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.
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2 Submitted Ideas
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L.A. Kitchen: Neither Food or People Should Ever Go to Waste
‘Charity is about the redemption of the giver, not the liberation of the receiver.’
Each of us has experienced the power of food to bring people together; whether through the intergenerational passing down of recipes and techniques, serving the less fortunate, or even around our own kitchen tables. But when it comes to helping people who are hungry, our systems are plagued by fragmentation, reinforcing models that perpetuate the kind of dependency that make breaking these cycles impossible. This antiquated model is inequitable ineffective and has more of a lasting impact on the ‘giver’ than the ‘receiver.’ The new L.A. Kitchen is at the heart of an innovative approach, a transformative model that uses the universal power of food to foster volunteerism, civic and social engagement, and voting.
First, we will recruit diverse L.A. residents to volunteer and join us in our commercial kitchen and produce processing hub, renewing raw fruits and vegetables into “strong” meals and nutritious snacks. Once there, volunteers will find incredibly real, rewarding work to be done. Very often, these perfectly edible items are discarded by farmers because they don’t appeal to a mass, privileged market; but thanks to L.A. Kitchen, they will be recombined as nutrient-rich, dignified fuel for hungry and at-risk individuals. While some of our volunteers will be the recognizable, middle-class do-gooders whose generosity currently supports nonprofits across the city, older adults who want to stay active and engaged and students from local high schools and universities seeking service hours will be a huge part of our mission, turning our kitchen into a gathering place and classroom. Everyone has a role to play and job to do at the L.A. Kitchen, and all are welcome!
Volunteers won’t be the only ones standing in our production line. At their side will be young men and women aging out of the foster care system and formerly incarcerated adults. These seemingly unlikely-paired groups will be enrolled in a pioneering three-month job-training program, allowing them to develop real culinary skills, while simultaneously mentoring one other & enriching the community.
Volunteers will interact on a human level with the very people they thought they would be serving, and together, they will nourish Los Angeles on a new level and be challenged to a degree that personal paradigms will shift. Both groups will be guided through the daily process by L.A. Kitchen staff, and most will have completed the rigorous culinary curriculum and earn living wages.
Once we’ve humanized hunger and joblessness in the minds of our volunteers, we will expose them to the true power of their dollars and their votes.
As consumers, each of us possesses great power. “Strong Food,” L.A. Kitchen’s dynamic social enterprise, will provide high-quality, nutritious items through responsible sourcing and fair employment practices, allowing everyday people to support our charitable work by purchasing our products. We believe in breaking down the obsolete barrier between .coms and .orgs. (for-profits and non-profits), and L.A. Kitchen will provide the top-quality skills and services expected of a for-profit with the social impact of a non-profit. As volunteers, L.A. residents can contribute their time and see meaningful impact as a result. As customers, they can spend their dollars and see the same. We will prove that living wages, an encouraging work environment, quality benefits, and financial transparency are not detractors from a company’s bottom line; they are some of its greatest champions.
Unlike too many nonprofits, L.A. Kitchen is unafraid of political action. Today’s leaders are paralyzed between the false choice of providing public good and creating private sector jobs. The L.A. Kitchen promotes a new civic currency, insisting that both are essential to generating profit and maintaining a civil society.
Employing foster care graduates and ex-offenders is cheaper than re-incarcerating them; recovering surplus food is smarter than throwing it away; giving our seniors healthy meals is less costly & more effective than loading them up with prescriptions. Engaging volunteers and utilizing their professional skills is smarter than having them paint shelter walls over and over again.
Human-to-human interaction, facilitated by food & fueled by social enterprise, grounded in empathy & dedicated to justice will unite Los Angeles around an inclusive vision for a healthier, more prosperous community.