connect / 2014
Healthy Neighborhood Market Network
Please describe yourself.
Collaboration (partners are signed up and ready to hit the ground running!)
In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.
We connect neighborhood markets to business, leadership and community resources to make good food available for all Angelenos.
Does your project impact Los Angeles County?Yes (benefits all of LA County)
Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?
- Central LA
- East LA
- South LA
- San Gabriel Valley
- San Fernando Valley
- South Bay
- The project resources and events are accessible for all LA County residents, though outreach to storeowners is focused in South LA and East LA, neighborhoods with limited healthy food access.
What is your idea/project in more detail?
The Los Angeles Food Policy Council builds the capacity of small “mom n’ pop” store owners in ‘food desert’ communities to thrive as good food businesses and civic leaders! Through our Healthy Neighborhood Market Network, we connect LA’s multi-ethnic, multi-lingual neighborhood market owners to food industry experts, government reps and community advocates who share skills, resources and mentorship. Our cross-discipline trainings combine business development, civic leadership and health and nutrition fields.
What will you do to implement this idea/project?
Our goal is to train 100 neighborhood markets and entrepreneurs across Los Angeles County within 12 months as good food business leaders. By reaching this number of businesses, we aim to support new leadership in the movement to ensure all communities have access to Good Food!
As we do every year, we will offer three major trainings for neighborhood markets and food entrepreneurs, one conducted in Korean, one in Spanish and a large multi-lingual gathering called “Healthy Foods, Healthy Businesses.” This year, we are excited to unveil our complete multi-discipline curriculum which is specifically designed for neighborhood retailers and entrepreneurs serving low-income communities in Los Angeles. The seminars help businesses achieve “triple-bottom” line impacts, helping them grow their business, sell a healthier product and better serve the community.
The curriculum is taught by the LA Food Policy Council’s diverse network of industry, government and non-profit professionals who bring decades of experience in food retail, wholesale, distribution, public health and community development. Topics covered include marketing, merchandising, store design, procurement and vendor relationships, profitability of fresh food, financing, store upgrades, health, nutrition and community partnerships. Participants walk out with an action plan for their new healthy business and tons of new contacts to help them along the way.
Seminars are held in South Los Angeles, Boyle Heights or Mid-City, where there is a high concentration of neighborhood markets and the greatest need for more healthy food options. This year, we are excited to hold our first-ever “train the trainers” event for healthy neighborhood market owners who are ready to share what they have learned with their peers. We believe in the leadership and experiential know-how of small business owners and have seen that peer-to-peer learning makes a huge impact.
How do we reach neighborhood market owners and food entrepreneurs? To date, we have touched over 400 small food businesses in “food desert” neighborhoods by putting our boots on the ground and reaching out. Every year, our multi-lingual (Korean and Spanish speaking) staff spend countless hours walking the block and visiting store owners across LA to learn about their business needs and connect them to resources. We also circulate newsletters and radio advertisements and partner directly with business associations. We’re ready to grow the Network!
How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to CONNECT today? In 2050?
Growing Good Food businesses where they’re needed most! Did you know that almost 90% of grocery retail stores in South LA and Boyle Heights are small neighborhood markets? Did you also know that millions of dollars leave these neighborhoods every year in grocery sales made elsewhere? Imagine if ALL neighborhood markets offered wholesome grocery foods? Our strategy is to invest in existing businesses to help them expand healthy food options and keep money in the neighborhood! Within 1 year, at least half of our storeowner participants (50 stores!) will carry fruits and vegetables. That translates to about 100,000 residents with new and improved access to healthy food right in their neighborhoods.
Creating community at the neighborhood market. Mom n’ pop markets already act as community hubs in many neighborhoods, where locals share tips and friendly chisme while picking up their daily goods. How can we take that kind of neighborhood connectivity to the next level? Our project facilitates partnerships between markets and their local neighborhood institutions like schools, clinics, libraries, churches and neighborhood councils to unite together as “Good Food Neighbors.” That means they’ve pledged to spread the word about the good eats now available at their local corner store. The store becomes the site of healthy cooking demos, smoothie sampling and health consultations. Working together, market owners and their neighbors create a safe, clean, community-serving space. It’s a “win-win!”
Lifting up the leadership of neighborhood markets for Good Food. We believe that in order to create a Good Food system in LA, we need to invest in the leadership of those who have been historically disenfranchised. Neighborhood markets in LA are mostly Korean, Latino or African-American family-run businesses. Many are immigrants or first-generation, with limited formal education. We’ve found that they have a TON of great ideas about improving their communities. Through public speaking, media and peer teaching, the Healthy Neighborhood Market Network is a forum for store owners to participate in civic and policy discussions on what can create economically just, vibrant and healthy communities.
