live / 2021

The Play with Your Food Project: Intergenerational Culinary, Visual and Movement Arts

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by RuckusRoots

The connections and joy fostered through the preparation and sharing of food span across time and culture; RuckusRoots and FEAST aim to honor this tradition in The Play with Your Food Project, which strives to increase physical and social wellbeing in underrepresented Los Angeles communities. This holistic program combines healthy food access and education with dynamic arts experiences for food insecure families, providing free produce (from local farmers’ markets), healthy cooking classes and interdisciplinary arts workshops for youth!

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • South LA

What is the problem that you are seeking to address?

Our program seeks to address a lack of physical and social wellbeing in low-income neighborhoods of Los Angeles, caused by a range of interconnected factors. Poor nutrition, unhealthy eating habits, and social isolation are the leading contributors to diet-related diseases, including diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease. While these issues impact an overwhelming number of Americans today, families in under-resourced neighborhoods are impacted the most. Low-income communities in Los Angeles also face a lack of cultural opportunities, which play an important role in fostering social connection and inclusion. Studies show that people with decreased access to arts experiences are less likely to volunteer or to be civically engaged. Conversely, low-income neighborhoods with cultural resources have 14% fewer cases of child abuse and neglect, and 18% less serious crime than low-income neighborhoods without these resources. Source: Culture and Social Wellbeing in New York City, 2017

Describe the project, program, or initiative that this grant will support to address the problem identified.

The Play with Your Food Project is an intergenerational culinary, visual and movement arts experience for South and East Angelenos. The project is comprised of a food-focused program for adults based on FEAST’s existing Wellness Program: food education, nutrition information, recipes, cooking demonstrations, free access to fresh, whole foods through a weekly grocery scholarship, and support through peer-to-peer sharing circles designed to uncover the underlying causes of current eating habits and create steps forward on the path towards a healthier life. Simultaneously, RuckusRoots will offer interdisciplinary art classes for youth that will serve two purposes 1) provide childcare so that parents or caretakers can freely and consistently attend the adult food classes, and 2) provide cultural enrichment and education to foster creativity and the mind-body connection for children who would otherwise not have access to such programing. Classes will incorporate various forms of movement and visual arts, including a mindfulness practice at the beginning of each lesson (meditation, breathing and mind-body connection). Pre-pandemic programs took place in schools, hospitals and other community settings throughout L.A. Our pandemic-responsive version of this program includes contactless food and art supply delivery and/or pick-ups paired with virtual, online classes for both adults and youth. We will continue in this format until it is safe to resume in-person offerings.

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative (expanding and continuing ongoing, successful work)

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct impact
Indirect impact

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

RuckusRoots and FEAST share a vision of Los Angeles that is healthy, equitable and resilient; we see art and food as essential ingredients in this “recipe.” Creating opportunities for families to engage with cultural experiences centered on food, creativity and togetherness will help build a shared sense of connection, belonging and strengthen feelings of community cohesion. Our intended impact is to reduce instances of hunger in the families we serve, while increasing healthy eating habits and feelings of community identity and social wellbeing. These impacts are achievable based on previous results reported by RuckusRoots and FEAST.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

Previous versions of this program have been evaluated through pre and post testing of participants, yielding the following results: 2020 RuckusRoots participants reported a 64% increase in feelings of community connection and a 73% increase in feeling creatively inspired. 2019 RuckusRoots youth art programs resulted in 67% improvement in drawing and painting techniques and 50% improvement in civic engagement methods. 88% of parents/teachers believe our programs lay the foundation for youth to become effective change-makers. In 2020, 61% of FEAST families reported they were eating healthier during the pandemic compared to prior. A similar county-wide survey by USC indicated that only 28% of households reported the same outcomes. By program-end, 90% of graduates report confidence in their ability to cook recipes, eat healthy meals on a budget, and understand nutrition labels. Participants reported greater life satisfaction, feelings of worthiness and positive attitudes toward self.

Describe the role of collaborating organizations on this project.

RuckusRoots and FEAST have been collaborating since 2019, and have successfully implemented two programs combining culinary and visual arts. This program would build on these existing relationships and our past experiences to ensure a successful program and achievement of desired outcomes. RuckusRoots has over 10 years experience bringing collaborative arts experiences to under-resourced populations in Los Angeles, and our role in this program will be to design, implement and evaluate the holistic arts program for youth. FEAST will design, implement and evaluate the food-based piece of the program, including supplying free groceries to food insecure families, and the online or in-person healthy cooking classes.

Which of the live metrics will you impact?​

  • Access to healthy food
  • Food insecurity
  • Resilient communities
  • Obesity

Indicate any additional LA2050 goals your project will impact.

  • LA is the best place to LEARN
  • LA is the best place to PLAY
  • LA is the healthiest place to CONNECT