Residents of South Los Angeles and many other urban areas face a challenge in accessing healthy food. This project analyzes food access and transportation in South Los Angeles and suggests policies and programs to link food access, transportation, and land use to bring people good food and good food to people.
Several years ago, our institute collaborated with community groups on a food assessment of three neighborhoods in South and Central Los Angeles. Residents, many of them students and parents at local schools, mapped over a thousand locations where food could be bought and conducted surveys of food selection inside a random sampling of these stores. Project CAFE (Community Action on Food Environment) captured valuable data on the distribution of food retail establishments and the availability, price and quality of healthy foods in different types of food stores. These findings are consistent with other research on food access in low income areas of Los Angeles (and other places). Fast food is pervasive. Supermarkets and farmers markets are scarce. Corner stores and liquor stores – the most common place to buy ingredients for cooking – have a worse selection, higher prices, and lower quality than full service grocery stores.
When we talked with residents about the challenges of accessing a healthy meal and ideas to improve the food environment in their neighborhoods, one of the themes that they came back to again and again was transportation. Mothers described the difficulty of using transit to reach stores with better selection when they had to transfer lines and carry bags and manage children on crowded buses. We heard that some drivers wouldn’t let riders bring hand carts onto buses. The difficulties of getting around to shop for food meant that many people who don’t own a car end up walking to the closest store- which, as we have seen, probably doesn’t have a great selection of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, etc.
Struck by this input, we partnered with the Community Redevelopment Agency / LA and Esperanza Community Housing Corporation on a follow-up study on transportation and food access in South Los Angeles.
You can read our Project Report here.