August 3 2015

When we launched the California FreshWorks program in 2011, we identified three primary goals: 1) invest to increase access to healthy food; 2) invest to expand economic development; and 3) invest in innovation.  On July 30th I attended the ribbon-cutting event to inaugurate L.A. Prep.  The revitalization of this building into an innovative food production facility in Los Angeles’ Lincoln Heights neighborhood was proof to me that each of the three FreshWorks goals were met in this one project.

Ribbon cutting ceremony for LA Prep.
Ribbon cutting ceremony for L.A. Prep.

When L.A. Prep opened in April 2015, it became the first-of-its kind facility for local food entrepreneurs to accelerate their food businesses by renting licensed, wholesale kitchens to meet their growing business needs.  Mott Smith shared with the crowd that L.A. Prep was developed by his firm Civic Enterprise Development to reduce the time and money that these entrepreneurs would so often face when starting their businesses.  We also learned that the different size kitchens allow tenants to be able to respond quickly to market demands.

While touring the facility I had the opportunity to observe some of the entrepreneurs in action.  I was particularly moved by the story of a food entrepreneur who was able to commit to a purchase order from a grocery chain that would bring her product to over 50 stores.  Originally leasing one of L.A. Prep’s smallest kitchens, this entrepreneur was able to quickly move across the hall to a kitchen three times in size.  Since April, revenues for her business have sprouted to over $4 million!

LA Prep students attend job training program to transform their lives and their communities.
L.A. Kitchen students attend job training program to transform their lives and their communities.

Anchor tenant L.A. Kitchen provides a workforce development program to train people coming home from prison, aging out of foster care, and others struggling with employment barriers for careers in the food service industry.  L.A. Kitchen turns food that would otherwise go to waste into healthy, low-cost meals for low-income seniors and families.  The fourth class of L.A. Kitchen’s Culinary Job Training Program stood tall and proud throughout the opening ceremony.  L.A. City Councilman Gil Cedillo said it best when he spoke directly to the students, thanking them for their leadership in their families, their communities, and throughout Los Angeles for seizing the opportunity to develop skills and change their lives.

LA Prep students in action.
L.A. Kitchen students in action.

The partnership between L.A. Prep and L.A. Kitchen is what makes this project work and achieve each of the three FreshWorks goals.  L.A. Kitchen will distribute fresh and nutritious meals, snacks, and food products to social service agencies that serve Los Angeles’ most vulnerable populations.  Goal one, check.  To date, the facility has created over 150 new jobs, and when full, will provide up to 300 new jobs in the culinary feed.  Goal two, check.  Through the partnership with the L.A. County Health Department, tenants of L.A. Prep are able to be in operation in a matter of weeks, at a fraction of the cost of going it alone.  Goal three, check.  The fact that two-thirds of L.A. Prep’s current tenants are women-owned businesses, is icing on the cake.

The California Endowment is proud to have supported this project through our FreshWorks program, an initiative focused on increasing access to fresh food across California.  Additional financing partners include: Capital Impact Partners, Genesis L.A., Raza Development Fund, U.S. Bank, Los Angeles Development Fund, and UrbanAmerica.