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Off Menu: Building community through food in skid row, the epicenter of L.A.'s homelessness crisis

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Skid row in the center of downtown has long been emblematic of the serious homelessness crisis in Los Angeles. In this week’s episode of “Off Menu,” host Lucas Kwan Peterson explores the foodways of skid row, including two organizations that are attempting to provide healthy food choices, vocational training and a sense of community in one of L.A.'s most neglected communities.

A jump of 12% between 2018 and 2019’s Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count, conducted annually in January, increased the ranks of L.A. County’s homeless to nearly 60,000 people. A lack of accessible social and mental health services, as well as inadequate affordable housing, have all contributed to what has become a full-blown epidemic.

The Los Angeles Community Action Network, located on 6th Street in skid row, operates a rooftop garden and hosts a Thursday marketplace, where local residents can buy produce, get free haircuts and participate in an open mike. Skid Row Coffee, which operates out of the main branch of the Los Angeles Public Library, provides nutritious, affordable food, vocational training and a dignified work environment for those who have struggled with poverty.

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Lucas Kwan Peterson is a columnist and video producer for the Los Angeles Times Food section.