The cafe gives away 150 bags of groceries to families struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic.
By Megan Reed
Every Wednesday at 3 p.m. since mid-June of 2020, South LA Cafe has handed out grocery bags to 150 families in need. As early as 1:30 p.m., pedestrians line up on the sidewalk alongside the cafe, and cars lineup down Browning Boulevard (right off of Western Avenue, one block north of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard).
Within 30 minutes all of the food is passed out, and South LA Cafe owners Joe and Celia Ward-Wallace begin the process of collecting food and funds for the next week’s giveaway.
“Our community already is one of the more lower income communities of color that had less access to healthy food options and health resources to protect themselves during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Celia said.
Each bag of groceries consists of fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs, milk, and bread.
“It’s the essentials for making a family meal,” Celia said.
The overall cost for each bag of groceries is about $35. When South LA started these giveaways, they partnered with Cedar-Sinai for a four-week program that greatly helped cover the costs for each bag.
“After the first four weeks, Cedar-Sinai moved on, yet our line of people needing food was still there,” Celia said. “So we were dealt with a difficult situation where the need for the access for food and the amount of people who were laid off from work or unemployed that needed food was getting greater and greater.
“Every week from week four on, we’ve fundraised money every single week from individuals, and small and large donors.”
South LA Cafe has to raise about $5,000 a week to cover the expenses, and they receive donations on a weekly basis through their website. If they do not reach their $5,000 goal, then they make up the difference themselves.
South LA Cafe has become a part of a larger food distribution network of local churches, food banks, and non-profit organizations.
“I’d call us food fighters,” Celia said. “We’re all working together to share resources and support each other in the effort to feed the people in South Central. We’ll often get a call that there are 20 boxes of squash, and ‘if you don’t come now we won’t have anybody to give it to.’ So we just drop everything and go and get anything that’s available.”
When the food giveaways started, South LA Cafe rented U-Haul trucks to pick up the food. But now they own their own U-Haul truck to make the process more efficient and cost effective.
Besides financial donations, South LA Cafe can use volunteers to distribute the food.
“There’s no way that we could do it alone,” Celia said.
For more information about the giveaway, and to donate to this cause, visit www.southlacafe.com. Click on “Buy or sponsor groceries,” or click on “Donate.” Also follow South LA Cafe on Facebook and Instagram. South LA Cafe is located at 1700 Browning Boulevard.