Community Food Projects Grantee Spotlight: Community Services Unlimited

This spotlight is a feature in a series of the USDA Community Food Project Competitive Grant Program (CFP). Grantees are doing some of the most innovative and collaborative projects to change local and regional food systems. WhyHunger’s Food Security Learning Center — also funded by a CFP grant — is profiling these organizations through dynamic stories and pictures, to give a real flavor of what the projects look like and how they’re accomplishing their goals. Up today: Community Services Unlimited, Los Angeles, California. We worked with CSU in 2011 in the first year of the Community Learning Project for Food Justice. Story and picture by David Hanson.

Daniella, 18, used to ride her fixy bike all day, just to be outside. She doesn’t like being inside, it makes her feel trapped and closed-off. It’s not that she comes from a bad home, just a crowded one. Her mom left the family of eight children when Daniella was five. So her dad took care of the kids. He cooked at a golf club so he made all the family’s meals at home, and not just traditional dishes from their native Michoacan. Mr. Gallegos cooked chicken alfredo, sweet-and-sour pork, lasagna. They only ate fast-food, what Daniella then considered a treat, once a month. Mr. Gallegos’ mom, Daniella’s grandma, had made him learn how to cook for himself when he was a young man because she said women are crazy and yours might just leave you one day, so you better know how to cook.

Irene, 25, also knows a crowded house. She and her seven siblings grew up only with their mom. Irene’s mom cooked every day of the week, leaving only weekends for the kids to buy the junk at the corner stores and fast food. They ate breakfast and dinner at home. It wasn’t mandatory, but no one missed dinner at home. Why would you if mom was cooking? It wasn’t necessarily healthy – greens boiled for too long and with bacon. Meat fried. But it was a home-made meal and all the kids learned how to cook.

So these two girls working behind the counter at the Village Market Place café and produce stand in South LA’s Mercado La Paloma, have a few things in common besides growing up on the rough streets of South LA. Both have graduated from high school and both found the Community Services Unlimited program because they are enterprising young women who want to succeed on their own.

Read the rest of the profile on the Food Security Learning Center

Siena Chrisman