live / 2014

Mobile Cooking Classes To The Communities That Need Them Most

Mobile Cooking Classes To The Communities That Need Them Most

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Brown Paper LA

We would provide on-site cooking classes at community gardens and local events to educate working families on healthy eating.


Please describe yourself.

Proposed collaboration (we want to work with partners!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

We cater intimate events using fresh ingredients and simple recipes.

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • South LA
  • San Gabriel Valley
  • San Fernando Valley
  • South Bay
  • Westside

What is your idea/project in more detail?

Eating healthy can be daunting – unless you know how to prepare the food. Using fresh, local and healthy ingredients, Brown Paper LA wants to bring those skills to low-income and working families in Los Angeles County. By showing simple recipes, without any special equipment, we will make these recipes accessible for all audiences. We would retrofit a food truck into a mobile kitchen used for hands-on classes and cooking demonstrations. We would take this truck into low-income communities and provide demonstrations of simple, healthy recipes that participants can create at home.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

First, we would retrofit a food truck in consultation with cooking instructors. This requires not only a functional kitchen but also small groups of people to participate in cooking and larger groups to view the process at work.

Second, we would partner with community organizations to find locations and events where our lessons could be practical. These could include parks, schools, farmers markets, and community festivals. We would also seek partnerships with public health organizations, so our demonstrations could complement the work that they do.

Third, we would take the truck into the community. At events like those specified above, we would provide two types of classes: hands-on classes with small groups that would allow community members to participate in creation of recipes, and demonstrations for larger groups that would showcase recipes.

Fourth, once the success of this project has been validated, we would seek sponsors for ongoing support. We anticipate that local supermarkets, for example, could be interested in the social goals of the project in exchange for logo recognition or as part of a corporate social responsibility campaign.

How will your idea/project help make LA the healthiest place to LIVE today? In 2050?

Many people do not prepare healthy meals at home because they believe it is expensive and time-consuming. Brown Paper LA wants to show low-income and working families that neither is the case. Making healthy food at home is easier and cheaper than they expect.

Teaching these families how to create healthy recipes at home will make LA a healthy place to live today. Our recipes will be simple and easy enough to demonstrate directly from a truck, using inexpensive ingredients that can be found at a local supermarket. Further, through our partnerships with public health organizations and local vendors, communities would have access to healthy foods and health awareness that they might not otherwise have.

Giving Los Angeles a broader appreciation for fresh food and cooking will make it one of the healthiest places to live in 2050. Food insecurity and lack of access are two major problems facing the city. This shouldn’t be the case, since California has some of the freshest ingredients in the world. We believe that by teaching citizens about how to prepare their food, they have a closer relationship to it and the world around them.

Whom will your project benefit?

These cooking classes will benefit low-income and working families who may believe that they do not have the time nor the skills to cook healthy meals for their families.

We would provide these demonstrations in areas that face food insecurity, including high concentrations of WIC and EBT usage, high rates of dietary conditions including diabetes and obesity, as well as limited access to healthy foods.

Brown Paper LA wants to encourage these families to make healthier choices and show that cooking healthy meals does not have to be an expensive nor time-consuming process. Further, we want to increase availability of healthy foods by encouraging partnerships with local farmers and food vendors who could sell their goods alongside our demonstrations.

By the same token, this project would also benefit local farmers and food vendors. We anticipate that our classes and demonstrations would attract captive audiences that could be potential consumers of fresh produce and other foods. This would create new markets that they may not have anticipated and provide them an incentive to serve low-income areas.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

We anticipate that Brown Paper could integrate as an add-on feature to a wide range of events and community services. This project would only be as successful as the partnerships we create.

Strong potential partners could include: public health outreach campaigns, low-income health clinics, local grocery stores, community gardens, food truck events, farmers markets, and community festivals. Additionally, we could provide specific programming to incorporate into nonprofit events around nutrition, such as school education series.

We would also partner with healthy food vendors – e.g. community-supported agriculture and organic farmers – to sell their wares alongside our demonstrations. Our demonstrations would likely generate business for these vendors and, in doing so, create a means for low-income neighborhoods to access healthy foods.

How will your project impact the LA2050 “Live” metrics?

  • Access to healthy food
  • Obesity rates

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

Low-income and working families face a number of food insecurity issues, including obesity due to poor nutrition and lack of access to healthy foods in food deserts. Brown Paper wants to encourage these families to make healthier choices and show that cooking healthy meals does not have to be an expensive nor time-consuming process.

There is a popular misconception that cooking healthy meals is expensive and time-consuming. Our food truck would show audiences that this is not the case and encourage participants to follow these recipes in their own homes. Good nutrition is at the heart of a healthy community.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

We will take into account the following factors to evaluate our project: the number of people who attend our demonstrations, the number of invitations we receive to attend additional events, the reception we receive when we reach out to participate in outside events, and the feedback we receive from hosts and event organizers. If we find that the number of attendees and the number of invitations increase, this would validate that the wider community finds us to be a valuable partner. The implementation of new farmers markets and food events in previously food desert areas of LA will be a very positive indication that this food education has taken hold in these communities.

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

Chris Register, the founder of Brown Paper Los Angeles, previously founded the Tin Box of Curious Artifacts, a mobile van that sold vintage goods and clothing. Through this process, he learned that nontraditional mobile vendors often complement existing vendors and options at live events. For example, at food truck events, Tin Box was often a welcome addition, because it would draw additional attendees to these events and provided another way to build community among attendees at large.

Also, through the catering Brown Paper currently does, we’ve learned just how little clients know about the cooking process. Simple recipes that could easily be done at home are very in-demand, because clients assume that they are complicated and time-consuming. While we appreciate the business that this brings our company, we also know that these skills could be very valuable to low-income families and make Los Angeles a healthier city. We are eager to provide these demonstrations as a community service not only to be good corporate citizens but also because the partnerships we create could also be valuable to our growth as a company.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

Within 2-3 months, we would be able to purchase and retrofit a vehicle that would suit the needs of this project: giving Brown Paper the ability to host the classes and cooking demonstrations discussed.

After this initial setup period, we could commence hosting events and building partnerships. Easy integrations would likely include community gardens and community festivals in low-income neighborhoods. Within 1-2 months, we anticipate gaining a better sense of what has the biggest impact on our audience – hands-on classes? large-scale demos? food talks?

Then, over the remaining months, we would build broader partnerships. This could include food truck events, farmers markets and other ongoing events.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

The regulatory framework surrounding food preparation can be tricky. Because we have been a licensed caterer for a number of years, we are confident we can manage this regulatory environment. Further, because the food would not be for sale, this would mitigate some of the regulations that most food trucks have to overcome.

More difficult would be creating the partnerships that would make us successful. Because this is a unique approach to an endemic issue, our prospective partners and clients may not initially be interested in the solution we propose. We will be flexible and work with our partners on their terms to ensure strong collaborations. Because this is a new opportunity, there will be a learning curve for our team as well, so flexibility will be essential to ensure our long-term success.

Further, cooking methods and ingredients are very culturally-specific, so overcoming those cultural barriers will be essential to build a connection with our target communities. We will work closely with community-level organizations to ensure our approach is culturally-sensitive and engaging to diverse audiences.

What resources does your project need?

  • Money (financial capital)
  • Volunteers/staff (human capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)
  • Infrastructure (building/space/vehicles, etc.)
  • Community outreach