[slideshow] For years, the founders of RootDown LA were working out of cupboards, closets, cramped spaces - IF! there was any permanent space at all to store the few but critical tools we use to start to get kids to eat their veggies.
This year, we were given occupancy of the Ralph Bunche House, the Nobel Peace Prize winner's boyhood home, just a half block from Jefferson High School, where we grow and teach food focused lessons. We now have a place for our pots, pans, and cutting boards. We even at last, have a working oven and refrigerator. Having a home base has done wonders to help us begin to solidify our programming and create a space that reflects all the values of healthy eating. We strongly believe, when kids feel part of a community, they adopt its values, including the consumption, yes even of nasty veggies.
The RB House has become an energized and welcoming gathering space. Our neighbors are starting to notice and come 'round, sharing cookbooks, homemade dishes, music, stories, and even recipes for homemade allergy remedies. Go figure, a plant in our front yard says our new neighbor, has medicinal properties.
We've got some ground rules at the Ralph Bunche House - no artificial ingredients, colors or high fructose corn syrup are allowed across the door step. Our young buddies, Matthew and Jeremiah have attempted to test our will in these matters numerous times - they keep showing up on our stoop with orange Hot Cheeto, and sucking up blue Slurpees. "Get those slurpees to the curb!" we say. 'But this is RASPBERRY!" they try to convince us of their bright blue slushies' nutritional value. ?!
This week however, Jeremiah glided up on his scooter and was cupping in his hands - guess what - a MANGO! He loves mangoes. Great we said. Eat all the mangoes you want in the Ralph Bunche House. Our fridge is yours. In it you'll find mangoes if you like, and broccoli and lettuce from our Jefferson garden, persimmons and apples from LA's farmers markets, milk, cheese, meat and eggs with no hormones or antibiotics. If you look right now there's even a homemade pumpkin pie in the freezer, leftover from Thanksgiving. (We're not opposed to sweets btw - we just want them to be made from real food!)
We keep a picture of Ralph Bunche, hanging over the kitchen sink. In the photo, he's sitting at a table, as though he's just finished a meal. We're guessing he ate good food. And we hope we are honoring his hopes for the space he left to the community.