Los Angeles. The City of Angels. Rightfully bearing the title of global city, teeming with people from cultures around the world. Beaches, desirable weather, good-looking people and the glamour that is Hollywood are what many associate with the reality of Los Angeles. While the aforementioned are indeed true, it is only a partial lens into one of the country's largest cities.
Returning home after living on the east coast for nine years and traveling seven continents, I naturally found myself in a different mental space than when I left at 18 years old. My senses were heightened. What I didn't notice before was suddenly apparent and left me with more questions than answers. A true Angeleno knows one thing for sure, (as Oprah would say). And that is, that Los Angeles is the epicenter of divine comestibles palates of all ranges can appreciate. Many however are not aware of a trending term that has also been used to describe L.A.: food desert. As the word suggests, it is barren, scarce and lacking as an essential part of life. The scarcity I'm referring to is not in the quantity of food but in the quality of food. Sadly, on every corner there are at least two to four strategically placed fast-food joints at your disposal, or convenience, I should say. And when you look through the whole lens, areas occupied by people of low income—such as South Central, Watts and Compton—show an even more unpleasant reality: a literal lack of fresh food.
I live in Compton. And while your mind may have just drifted to whatever cinematic reference you have of this community, I assure you that Hollywood has not completely or accurately summed it up. Members here of this community are determined to live the best possible lives for themselves, much like members of any other community. It’s inherent part of human nature, no matter what latitude/longitude you fall on. I've noticed this trend from the favelas of Rio de Janeiro to Washington D.C. I present this narrative not solely sustained by my opinions, beliefs or observations, but with the knowledge that you too as the reader have a stake in the answer. My findings, although not surprising, led me to this question: Why do we settle for mediocrity?
The economic implications of a healthy diet are clear. Initiatives like Michelle Obama's Let's Move which focuses on combating childhood obesity shows investment on the federal level, as it inevitably affects them. Poor-diet-related illnesses prevent people from working and disrupts the nation's financial system. It's economics. As a former teacher in Ward 7 of Washington D.C. where 100% of students receive free lunches, I witnessed how the initiative shifted students' meals to include healthier ingredients and reduced portion sizes. However, the school was surrounded by fast-food chains and fried-chicken joints. Why are resources for food vastly different as zip codes change? If, "well that's what they eat" comes to mind as you're reading this, then perhaps maybe the better question is, "How do we combat our stereotypical viewpoints of people?