Mon, Jul

Community Garden Volunteer Days Start June 29th

USGBC California Selects RootDown LA’s KitchenPOD as its 2024 Environmental Justice Project
Community Garden Volunteer Days Start June 29th

Los Angeles (June 20, 2024)  Access to fresh, nutritious food helps prevent chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and mental health. In Los Angeles County, almost one-fifth of households and nearly one-third of low-income families are impacted by the lack of access to fresh, nutritious foods, according to a 2021 study by USC. Since 2007, RootDown LA (RDLA) has been a strong presence in addressing food insecurity and lack of access in South Los Angeles. Their efforts led to the U.S. Green Building Council California (USGBC-CA) selecting RDLA’s KitchenPOD as the 2024 Environmental Justice Project. The official groundbreaking with a public volunteer day for the project is June 29th in South Los Angeles.

Image Credit: there.studio

The RDLA KitchenPOD, is a versatile, mobile, and sustainable structure designed to ensure access to fresh, nutritious foods. Its innovative design, which includes a solar-powered refrigeration system, passive ventilation, and thermal cooling, is scalable and environmentally friendly. The straw walls outside the container are not just walls; they are a vibrant and integral part of the community garden, a testament to this collaborative vision for a healthier, more sustainable community. 
“Since its founding in 2007, RootDown LA has played a critical role in bridging the divide in food equity and green space seen across Los Angeles neighborhoods,” states Katie Freeze-Becker of Leading Edge, and Environmental Justice Project Committee Chair. “The organization’s philosophy of centering workforce development in its programming serves the aim of getting kids and their families “excited to eat their veggies” while building the next generation of community leaders. USGBC-CA is grateful for the opportunity to support a project with such a clearly articulated vision for a healthier, more empowered Los Angeles.”

“The KitchenPOD is more than just a structure; it's a dynamic platform for change. It extends and supports our impactful programming to promote health and wellness, offering zero-waste culinary and horticultural programming for a Youth-driven Neighborhood Food System,” states Karen Ramirez, Executive Director, RootDown LA. “RootDown LA's fundamental philosophy of the ‘Healthy Youth and Food Pipeline’ sparks interest and equips youth with skills to join the food, nutrition, health, and entrepreneurial sectors. Support and participation in this project is appreciated and vital to providing access to fresh, nutritious foods in the South LA community and beyond.”  (Photo Credit: RootDown LA)
According to the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, food insecurity and lack of access to fresh, nutritious foods are known contributors to chronic health conditions, which disproportionately affect racially diverse and minoritized populations residing in underserved geographic areas. The KitchenPOD project will help complete RDLA’s model for building their Youth-driven Neighborhood Food Systems (YDNFS) - urban food clusters that support a healthier regional food economy by increasing capacity for urban food production and distribution. The KitchenPOD will begin to bridge the gap in health disparities, access to fresh, nutritious foods, workforce development opportunities, and equity in South LA. 
The June 29th groundbreaking workday event, hosted by USGBC-CA in partnership with Blue Sky LA, will offer the community the opportunity to be highly hands-on in preparing new raised beds for the expanding vegetable garden, while starting on construction of the KitchenPod. For more information and to RSVP participation (there are 50 spots), please click here. The Community Garden is located at the George Washington Carver Middle School, 4410 McKinley Avenue, in Los Angeles, on Saturday, June 29, 2024, from 9 am-12pm. All are welcome.

Volunteer Community Garden Workday schedule and planned tasks:

  • June 29:  Groundbreaking - new mounting of soil for the food production beds
  • July 27:  Cooling tube install, paint & finishes, strawbale planting
  • August 31:  First shared meal in the KitchenPOD with community members
  • Sept. 28:  Straw Bale installation around the POD & Wrap Party!
  • Oct. 26:  Ribbon Cutting and Harvest Celebration
"We are proud to continue our tradition of investing in underserved communities, and this project speaks to our values of creating access to nature and improving community health while showcasing a number of sustainable design principles," states Ben Stapleton, Executive Director of USGBC-CA.

The USGBC California Annual Environmental Justice Project was initiated to close the divide between social justice and environmental resilience, acknowledging that the impacts of climate change disproportionately affect the communities most in need. The Project committee works to ensure that the chosen project garners community support, possesses an educational and sustainable focus, can be replicated, and enhances various socio-economic conditions. In addition to monetary support from USGBC-CA for the Project, the committee offers assistance in the areas of design, development, volunteer backing, and resource referrals to ensure that the recipient team can effectively serve its target community.
Past impactful Legacy Projects include the the Reverence Project Survivor's Healing Garde, the Boyle Heights Resilience Hub, the EcoUrban / Arroyo HS Garden in El Monte, the Veggie Bus Project in South Central LA, the EcoTech Makerspace in Gardena, and more. Please click here for more information on this year's Legacy Project and the June 29, 2024 event.
If you would like to get involved in the Environmental Justice Committee, please contact [email protected]. To contribute to this project or any other sponsorship support, please email [email protected].

About USGBC California
USGBC California (USGBC-CA) is a 501(c)3 non-profit and member-based organization whose vision is to transform California's built environment into a more sustainable, resilient, and equitable region for all. USGBC California is comprised of green building communities across the state. We lead by inspiring leaders throughout our communities to take action on climate change, public health, and environmental justice while educating, developing, and empowering a diverse talent pipeline through our training, mentorship, and direct-to-community programs. We connect by merging interdisciplinary perspectives and collaborations to create positive systemic change. We advocate through promoting innovative, impactful policy solutions addressing the most urgent environmental and social challenges of our time. (www.usgbc-ca.org)

About RootDown LA
RootDown LA (RDLA) puts South Los Angeles (SLA) youth at the forefront of efforts that help build a more resilient and healthy local food economy in SLA. For over a decade, RDLA has worked to empower and build a more resilient and healthy local food economy in SLA by empowering and training youth to build demand and supply for fresh food via culturally relevant cooking and nutrition education programs.