In LA 2050, we see diverse neighborhood market owners CONNECTED to fellow food businesses, neighborhood leaders, government reps and each other in mutually beneficial ways that improve the health of communities through good food, local business and increased civic participation.
Whom will your project benefit?
• Low-income food entrepreneurs. Healthy Neighborhood Market Network participants leave our trainings with a business plan to integrate new healthy food products successfully. With new Network connections and LAFPC staff by their side, storeowners will have support to implement their dreams. We expect many store owners to see an increase in customers, sales and community support. These neighborhood markets gain access to Good Food resources from marketing and merchandising to leadership skills building and community outreach. Many will pursue new partnerships and capital investments that will benefit their businesses.
• Residents in neighborhoods with limited healthy food choices. Residents benefit from expanded choices for places to buy fresh fruits, vegetables and other wholesome food products. By making the “healthy choice the easy choice,” residents’ prospects for improved diet and health go up. This is especially great for young people, the elderly and transit-dependent, who rely more on nearby-by neighborhood markets for food. Hopefully, over time, this will lead to a decrease in diet-related health challenges like diabetes and obesity, which impact low-income communities of color disproportionately. Also, new connections between store owners and community can generate mutual growth opportunities. In one case, a team of high school students partnered with their local merchant to survey youth on their interest in healthy food, create marketing materials, and plan a block party for the “grand re-opening” of the store as a healthy market. In turn, the store owner acted as a mentor and hosted two students as interns.
• The neighborhoods. When retail businesses invest in their stores, the whole neighborhood benefits. Revitalized food retail improves commercial corridors, creates destinations and strengthens neighborhood identity. As neighborhood markets become active community hubs for sharing health resources, this also means safer, more walkable and connected neighborhoods. It’s a way to invest in low-income neighborhoods while mitigating displacement, since local businesses are more likely to employ and spend their money locally. We target the trainings and services to store owners in historically disinvested neighborhoods with limited healthy food options. Most Healthy Neighborhood Market Network storeowners hail from South Los Angeles, Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles, Mid-City and Koreatown, East Hollywood and Northeast San Fernando Valley.
Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.
The heart of the Healthy Neighborhood Market Network is collaboration! The whole idea to bring business and leadership education to neighborhood food businesses came from partners in the LA Food Policy Council Working Group on Healthy Food Retail & Food Equity, which includes friends from non-profits like Community Health Councils, PolicyLink, Community Coalition, Business Resource Group, and API Obesity Prevention Alliance. We have also benefited immensely by collaborating with industry pros who have dedicated their time and skills to support mom n’ pop stores. Here are some of the individuals who have shared their talents for this project as trainers and content experts: Michael Powell (brand strategist, Shook Kelley), David Kaufman (Manager, Unified Grocers), Bryan Libit (architect), Barnaby Montgomery (CEO, Yummy.com Markets), Sharon Evans (CEO, Business Resource Group), Daniel Tellalian (Principal, Emerging Markets inc/CA FreshWorks Fund), Jill Overdorf (Executive Chef, Cooseman Shipping International), Rudy Espinoza (Executive Director, Leadership for urban Renewal Network (LURN)), Jeff Biddle and Ashley Gibbons (Whole Foods Market), Michelle O’Grady (Team Friday), Sirena Pellarollo (Viva la Vida Holistic Health), Helena Jubany and Robert Chavez (Founder and General Manager, Fresco Community Market.) We also always partner with a variety of community development finance organizations and local government agencies who provide direct services for small stores, including Pacific Asian Consortium in Employment (PACE), Vermont Slauson Community Development Corporation, Valley Economic Development Corporation, Kiva Zip and the wonderful staff at the LA County Department of Public Health. We have worked with all of these awesome individuals and organizations over the past 3 years, and they will continue to be valued and essential partners in the success of the Healthy Neighborhood Market Network.
Three factors that are critical to our collaborations: (1) Passion for food equity: the idea that all communities deserve access to fresh, affordable food (2) A shared belief that we need to reach across silos in order to make long-lasting change. We need diverse talents, expertise and perspectives to get the kind of food system change we all hope for, and (3) The demonstrated success of the “collective impact” model: all our powers combined will ensure equitable opportunities for education and well-being in the future.
