Swap soda for fresh fruit? No thanks, Angelenos say

It was a new, foodie-type twist to the old inner-city gun buyback program.

Hunger Action L.A., an advocacy group that helps to feed the poor and promotes healthful eating, called on Koreatown residents to surrender their high-calorie soft drinks on Saturday and get a bag of fresh fruits and vegetables in return. The “soda exchange,” which was held as part of an annual food fair at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, wasn’t exactly a raging success, however.

Only two residents from the area around Normandie Avenue and Olympic Boulevard took their sodas to the fair.

One of them was Miriam Lopez, 24, who attended the fair with her 7-year-old son, Saul. Lopez exchanged a 2-liter Coke bottle for strawberries, grapes, cherries and bananas. “This is great, we can make some smoothies at home,” she said.


The other soda exchanger was Isabel Perez, 24. She turned in a half-empty 2-liter Coke bottle and walked away with a pineapple. Perez said she learned of the fair through a friend and wanted to bring her two boys, 3-year-old Ernesto and 5-month old Adriano.

The fair drew more than 100 people. In addition to musical entertainment and children’s games, there were various county agencies on hand to receive applications for benefit programs such as CalFresh, the former food stamps program.

Although few people participated in the soda exchange, organizers said they were undeterred and their campaign to promote healthful beverage consumption would continue.

“We’re showing people that there are cheap and healthy alternatives to soda,” said Maribel Diaz of Hunger Action L.A. “You can flavor water by putting cucumber or spearmint in it.”