Anti-Hunger Community Gathers to Call for an END to the Criminalization:

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES – Anti-Hunger advocates, organizations, and leaders will gathered on the West Steps of City Hall at 10:30AM on Thursday, November 1, to call on Mayor Villaraigosa, the City Council and LAPD to stop the criminalization of those who are fighting hunger in our communities. Instead of using fines and arrests the intimidate and crack down on food providers, the city of Los Angeles should be working with vendors, gardeners and food distributors to end hunger in our city.

“All of these activities – growing, selling, distributing food – represent our control over what we eat and our efforts to be self-sufficient,” said Hunger Action LA’s Frank Tamborello. “For too long, we’ve let large corporations determine what we buy to east and let government stop us from creating our own food economy, as well as hide the problem of hunger by pressuring charities not to feed people in public. This is a small first step to reclaiming sovereignty over our food. ”

Across the city, in the midst of budget cuts and a recession, food vendors, urban gardeners and those trying to feed the homeless and impoverished have been playing a crucial role in fighting hunger and providing healthy food for struggling individuals and families. However, instead of being acknowledged for their work, they have been met with citations, excessive charges and often times arrest.

“In 2010, I was cited for growing a sidewalk vegetable garden in Exposition Park, an area where residents lack sufficient access to fresh fruits and vegetables,” said urban gardener Ron Finley. “Instead of telling me that I need to apply for a $400 permit, the city could be working with me and other gardeners to make take advantage of unused space with gardening.”

The broad coalition, consisting of Hunger Action LA, East LA Community Corporation, W.O.R.K.S. (Women Organizing Resources, Knowledge and Services), Los Angeles Community Action Network, and many others, followed the press conference with a visual demonstration of the types of food justice work that are being criminalized.

The group also presented a number of policy initiatives and solutions, including:

  1. The expansion of the list of ‘approved’ street plantings so that it’s legal to grow spinach, chard and other food along city parkways, medians, and bus stops.
  2. The protection of the right of nonprofits, community gardens, churches and food banks to officially distribute free food to the homeless and families in need — without harassment or impunity.
  3. The creation of a street vendor licensing program, so that we can enjoy locally sourced, legal street food — taco carts, sidewalk food stands for hot dogs, fresh fruits, cupcakes, etc., just like NYC and Chicago.

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