Socially Conscious Dining in Los Angeles, USA

Rachel Sanoff

Los Angeles workers experience the US’s highest rate of wage theft, losing approximately $26.2 million weekly and many of those victimized are restaurant employees. So instead of supporting restaurants harming surrounding communities, we explore food establishments that actively benefit their workers, communities, and environments.

Homeboy Industries

1. Homeboy Industries – Homeboy Diner and Homegirl Café

Diner, Restaurant, Grocery Store, American

When you enjoy sandwiches, coffees, and desserts at Homeboy Industries in Boyle Heights, you help to combat recidivism in Los Angeles. Founded by Father Greg Boyle in 2001 under the motto ‘Jobs Not Jails’, Homeboy Diner and Homegirl Café provide ex-gang members with new careers through a nationally recognized and emulated gang-intervention program. As stated on their official website, Homeboy Industries answers the question, ‘What if we were to invest in this population rather than just endlessly incarcerate?’ The organization fights back against East LA’s high school drop-out rates and gang violence through jobs and job training at their restaurant, where some menu items are so popular they are showing up on major grocery store shelves. Homeboy also provide education courses, legal assistance, and tattoo removal to further support community members seeking improved lives for themselves and their families. Good Girl Dinette | Courtesy Good Girl Dinette

2. Good Girl Dinette

Diner, Restaurant, Vietnamese, American

Good Girl Dinette in Highland Park, owned by Diep Tran, is commonly described as Vietnamese restaurant meets American diner. Their many favorite dishes include the roasted oyster mushroom banh mi sandwich and the maple coconut bread pudding. In 2014, it was also one of the local food joints to join up with Restaurant Opportunities Center of LA (ROC-LA) and the LA Coalition Against Wage Theft to support anti-wage theft legislation. Sophia Cheng, a ROC-LA community organizer, explains that when we use our consumer power to support businesses like Good Girl Dinette, we are “letting managers know [we] care about fair treatment of employees, like [living] wages, paid sick days, and training and promotion opportunities.”

3. Leonor's Vegetarian & Mexican Restaurant

Market, Restaurant, Vegan

Leonor’s in Studio City is strictly vegetarian. Owned and operated by the same family for over 25 years, Leonor’s has provided The Valley with Mexican vegetarian cuisine including ‘chicken’ enchiladas, veggie tacos, and ‘steak’ ranchero. While the increasing trendiness of vegetarian and vegan eating is beneficial for our environment, it also means that opening chain establishments and expensive vegetarian restauarnts (especially in metropolitan cities like LA) is more profitable for corporations than ever before. If you’re a vegetarian going out to dinner tonight, remember to support the small, affordable, family-owned businesses that have promoted vegetarian eating for years. Fresco Community Market | Courtesy Fresco Community Market

4. Fresco Community Market

Bakery, Deli, Market, Grocery Store, Tea

If you are on a budget and want to cook at home, do your grocery shopping at Fresco Community Market in Montecito Heights. You’ll have access to your favorite brands, organic, locally grown produce, and a full-service bakery, kitchen, and deli. This may sound like an average grocery store, but that’s only because we haven’t mentioned their comprehensive work toward poverty alleviation. Firstly, a percentage of store profits helps pay for revitalization programs and community services in Montecito Heights. Secondly, Fresco collaborates with the LA Mission by hiring rehabilitated criminals and homeless folks whose stigmatized pasts prevent them from gaining employment elsewhere. Many of the helpful store clerks, cashiers, and bakers that you’ll encounter have survived addiction and homelessness on Skid Row, and have begun healthier, happier lives thanks to Fresco.
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