How will your project impact the LA2050 “Connect” metrics?
- Adults getting sufficient social & emotional support
- Attendance at cultural events
- Government responsiveness to residents’ needs (Dream Metric)
- Attendance at public/open street gatherings (Dream Metric)
- Percentage of neighborhood markets & food entrepreneurs offering healthy food options in under-served neighborhoods. Civic leadership among neighborhood markets for healthy food access. Increased capacity of storeowners to manage & market healthy food.
Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.
Our surveys and collaborations with neighborhood market owners reveal high levels of social and economic isolation. Often, market owners are shocked to learn that there are educational and networking spaces specifically for them. Participation at a Healthy Neighborhood Market Network event is sometimes their first time attending a conference or seminar.
By organizing a previously isolated yet critical stakeholder group for healthy food access and community development- neighborhood market owners— the Healthy Neighborhood Market Network creates a forum for new and needed voices in discussion on economic development, public health and land use policies that impact the health and well-being of Angelenos.
Two great examples of this are Nelson Garcia (owner of Alba Snacks & Services Market) and Brad Min (Manager of Supermercado Latino), both South LA entrepreneurs. Mr. Garcia teamed up with local high school students and the neighborhood council to bring healthy food to his store. To help pay for new changes, he raised $5,000 through a crowd-sourced Kiva Zip loan, with lenders locally and from all over the world cheering him on! He then shared his inspiring story at City Hall with a room full of government leaders and investors at an event hosted by Mayor Garcetti’s Economic Development Team and Kiva Zip. Mr. Min recently expressed his leadership as an environmentalist by partnering with LA’s Bureau of Sanitation at a plastic bag ban kick-off event. Mr. Min told reporters that moving away from plastic bags in his store made sense to him from a financial, community and environmental standpoint. These new alliances and voices are critical to achieving true social connectedness in LA.
The project has also engaged government to be more aware and responsive to the unique needs of small food retailers in low-income neighborhoods, improving communication and coordination of permitting and the deployment of business resources. For example, LAFPC staff recently collaborated with LA County Department of Public Health/Environmental Health Division to develop resources that address common questions store owners have about selling fresh produce.
We also expect to see an increase in the knowledge, skills and aptitudes related to nutrition, community health, fresh inventory and business management among neighborhood markets in low-income neighborhoods. By 2050, we expect to see the majority of the small food retailer sector in LA offering fresh and healthy food.
Please explain how you will evaluate your project.
Within the next year of activity, we will track and measure our progress toward several indicators of success:
• Percentage of neighborhood markets and food entrepreneurs offering healthy food options in under-served neighborhoods. Success is defined by at least 50% of neighborhood market owners trained (approximately 50 new stores) introducing new produce within 6 months of the training. We will conduct pre- and post-surveys at the training as well as follow up surveys within 3 months to verify that new healthy food products are available. Baseline data is the quantity and quality of healthy food products in stores before participation in HNMN and target data is a minimum increase of 3 new, prominently displayed produce products in the store.
• Increased knowledge, skills and aptitudes of nutrition, community health, management of fresh produce and other healthy food business skills among neighborhood market owners in under-served communities. Success is defined as a majority of participating storeowners demonstrate confidence and skills in operationalizing fresh inventory. This will ensure the long-term viability of the new fresh produce in the store. Baseline data is the documented knowledge, skills and aptitudes of storeowners prior to the training and the target data are quantitative and qualitative improvements in the area of nutrition, health and healthy food business.
• Increased civic leadership among small neighborhood markets in efforts to increase availability of healthy food in under-served communities. Success is defined as the demonstrated leadership of 3 neighborhood market owners as peer role models that help change the way the neighborhood market sector conducts business. This outcome is measured by market owner participation in trainings as peer teachers and at least three high-visibility public speaking events with the news media or civic spaces. This will be documented through news articles, photographs, videos and event write-ups that include quotes by storeowners.
We will also track and report revenue increases and new jobs created among the total cohort, how many participants pursue additional capital resources to grow their businesses and the results of any new partnerships formed as a result of the Healthy Neighborhood Market Network.
What two lessons have informed your solution or project?
Lesson 1: Who are the neighborhood market owners? Many neighborhood markets in Los Angeles are family-owned and operated by immigrant or first generation entrepreneurs. Though passionate and driven, many do not have the time or resources to advance their education in ways that benefit their business and community. At times, limited language skills can be a barrier as well. The Healthy Neighborhood Market Network was designed to meet the specific needs of small food businesses operating in historically disenfranchised communities. Our seminars are offered in Spanish, Korean and English, and at times of the week that are best for small store owners. We also do extensive “boots on the ground” outreach and in-store consulting so that store owners can receive valuable information and resources directly in their place of business.
