Grass Roots Neighbors delivers much-needed meals by bicycle

By Dev Jaiswal

Volunteers prepare to ride into action to deliver food and supplies to unhoused neighbors
Photo courtesy of Grass Roots Neighbors

Every Sunday evening, a team of bike-riding volunteers takes to the streets of Venice to donate food to the area’s unhoused. These volunteers are part of Feed the People, a program run by Playa del Rey-based initiative Grass Roots Neighbors.

“We’re giving people a warm meal on Sunday nights and also emergency supplies, jackets, shoes, jeans, things like that,” Vlad Popescu, president of Grass Roots Neighbors, said.

Popescu and his team, which includes his wife Stephanie, have been helping feed the streets of Venice since 2013, when Feed the People launched in the spirit of providing immediate assistance to those in need. The warm meals often include mixes of vegetables, fruit and rice, with the occasional granola bar. The food varies and comes primarily from donations, which can be made via Grass Roots Neighbors’ website.

“We wanted to support good public policy to help people get off the street,” Stephanie Popescu explained. “[But] while we were doing that work, people were hungry immediately.”

Now in the age of the coronavirus, Grass Roots Neighbors has expanded their Feed the People program to include a COVID-19 mutual aid program. Vlad explained that his wife Stephanie has really been the “core leader” of the COVID-19 program, which makes grocery deliveries to households in Venice, Playa Vista, Playa del Rey and others in West Los Angeles.

“Our grocery deliveries are targeting those who are housed but are struggling,” Stephanie said. “On Sundays, we are bringing food to people who are unhoused.”

Coronavirus has made operations slightly more difficult, mainly in that vegetable supplies from the farmers’ market have become limited and that access to a kitchen space provided by Holy Nativity Church is no longer available. But other local businesses have stepped in to help out. Vlad and Stephanie thank real estate developer Legado for providing space for the group to operate out of Playa del Rey, as well as Gumgum Company in Santa Monica for managing an online advertising campaign.

Vlad also thanks community members for helping with donations to help get the COVID-19 mutual aid program up and running.

“[Coronavirus] allowed other people to plug in, and it gave us completely new opportunities and new ways to help,” Vlad said.

Local mothers were one of the first community members to step up, Stephanie explained. Through posts on social media “mommy groups,” word about grocery deliveries spread. Donations by local moms have included freshly baked bread and face masks.

“It was this mommy group that started it, but now it’s just grown and it’s a whole neighborhood coming together to take care of the people that need to be taken care of,” Stephanie said.

Vlad was quick to mention how appreciative the unhoused community has been.

“They say we are angels and really a lot of wonderful things,” Vlad said. “Everybody blesses me and thanks us.”

Stephanie shared the sentiment.

“A lot of the folks who are receiving help from us are saying ‘When I get back on my feet again, I want to help too,’” she said.

Grass Roots Neighbors plans on continuing Feed the People and the COVID-19 mutual aid program as long as there is need.

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