Seed to Sky: building an economic bridge from LA's community gardens to LAX
We are building a coalition to enhance the role of gardens in communities - not only as a training ground for access and education, but as an economic bridge to bring dollars back into neighborhoods.
What does your organization do?
L.A. Kitchen works to combat hunger, food waste and recidivism, by reclaiming food that would otherwise go to waste to supply fresh meals to Angelenos and providing culinary job training.
Please describe the activation your organization seeks to launch.
L.A. Kitchen’s coalition leverages strengths of existing organizations creating resilient communities. Partners merge expertise in urban agriculture, entrepreneurial training, community engagement and social enterprise to activate a community-led food system. A foundation is set for an economic bridge, from Seed to Sky. Angelenos collaborate to grow healthy food right in our neighborhoods, create jobs, and generate profits that return to local residents through L.A. Kitchen’s social enterprise.
Which of the live metrics will your activation impact?
- Access to healthy food
- Obesity rates
- Resilient communities
Will your proposal impact any other LA2050 goal categories?
- LA is the best place to LEARN
- LA is the healthiest place to CONNECT
In what areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?
- Central LA
- East LA
- South LA
How will your activation mobilize Angelenos?
- Trainings and/or in-person engagements
- Encourage businesses to change practices
- Influence individual behavior
- Connect Angelenos with impactful volunteer opportunities
Describe in greater detail how your activation will make LA the best place to live?
Seed To Sky is L.A. Kitchen’s latest effort to challenge existing business models and create powerful bridges for change. L.A. Kitchen is excited to launch a coalition to stand side-by-side with other organizations doing powerful work in a collaborative network. This activation will lay a strong foundation to build an economic bridge - from LA to LAX - from Seed to Sky. This isn’t about making LA a better city to live in - LA already has powerful assets! Instead, it’s about strategically leveraging assets to collaboratively build a more resilient, just and connected food community. We are developing an urban food system, in which we put communities at the center.
This project builds on L.A. Kitchen’s existing social enterprise, Strong Food, which employs graduates from our culinary job training, and takes on contracts to manufacture food products for other businesses and L.A. Kitchen’s own brand. Strong Food will be partnering with a premier concessionaire at LAX to produce L.A. Kitchen sandwiches, salads and parfaits, creating a complete menu that offers traveling Angelenos and global visitors healthier food alternatives. This contract will bring L.A. Kitchen closer to realizing the power of a nonprofit that is self-sustainable - relying on consistent, earned income rather than the fluctuations of philanthropic funding.
What’s most exciting is that this contract with LAX is already helping L.A. Kitchen create more jobs and fight recidivism, food waste, and hunger through its community meal distribution program. When given the opportunity to share the wealth, L.A. Kitchen wants to squeeze every ounce of community impact we can. Funding from LA2050 will allow us to use our LAX contract to purchase produce from community-led gardens that are offering entrepreneurship training and job opportunities for residents in their neighborhoods, starting in South Los Angeles.
Together with coalition partners, RootDown LA (RootDown) and Our Foods, we are building the first food production site, featuring hydroponic and aquaponic technology, that will serve as a training ground and provide jobs for youth. L.A. Kitchen will purchase the produce to enhance its existing supply channels, creating an economic bridge from LA gardens to LAX. This activation will include an invitation to other garden programs in South LA: We welcome partners who share our goals - not only to nourish LA gardens, but also engage LA’s youth, teaching them about supply and demand, profit and loss, reinvestment and philanthropy, empowering the next generation of change agents in our neighborhoods.
We will realize the power of everyday commerce as fuel for philanthropy and revolutionize the way communities support each other, creating a more economically viable future for Angelenos. At every touch point across this economic bridge, from planting seeds to distributing salads, every dollar made will be reinvested back into our communities. Who knew, the impact of a grab and go at LAX?
How will your activation engage Angelenos to make LA the best place to live
The following efforts create an urban community where cross-sector efforts ensure residents’ food dollars are reinvested to support health and wealth creation for all:
2,000 South LA residents - youth, parents, police officers, farmers, business owners and seniors will be activated through training programs, garden installs, and produce distribution and sales. 6,000 Angelenos will be activated as they participate in promotional events - community garden days and nutrition/cooking workshops with L.A. Kitchen’s Chef T. and RootDown’s culinary training graduates.
