Nourish L.A. feeds those in need one grab & go grocery bag at a time
By Dev Jaiswal
In the age of coronavirus, many Los Angeles residents have found themselves out of a job, struggling to provide food for their families. In response, urban farmer and community engagement coordinator Natalie Flores founded Nourish L.A., an organization that has been providing free food and groceries to families in need every Sunday since March.
“The inspiration really came from COVID,” Flores, a resident of Mar Vista, said.
Nourish L.A. operates a drive-thru grocery pantry every Sunday at the Wood Cafe in Culver City. Set up happens between 12:15 and 1:15 p.m. and food distribution begins at 1:30 p.m. The organization is set to operate for its fifteenth week on June 28 and serves an average of 800 to 900 people weekly.
Those in need can come in their cars to pick up a bag full of produce, grains, eggs, a dessert or salad, and sometimes flowers. (Clients are asked to stay in their vehicles as volunteers bring food to their cars.) If a customer is infected with or at risk for COVID-19, they can email or call at least 24 hours before Sunday to be put down as a delivery for that week. Persons without transportation can also sign up for delivery but need to live within a 6-mile radius of the Wood Cafe. (Those further aflield can check out resources at lacontroller.org/data-stories-and-maps/foodforcalifornians.) Elderly or handicapped persons and those sick with coronavirus are prioritized for delivery.
Nourish L.A. operates with the help of volunteers who possess a “neighbors-helping-neighbors” mindset. The atmosphere at the pickup pantry is lively, and morale is high. The staff plays music as they hand out bags of food, and Flores described the team as a “family” and “a well-oiled machine.”
“When you’re doing the right thing, you know what needs to be done and somehow it all just works out for the best of the cause,” Flores said. “That type of energy just keeps us so excited every week.”
Volunteers of any age can sign up to help out online and will be asked to wear a mask during their shift. Donations of food, money, and supplies (i.e. bags, rubber bands, folding tables, fruit from home gardens, etc.) are welcome and can be brought on Sundays during set-up time. A pick-up time for donations can also be arranged through email.
The organization receives its food from partnerships with local food agencies such as Food Cycle Los Angeles, Food Forward and Food Finders. Local restaurants, businesses, churches, farmers, and community members have also pitched in. Flores wishes more initiatives like Nourish L.A. would spring up in surrounding cities so that more people could be served. Flores encourages members of her community to learn to garden with their neighbors so they can be more self-sufficient with their food.
Flores described the pride she feels knowing the people she serves will go home and have nutritious food to put on the table. She believes that food is “the great bridge in bringing people together.”
Nourish L.A.’s next food drive will be this Sunday, June 28, at the Wood Cafe in Culver City (12000 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City), starting at 1:30 p.m. Sign up to volunteer at
bit.ly/nourishLAsignup. Visit the group’s Facebook profile at bit.ly/NourishLAFacebook for updates.