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Freedom Farms To Grow Healthy Food For South, West LA Residents

Freedom Farms is helping residents in west and south Los Angeles eat healthier. In July, Los Angeles Assembly members Issac Bryan and Sydney Kamlager-Dove teamed up with Rev. Eddie Anderson and Rabbi Joel Simonds of the interfaith Partnership for Growth Los Angeles to launch Freedom Farms. The nonprofit has a goal of building more than 50 urban farms in parts of the city without easy access to healthy, local fruits and vegetables.

“We still have too many young people who have grown up on Gatorade and Hot Cheetos because they don’t know what fresh, nutritious food looks like,” Bryan told the “Los Angeles Times.” “Food is medicine. Food is life. Food is longevity. Food is the future.”

Photo Courtesy Partnership for Growth Los Angeles / Karim Saafir

In 2022, almost one-quarter of Los Angeles households experienced food insecurity. In fact, out of 18 grocery stores in south Los Angeles, 10 did not sell good-quality vegetables and fruit. Freedom Farms will team up with other nonprofits, local businesses, and agricultural experts to provide support for the urban gardens. 

Over the first year, the plan is to set five new urban farms in motion, invest in 10 that already exist, and eventually add an additional 37 over the next three years.

Farms may be under bridges, in backyards, in alleys, or even on rooftops. The program’s mission is to create sustainable, community-led economic development for Los Angeles communities of color that have faced a lack of investment throughout history.  

“This will be a model of how we use and think about urban space,” Simonds said to the “Los Angeles Sentinel.” “Our mission and vision is to grow right here in the community and for this to be replicated throughout the country so that other congregations and other small plots of land can be used to cultivate healthy food.”

“We’re redefining hyperlocal farm-to-table — planted and grown with this diverse community,” the rabbi said

Photo Courtesy Partnership for Growth Los Angeles

Freedom Farms kicked off with a $7 million state surplus grant for building and improving gardens. Each will hire senior citizens, at-risk youth, and formerly incarcerated people for construction and garden work.

The hope is that the grown food could end up on the shelves at local Whole Foods and other grocery stores, instilling a sense of pride in the community’s work. 

Organizers hope the gardens will help people make smarter food choices, in turn improving health and lowering rates of obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related health issues. All in all, Freedom Farms is about bringing food back close to home.

“This is a country that has politicized and has weaponized food,” Kamlager-Dove told the “ Los Angeles Times.” “And we have created an environment where large corporations are dictating what we eat, how much of it we eat, and how much we pay to eat it.”

The urban farms were inspired by Mississippi’s Freedom Farm Cooperative, founded by Fannie Lou Hamer to empower black tenant farmers and sharecroppers in the Delta. By addressing economic inequality and food instability throughout Los Angeles, Freedom Farms hopes to inspire even greater change and hope in these communities, which include Crenshaw and West Adams.

Photo Courtesy Partnership for Growth Los Angeles

“We believe that if we’re going to bounce back our society, then we have to feed the body before we feed the soul,” Anderson said to the “Los Angeles Times.”

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