Lesson 2: The fresh food business can be tricky! Not only is the business owner dealing with thin profit margins, but also a perishable product. Neighborhood markets owners and other intrepid food entrepreneurs are increasingly interested in fresh and healthy food, but they need new business models to ensure their foray into fresh is sustainable and profitable. There’s no one-size-fits-all model. One store may thrive as a produce grocer while another store’s customer base comes to them for healthy snacks and grab-and-go meals. We focus on bringing store owners choices and strategies to help them create a new healthy food business model that works for where they’re at.
One more, couldn’t help it!
Lesson 3: Neighborhood markets, corner stores, small mom n’ pop businesses are the primary food retail environment for low-income Angelenos. In South LA they make up 86% of the grocery retail environment, and 88% in East Los Angeles. While typically stocked with high calorie, non-nutritious foods, this is the existing food infrastructure for many, totaling 3,400 neighborhood markets in LA County. We see this as a key way to work with what we’ve got- while also seeking to expand healthy food retail options through new grocery stores, restaurants and farmer’s markets. We’ve designed our initiative to reach as many stores as possible by 2050, which complements many “corner store conversion” projects taking place.
Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.
Since 2012, the Healthy Neighborhood Market Network has touched at over 400 neighborhood markets in low-income communities through outreach efforts, and trained approximately 160 stores at five capacity-building seminars. Our multi-lingual staff has successfully organized language-specific and accessible resources for participants through two Korean language, one Spanish language and two multi-lingual events. Through direct consulting, we led and collaborated on five corner store conversion projects in high-need areas in the last year, which gave us a lot of grounded perspective on what it takes to work with neighborhood markets. Over the last 2 years, we’ve refined the approach, developed a comprehensive Resource Guide, and now we’re ready to combine the “best of” of material into one comprehensive curriculum. The three business and leadership development trainings are do-able because we’ve done them for the past 2 years, and the new curriculum is just a couple months away from completion.
As an organization, the LA Food Policy Council is a “collective impact” initiative comprised of a 40-member Leadership Board, six staff and an engaged network of more than 900 individuals from 180+ stakeholder organizations. In this way, we’re very well positioned to “catalyze, coordinate and connect” resources for LA’s neighborhood markets. The overall LA Food Policy Council Network includes numerous distributors, wholesalers, retail experts, business, government and non-profit professionals who already share their knowledge and expertise as trainers and resource providers through the HNMN project. We also learn and create alongside our community of food system innovators, urban farmers, chefs, advocates, policy makers, entrepreneurs, and artists who inspire our work. We love connecting our networks to the dynamo neighborhood market owners and community residents that are bringing Good Food to LA’s neighborhoods.
Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?
“Will people buy the healthy food at the stores?” We know there is unmet demand in LA’s ‘food desert’ areas because of grocery retail leakage data. However, how can we ensure that demand will be re-oriented to new healthy food options at neighborhood markets? We can’t. That’s why partnerships with neighborhood institutions and community-based organizations is key to success. We facilitate those partnerships, and also provide tools and resources for CBOs on “best practices” for working with neighborhood markets. We emphasize the “Good Food Neighbor Pledge” for local schools, churches, block clubs and neighborhood councils to pledge to buy healthy food as an institution from their new healthy neighborhood market. And we empower store owners to leverage their community partnerships for marketing and to offer in-store healthy food demos.
“Will the store owners follow through after the trainings?” Neighborhood market owners come out of our trainings excited to incorporate healthy food into their businesses, but they need technical assistance and community outreach support to successfully implement their goals. In addition to our own follow up calls and visits, our approach is to connect store owners to specific partners that can help them based on where they are at. Ready for a loan for a new refrigerator? Please meet our community finance friends. Want to hit the ground running with a local marketing campaign? We know some awesome marketers and perhaps your local block club can assist with spreading the word. We provide extensive technical assistance directly to stores, as well as community groups, but we know we can’t do it alone, and we don’t have to. That’s the beauty of collective impact. As neighborhood markets exercise channels in the network to achieve their dreams, they’re establishing their own role as a resource in their communities and to the good food movement.
What resources does your project need?
- Network/relationship support
- Money (financial capital)
- Volunteers/staff (human capital)
- Publicity/awareness (social capital)
- Community outreach
- Quality improvement research