Editor’s note: The story ran as part of The Times’ Behold special photo project that spotted Black LA through images and its own words in honor of Juventus. To see the whole project, go to latimes.com/behold.
It starts with Instagram DM.
In the same place you will find a menu of Straight Up Fast Food and its organic smoothies and cold-pressed juices every day from 8am to 6pm (filled with Jefferson, Blackberry, Akai, apples and more, you will never be disappointed), just your Choose and shoot a message page with your location.
Soon, it will reach owner and founder Center McGuinness IV, who will likely line up a batch of products for another customer behind 5-Star Kitchen on Vernon Avenue. As soon as your medicine is ready, he will hop on your motorcycle by knocking on your door as soon as he can say the word “Big Mac”.
McGinest has always been a hustler, ever since he was selling candy as an elementary school. Over the years, he has traded in high-fructose corn syrup for organic fruits and vegetables, creating his own brand and expanding access to healthy food in South LA.
He has taken his motorcycle to Sherman Oaks, South Gate and Pasadena to drop off his mixed beverage (never charge a delivery fee, even if far away). Still, most of his clients are in South LA, where access to healthy food is historically degrading.
“In the neighborhood, we are forced to eat fast food,” he said. “It simply came to our notice then.
The statistics are everywhere. According to a 2018 Los Angeles County Health Survey, the obesity rate in South LA was 37% compared to 28% in LA County. The concentration of fast-food restaurants deteriorated so much that in 2012, the city of LA tried to ban newcomers from setting up shop – although flaws in the law meant it was not as effective as expected.
For McGinest, though, he knows healthy eating habits. His father was a bodybuilder, cutting red meat and junk food from his son’s diet at an early age. Center McGuinness took it to the next level as he grew older, becoming a vegetarian for about five years (although he eventually withdrew).
While building the platform as a skateboarder, he was inspired to focus on food justice while working for the non-profit community service Unlimited, thinking of ways to use his influence to help people eat better. He started posting photos of his smoothie on Instagram, and long ago DMs asked “what’s in it?” Began to enter.
A switch flipped through his mind.
“I sell it to my close friend every day until the menu arrives,” he said. “Then he bought everything on the menu. My first two customers bought everything until it grew. Now it’s like, I can call them anytime, like, ‘Do you need anything?’
He formally launched the brand in 2019, and now he leaves 10 to 20 smoothies a day (things get much busier if he tries to add more). He may be more valuable than his long-term clients, however, he is abandoned – and starts making smoothies himself.
“People will buy from me first when they find out about the smoothie, and then they stop, but that’s because they bought the blender,” he said. “They’ll show me a picture of Blender, and I like it. We spoke in the days of Timothy Liri. I want to encourage people to learn about these organic fruits and vegetables, and do it yourself.”
Those looking to do so can visit Süprmarkt, an organic grocery store founded by Olympia Auset in 2016. Oset grew up in Los Angeles, and as a child, she paid little attention to the condition of grocery stores in the South. LA
Of course, as her family traveled to other neighborhoods to shop, she noticed differences: clean corridors, good food, and good shopping experience. But it wasn’t until he returned from his studies at Howard University that the rift really sank, forcing him to look for reasons.
“It smelled like death when you went to my neighbor’s grocery store,” said Asset. “As soon as I walk in the door, it smells like old things. I find that many grocery stores – when things go bad – will send them to other grocery stores, like the neighborhoods where I grew up.
After becoming a vegetarian and experiencing the benefits of a healthy diet, she started Süprmarkt in 2016 with the goal of spreading that knowledge to the community. Setting up shop on a borrowed table in Leimart Park, he saw the range of reactions. People who are happy don’t have to travel far for their produce to others who have never seen fresh basil before.
“Once, this little boy came up to us and pointed to the banana and asked, ‘What is it?'” She said. “She was watching, so I gave her a banana. She asked, ‘Why is it so good?’ I said, ‘Because it’s real!’
“[He and his brother] Their father was blown away, and he came and bought the bananas we had, “he said.” About a quarter of the bananas are. It’s part of their diet now. “
Now, she is transforming that rickettsial table into the first Süprmarkt bricks-and-mortar store, the old home of the Health Food Store near Cranshaw and Slasan, near Mr Wisdom, set to open this year. A healthy oasis long in the man-made food desert South LA, Mr. Wisdom offered veggie burgers, healthy plates, wheat grass shots and just a friendly ear for those looking to change their diet.
Auset has long wanted to secure physical stores in the neighborhood. After the assassination of Nipsey Husl in 2019, she was finally moved to take that step, and when she discovered that Mr Wisdom had closed in January of that year, she knew it could not happen anywhere else. Süprmarkt started Fundraiser to secure money for the building, and by October 2020, they closed the building and received state keys.
Like many others, however, the epidemic threw a wrench into the plans. By the time they got to the escrow, the world was already in turmoil; When construction began in November 2021, the price of wood and other goods had already skyrocketed.
“Everyone wants to charge, like, five times more for everything, and start quoting you crazy,” she said. “We had a quote for painting the exterior of the building, and someone said $ 60,000. That’s literally the size of a house.”
At the same time, the demand for food exceeded their expectations. Before the epidemic, they would start subscription services, sending about 15 boxes of fresh produce to signed homes each week.
By March 2020, that number had reached 50 boxes a week. And that was just the beginning.
“We measured five times more work in a single setup than a small operation,” she said. “We were working from the back of the Hot & Cool Cafe; we had a small fridge and two folding tables, which sent 75 to 100 boxes over the weekend. It was probably the most nerve-racking time of my life.”
At Crenshaw Boulevard and Hyde Park Community Center Project 43 on 71st Street, it was a similar story. On a hot March day, a woman known in the community as Ms. Ann was sitting in her small office, looking at spreadsheets of numbers highlighting the growing demand in recent months.
The center does more than just pass food; The building has podcast equipment, a computer lab that serves as a teaching space, and a “Giving Smiles” program that provides supplies to women with newborns. When supermarkets closed and people lost their jobs during the epidemic, however, food became the most needed.
Between July and December 2021, the center fed about 5,400 people. In the three months from January to March 2022, it has already surpassed that number, leaving 7,000 people in need of subsistence.
“It’s without a proper fridge, where I have to feed every day,” she said. “Even at 8, 9 o’clock, they will knock. ‘Ms. N, did you get bread? Ms. Ann, did you get milk? ‘ Sometimes I have to tell them no because I can’t save it and have to give it all up. “
Before she grew up, a woman named Amerilus Cooper worked day and night to open the center. Even before he set up shop on the building in 2019, five different contractors tried to get him out of the mission, saying it was too expensive and too laborious to repair the dilapidated building and improve the low-resource neighborhood.
She eventually secured the lease, but the reputation of the neighborhood made it difficult for donors to secure it. Instead of being intimidated, she went straight to the source – approached the drug dealers, pimps and prostitutes who ran into the corner and told them what she wanted to do.
“I [told them]”I’m going to change lives in this corner,” she recalled. “Help me to help.”
“They didn’t show up during the day,” she continued. “But then I got the word, ‘Ms. Ann, you know they’re coming at night when they think you’re not there.’ So I started driving; 1am, 2am. They were like, ‘Oh, this woman is serious. She’s not a bull.’ And they stopped. “
As Kovid-19 intensified, she began feeding herself to the same people she had talked to about turning the story around. Along with that demand, he saw people become more specific about what they put in their bodies, the public health crisis has prompted many to take their health more seriously.
“The epidemic has only allowed more people to think outside the box,” she said. “Look at how many people are looking out of the box for food, healthy food, vegetarianism. The epidemic has taken people to a whole new level,” he said.