An army of 12,000 L.A. Kitchen volunteers transform produce from existing suppliers and new coalition community-led farms into healthy meals donated to social agencies - picture youth taking produce they grow to local senior centers. A vast cross section of Angelenos will be activated along the economic bridge as produce is distributed - through farmer’s markets, local cafes, senior centers, and LAX.
Through high-visibility signage, product labeling and easy to share marketing tools, millions of travelers who pass through LAX monthly will learn about Seed to Sky, be inspired to support and join our efforts. Between partners’ shared social media campaigns and press our model will attract, tens of thousands more Angelenos, will be activated to join ongoing efforts to build a model community-led food system as we move towards 2050.
Please explain how you will define and measure success for your activation.
We will rely on formative assessments, getting feedback in real time and redirecting when necessary. Summative assessments will use both quantitative and qualitative measurements - such as the increase in knowledge and confidence of trainees, increase demand and access to healthy food, and the number of graduates who secure employment, stay connected to the farm or launch their own food business. Unlike other garden projects, success isn’t in the number of gardens we install, but in the sustainability of the farms we are cultivating, producing a high yield and creating long-term impact in the community.
Traditional metrics often overlook the unmeasurable community impact of connecting people to their food and the changes that happen when we empower youth to take on leadership roles. We will consider how many more people are eating healthier, through supporting social venture, youth empowerment, workforce reentry efforts, and locally grown food. This activation lays the foundation for L.A. Kitchen to transition from solely purchasing produce for its Strong Food contracts from larger suppliers who have less investment in social impact outcomes for Angelenos, towards supporting local community-led food systems. Including this new production site as well as existing urban farms, such as Alma Backyard Farms. By 2050 we hope to grow this coalition, increase the percentage of locally grown produce in our existing supply chain and the food dollars reinvested into our communities.
Where do you hope this activation or your organization will be in five years?
The future for LA is not relying on big corporations, but instead building a connected network of small businesses. In five years, we want to build a city-wide web of gardens that are thriving because they are linked by a business relationship that is profitable for all. We picture a network of community led gardens that collaborate on crop plans, harvesting schedules and production/distribution coordination. Most importantly, we want to empower a cadre of young LA residents who have been trained to think about how to make, manage and reinvest profit…and who will dare to dream of opening their own business someday.
We want to build a collaboration with health care agencies so we can begin to track how changes in our community led food systems may be impacting the health of LA residents who struggle with diet related illnesses. In five years, we will be actively engaged in powerful research projects with partner universities such as UCLA, Cal Poly Pomona and Keck Medical School at USC, to merge social enterprise, agricultural and clinical research dedicated to better health outcomes, more equitable income opportunities and stronger intergenerational collaborations.
As the network grows, L.A. Kitchen wants to increase the amount of locally grown produce featured in its contracts and other L.A. Kitchen / Strong Food branded products. Our goal is to prove that the power of market forces and everyday commerce IS the future fuel for philanthropy. We want to show, through the power of a simple sandwich purchase, that consumers can create a more deliberate system for authentic change by supporting companies that purposely set out to serve their communities.
Of course, we want to increase our hours of operation, and the number of L.A Kitchen culinary graduates we employ. In equal proportion, we want to increase awareness about the coalition partners, as well as the income that they can count on when they develop their annual budgets.
From the nonprofit side of our business, we want to engage more intergenerational volunteers who, through their experience at L.A. Kitchen, standing side by side with L.A. Kitchen students and chefs, will be exposed to the folly of food waste, the civic toll of hunger and the compelling need to support and engage our elders, young people exiting foster care and our returning citizens.
As they work side by side, these volunteers will be creating more ethnically diverse, plant forward meals for seniors throughout Los Angeles, or participate in our Super Senior Site programs, where meals are served alongside health and wellness programs that will help participants stay active, live independently and feel included and engaged.
Our activation will vigorously promote LA as a city that champions innovation,celebrates inclusion and commits itself to building resilient communities. Through our highly visible outlets at LAX, and the media our model will attract, we want to inspire people to take our ideas home with them, and consider how they can use existing resources the way our coalition has, and generate similar job growth, economic opportunity and community engagement.
It has been said that LA is the city where the future comes to happen. We want to prove that this axiom is true by revealing how the power of food and community can be maximized by the daring of dedicated partners who are committed to each other, their communities and the city we all call home.
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