Control gave the South Los Angeles-based Community Coalition a $3 million grant last week to improve health in the region.

The REACH grant, short for “Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health,” is one of seven awarded by the CDC around the country.

Community Coalition applied for the grant with the help of the L.A. Public Health Department. Now it falls to them to distribute the funds to deserving programs in the region.

Rep. Karen Bass came to the celebration at King Park to hand over the giant check from the CDC to Community Coalition. Local fifth-grade students also came to kick things off. [Read more…]

Political outsider, community insider aims for District 8 seat

Marqueece Harris Dawson | Matthew Tinoco

Marqueece Harris-Dawson greets South L.A. residents to announce his candidacy. | Matthew Tinoco

The idea was to prevent kids from seeing pictures glorifying tobacco when they were at school. Marqueece Harris-Dawson was only just learning about the nuances of community organizing when his bosses told him to go to then assembly-member Herb Wesson’s office, and make the case to remove tobacco advertisements from public buses that are routed past schools.

He entered Wesson’s office and gave his pitch. Wesson thought it was a great idea, and he soon delivered to the Metro Board a motion proposing all ads for tobacco products be banned from public buses. It passed.

That was more than fifteen years ago. Now Harris-Dawson hopes to bring his talents to the L.A. City Council. He announced his candidacy on Saturday morning to a packed church in Baldwin Hills. [Read more…]

South LA residents create solutions to provide healthy food options

IMG_1430July 12 was a happy day for residents of the King Estates neighborhood in South L.A. Three weeks after the Ralphs supermarket on Western Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard closed, community members of the local nonprofit, Community Coalition and Community Services Unlimited opened “Fresh Fridays” Produce Stand so that neighbors would have a place to get fresh fruits and vegetables.

The opening took place on the corner of 39th Street and Western Avenue, in the parking lot of Century Market, a liquor store that just three years ago was the target of a protest by residents for being a public nuisance. The store, which has since worked to maintain community standards and meet city ordinances, has agreed to host the produce stand every Friday between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. [Read more…]

Fresh Fridays start this week in King Estates

From Community Coalition

Web only logoCreating an unlikely partnership with a local liquor store, community members of the local nonprofit, Community Coalition and Community Services Unlimited are opening “Fresh Fridays” Produce Stand on the corner of 39th Street and Western Avenue to sell fresh, organic fruits, vegetables and snacks. 

The grand opening of Fresh Fridays is this week on July 12 from 3-6 p.m. at 3894 S. WesternAvenue, in the parking lot of Century Market, a liquor store that just three years ago was the target of a large community protest by residents for being a public nuisance. The liquor store, which has since worked to maintain community standards and city ordinances, has agreed to host the produce stand every Friday. 

“This effort speaks to the power of what can happen when everybody comes together – neighbors, business owners, local non-profits – to build a better community for everyone,” said Marqueece Harris-Dawson, President & CEO of Community Coalition, which has been leading an effort to reduce crime and violence.

The produce stand in the King Estates neighborhood is part of a larger movement in the area to build a healthier and safer community. Over the past several years, Community Coalition has helped residents secure over $1 million in public funding to turnaround Martin Luther King park located across the street from the liquor store and to improve public health and safety by bringing in programs like the city’s anti-gang program Summer Night Lights.

“This produce stand represents another step in the right direction towards transforming our community and bringing better, healthier and safer opportunities for our families,” said Dorothy Redmond, a long time resident and mother of three. 

The stand will sell organic and locally grown fruits and vegetables, conduct cooking demonstrations, and give out free samples. Fresh Fridays start on July 12, 3-6 p.m. at 3894 S. Western Ave.

Newly elected city attorney meets with South LA residents

Mike Feuer

City Attorney Mike Feuer speaking at a South L.A. meeting.

Many Americans will remember June 20 as the night when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and company won their second consecutive NBA championship. South Los Angeles hopes to remember this date as a symbolic moment, in which a new and productive relationship was developed with the city attorney`s office.

Last night, over 100 South L.A. residents attended a town hall meeting organized by Community Coalition at its South L.A. headquarters, to meet the newly elected Los Angeles City Attorney, Mike Feuer. The high level of energy and the eagerness to let Mr. Feuer better understand their issues and concerns clearly demonstrated that residents are hoping that the new city attorney –who will take office on July 1– will help to improve their community’s quality of life.

