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A New Market Brings Healthy Food And Community Resources To South L.A.

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A grocery store and cafe opening next week aims to offer healthy, affordable food options and supportive community programs to an underserved neighborhood. With Love Market & Cafe, which will open its doors to the public on Monday, is a non-profit startup that is far from your typical corner store. Located on Vermont Ave. in what is known as the El Salvador Community Corridor, the new social-enterprise venture—or disruptor, as they prefer—is designed to provide a healthier alternative to the fast food and typically junky convenience store offerings found in abundance in the nearby South L.A. communities like Adams-Normandie, University Park and Exposition Park. In addition to stocking their shelves with fresh produce and grab-and-go bites at reasonable prices, With Love will also function as a community meeting place, offering classes, jobs, internships and more to local residents.

"It's an amazing community hub that just happens to be a grocery store," Johnny Lee, who handles media for the market, tells LAist. "We think that this will address a lot of issues on many levels with the help of things like financial literacy programs, homework help and health and fitness classes."

The idea for With Love came from Andrew McDowell, the market's CEO and co-owner, who lives in the area. With the help of others, McDowell spent years researching and canvassing nearby neighborhoods to learn about the needs of the community and how they could help address those issues. McDowell then set about collaborating with an extensive team—with backgrounds in everything from social work to healthcare, non-profits, food policy and community development—to make the market and cafe a reality. What started as a Kickstarter campaign has now come to fruition.

"We're excited to open With Love Market & Cafe because it's truly the culmination of 3.5 years of gathering community support and community engagement around the project," McDowell tells LAist. "It's finally coming together and everyone can see, touch and taste all the hard work."

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Each item bound for the shelves of With Love was carefully vetted not only for nutritional value, but also for its affordability to allow more people access to healthy options that might otherwise be out of reach—both geographically and financially. But as Lee explains, healthy food can sometimes be perceived as a negative thing—either elitist or lacking in flavor—and so, "We're not trying to push 'healthy' food, but rather real food that is affordable." The staff at With Love will also be able to assist customers in shopping for what they need while staying within their budget, something you don't find in your typical grocery store.

The With Love Cafe will serve healthy food and drink options, including grab-n-go sandwiches and salads made on site, as well as quality, single-origin coffee and tea. There's plenty of seating available both indoors and on their second-floor balcony, as well as on the outdoor patio. There, visitors will find a communal space with a mural painted by local artists and a community garden, created with the help of the non-profit The Edible Apartment.

The community programs at With Love will offer a range of options, both for adults and children, and will evolve based on the desires and needs of local residents. They'll offer food cooking demos, budgeting classes, advice on starting a business, exercise groups, assistance with applying for financial aid for students, computer literacy and repair courses, and more. They also plan to partner with local businesses, non-profits, churches and schools to provide additional resources, and offer a meeting space that can be reserved by community members for events.

"With Love Market & Cafe will offer the community a place that is theirs," McDowell says. "It was made for them and for their benefit so I hope they can feel it and take full advantage of it"

This weekend, the team will be putting the finishing touches on the space, and plan to host the grand opening on Monday.

With Love Market & Cafe is located at 1969 S Vermont Ave, Los Angeles, (213) 817-7290