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Food Insecurity Is Increasing In LA. How Microfarms Can Help

A Black man in a yellow jacket stands smiling in front of several rows of greens planted in the ground with houses in the background
Jamiah Hargins, founder and executive director of Crop Swap LA, stands in front of swiss chard and other greens being grown on a microfarm in View Park
(Meg Botel
/
LAist)
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There’s nothing in this world like fresh produce handpicked from Mother Earth. I can appreciate this because I grew up in a working-class neighborhood that today would be called a food desert. There just weren’t a lot of places close by that had fresh, healthy, affordable food to buy. 

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What You Should Know About Food Deserts

Due to racial segregation and poverty, food deserts mostly impact communities of color nationwide, especially Black neighborhoods. In Los Angeles, food deserts have been identified in parts of South L.A. and the San Gabriel Valley, as well as in areas around Commerce and Bell. Now, inflation is making access to food even harder. Food insecurity — which means a disruption in consistent eating — increased in L.A. County in 2022, jumping from roughly 553,000 households last year to more than 800,000 this year. That’s according to data from the University of Southern California’s Understanding America study.

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A picture of a sign that has information about Asante Microfarm
(Erin Stone
/
LAist )
We’re here to help curious Angelenos connect with others, discover the new, navigate the confusing, and even drive some change along the way.

But there are people working on solutions. Jamiah Hargins is the founder and executive director of Crop Swap LA. Through the cultivation of microfarms around Los Angeles — usually in someone’s front yard — he is creating a local food distribution system in the neighborhoods that need it the most. Hargins says he gets input from the community through surveys about what kind of food to plant. He says:

"In some neighborhoods we imagine there'll be more collard greens, okra… and kales. In other neighborhoods there may be more cilantro, tomatoes, onions, peppers…That’s another part that's great about this movement, it creates a confluence of culture and experience."

Another thing that’s cool? Not only are people able to obtain fresh produce from these microfarms, Hargins offers employment opportunities for people who live within the area as well.

A Black man in a yellow jacket stands in front of a mural of himself that reads: "Black excellence is a seed and you just need to water."
Jemiah Hargins, founder and executive director of Crop Swap LA, stands in front of a mural in Leimert Park. The art was painted in honor of him and his work in food insecurity in L.A.
(Meg Botel
/
LAist )

For more about Hargins’ mission and how Crop Swap LA works, listen to the latest How To LA podcast. My colleague, How to LA host Brian De Los Santos, stopped by the Asante microfarm in View Park to talk to Hargins about all of it. It’s a great conversation. Check it out here.

As always, stay happy and healthy, folks. There’s more news below — just keep reading.

More News

(After you stop hitting snooze)

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  • The final vote count is now official in Los Angeles County after a month of tallying hundreds of thousands of ballots. It turns out that fewer people voted this year than in the last midterm election. 
  • Anaheim Mayor-elect Ashley Aitken will be sworn in later on today along with three new council members. This comes after former Mayor Harry Sidhu resigned after an FBI investigation concerning a now-cancelled sale of Angel Stadium went public. 
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Wait! One More Thing...Life-Changing Albums

laurynhill.jpg
Lauryn Hill (pictured performing at New Orleans Jazz Fest earlier this month) will perform her classic "Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" at the Rock the Bells Festival

Like many Black Gen Xers and Millennials, I grew up adoring Lauryn Hill. But it was her debut solo album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, that had the most impact in my life. Even though it was released when I was still a young kid, songs like “Doo Wop (That Thing)” and “Ex-Factor” stayed in my head for years. As I got older, the album gained a deeper meaning for me. In the interludes throughout the album, Hill shows us a peek inside a classroom where a teacher, portrayed by American poet and current mayor of Newark Ras Baraka asks children about the concept of love.

So...what’s an album that changed your life?

That’s the question my colleagues posed on air to NPR music critic Ann Powers. Powers had Kate Bush’s The Dreaming at the top of her list. Among her other favorites: 1999 by Prince, Sound & Color by Alabama Shakes, U2’s Achtung Baby and, because she has great taste, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.

Find out what other albums made her list and about what some Angelenos consider life-changing albums here.

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