Feuer understands that his office will have to improve its performance in several areas. “If the city attorney were doing his job properly, the playgrounds and the pathways to school for our kids would be safe. If the city attorney were on the job, prostitution would be gone and the businesses that we choose to site in our neighborhood would be those we actually want in our community,” he said.    [Read more…]

Emotional roller-coaster at Community Coalition´s election voting party

By Patrick Thelen
Associate Editor

South LA residents watching the elections at Community Coalition’s headquarters

The long, exhausting and grueling presidential campaign is finally over. Barack Obama has been re-elected and his supporters woke up this morning feeling happy, relieved and at ease.

Last night, emotions weren´t as peaceful among some President Obama supporters. In an electoral viewing party held by Community Coalition, South LA neighbors came together to watch CNN’s coverage of the election.

“How are they doing?” These were the first words asked by a woman arriving to the party with her teenage daughter at 6:50 p.m.

“It´s tight,” was the response she received.

“Oh, that´s not good. I’m worried.”

She wasn´t the only one feeling that way. There was a tense atmosphere among the people watching the coverage at Community Coalition´s headquarters.

“I want Obama to win but it looks like a tight race. We´re at the edge right now. It´s like we´re walking on a tight rope,” said Francisco Pérez. “Whatever happens,” he added, “we´re going to have to deal with it.”

At 7:00 pm, a number of people cheer when they hear that CNN has projected President Obama´s victory in New Hampshire. 15 minutes later, CNN reporters say that Democrats hold onto Senate majority. The mood is beginning to change. People are starting to loosen up and some are even making a couple of jokes. Others decide to stand up and begin eating the food offered by Community Coalition.

It´s 7:20 pm and Rose Davidson is still feeling worried and anxious. “I´m very nervous. It doesn´t look good in some states,” she said. “I´ll feel bad if Obama loses. A lot of things will change. It´ll be hard for us.”

Katy Nixon enjoying the food at the election voting party

Katy Nixon is sitting next to Rose. Both of them were born in Belize, and arrived to the United States in the early ‘70s. They’ve been friends for over 20 years. “If Obama loses it´ll be hard for the 47 percent of us Romney criticized. He doesn´t know much about living from one paycheck to another paycheck,” said Katy. “For my part,” she added, “I´m just praying for Obama to be re-elected. I have my confidence in God. He´ll put Obama back there.”

At 7:44 pm, people begin cheering when CNN projects that President Obama has won Minnesota. 11 minutes later clapping sounds fill the room as they find out that Democrat Elizabeth Warren defeated incumbent Republican Scott Brown in the Massachusetts Senate race.

At 8:00 pm, a large cheer is heard as the community learns that Obama has won California, the biggest and most populous prize of the night, which carries with it a whopping 55 electoral votes. Only five minutes later, the loud joviality turns into silence when CNN projects that Mitt Romney has won North Carolina.

Mirna Márquez and her daughter Jocelyn

Mirna Márquez is not as nervous and excited as some of the other community members. “I voted for Obama,” she says in Spanish, “but I am sad because he has not done what he promised in 2008. I have not seen changes. Everything is the same.”

Jocelyn, Mirna’s 11-year-old daughter who studies at the Ambassador School of Global Leadership, doesn´t care who wins. “Why is everyone so nervous about this?” she asked.

As these words came out of her mouth the room was filled with cheering, yelling and cries of happiness. It was 8:15 and CNN informed that President Obama had won the elections. “Everybody´s going crazy,” Jocelyn said, as she observed the members of her community. “You have to write that down in your article,” she added.

Post-victory comments

María Muñiz, a young member of the Latino community said “I am super excited right now. I support Obama’s views on birth control, and I am glad that I will have the freedom to choose what to do with my body.”

JoeAnna Fulton was also glad about President Obama’s victory. “I am happy that Romney didn´t win because he got on my nerves.”

Katy Nixon, the senior citizen that Intersections had previously talked to, was delighted. “I´m feeling happy. Things are going to be progressing now. President Obama will have four more years to make things better for whites, blacks, rich, poor, everybody. You know what, I´m going to have a good night’s sleep.”