The COVID-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter movement have brought to the fore the extreme inequalities that impact the health and lives of black and brown communities in Los Angeles. Food deserts — areas where residents have limited access to a variety of healthy foods — were already problematic in low-income areas of Los Angeles. Since the stay-at-home order closed thousands of businesses across the county, many permanently, food banks have been inundated with requests from working-poor households experiencing loss of income. Standing in line for food has become a daily, full-time job for some.
Community Services Unlimited, based in South Central Los Angeles, has been working to build a healthier local community since 1977. CSU helps local families apply for food aid via CalFresh. But their primary focus is to work against the injustices of a food system steeped in unsustainable charity and based on poor-quality and unhealthy foods. Founded on community self-reliance, CSU coordinates local food production. Among many health initiatives, CSU distributes organic produce, much of which is grown on their urban farm. During the school year (not this year) children tour the farm and colorful Veggie Bus, learning how to grow food at home, and why healthy, locally grown food is so important.
Over the past five years, UUSM’s Faith in Action Committee has supported the ongoing health and environmental justice efforts of Community Services Unlimited. UUSM volunteers provided expertise and connections to raise funds to convert an old school bus into the Veggie Bus learning center, and pitched in with some hands-on labor. UUSM was pleased to connect CSU leadership with the Los Angeles Chapter of the US Green Building Council (USGBCLA) and the Self Help Credit Union (where substantial UUSM reserve funds are invested) as they undertook a substantial renovation of CSU’s Paul Robeson Community Wellness Center (PRCWC). The center includes a produce market, cafe, catering kitchen, and community center, and created a model for sustainable development and self-sufficiency. The PRCWC and the urban garden are the base of operations for CSU’s work in the community.
Many of CSU’s programs have been negatively impacted by COVID-19, but they continue to provide healthy organic produce at affordable prices from their Expo Park garden and other local organic producers. UUSM members have organized a Santa Monica drop-off point for CSU produce bags, which enables congregants and friends to receive a weekly bounty of organic fruits and veggies grown by local farmers. These weekly deliveries to Santa Monica support CSU’s ongoing programs, including discounted produce sales to households in South LA. It also gives us a chance to greet some of our (masked) church friends every Friday afternoon as we pick up our produce. (If you are interested in ordering a weekly organic produce bag at the Supporter rate, first email firstname.lastname@example.org and then sign up on the CSU market site choosing the UUSM Private Drop Site).
Our practice here at UUSM is to dedicate half of our non-pledge Sunday offerings to organizations doing work in the world that advances our Unitarian Universalist principles; the other 50% of the offering is used to support the life of our church.
UUSM’s Generous Congregation supports our church community. And together, we uplift the reach and impact of vital organizations doing work we could not do on our own. This month, half of our Sunday offerings will go to Community Services Unlimited. Your support will help provide healthy organic food and preventive health services, while building the South LA community’s capacity to address issues of unsustainable resources and unequal impact.
Please consider supporting the mission of our church, and the great work of Community Services Unlimited. To give right now, text “$10 GCC” to 844-982-0209. (One-time-only credit card registration required.)