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Feed Our Soul reimagines access to food in South Central Los Angeles

South LA has the highest concentration of fast-food restaurants of the city, about 400, and only a few grocery stores. (David McNew/Getty Images)
South LA has the highest concentration of fast-food restaurants of the city, about 400, and only a few grocery stores. (David McNew/Getty Images)

During her time studying restaurant hospitality and food systems at Georgetown University, urban farmer Adrienne Wilson got to thinking about access to food where she grew up in South Central Los Angeles.

South Central is considered a food desert, a place where residents don’t have convenient access to fresh foods. According to the nonprofit StoryMaps, there are only seven grocery stores in South Central for more than 750,000 residents.

In her early 20s, Wilson got sick from a lifetime of eating fast and convenient foods.

“I just started feeling sick. I started getting cramps in my stomach. I wasn’t really digesting well,” she says. “I know it’s not something that people like to talk about, but I wasn’t really having my movements. And so then I was cramping, cramping, cramping, and I was like, all right, I have to go to the doctor.”

It was this wakeup call that led her on the path to creating Feed Our Soul, a nonprofit organization that builds hydroponic farms in schools across LA. She also holds cooking demonstrations at the Crenshaw Farmers Market in South Central, where she uses fresh ingredients to show young people how to prepare their own meals. She calls the work she does restorative.

“Our goal is to make sure that we create a new world where we do have some of the great things that we love and enjoy, but also kind of just reimagining what our food system looks like,” she says. “What does it look like to eat healthy, fresh produce that grows from the ground and that we grow ourselves?”

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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