These 5 LA-Based Food Pop-Ups Are Helping to Feed BIPOC Communities
Paying homage to a long history of Black-led feeding initiatives, these businesses are stepping up to fight food insecurity.
Instead of a typical birthday celebration with family and friends, Chef Armond Keys of Bootsy BBQ, a smoked BBQ takeout joint in View Park-Windsor Hills, announced that he would be feeding 100 of his housing insecure neighbors instead. In a live video from that day, you can watch him sing along joyously with the five-piece Mariachi band parked on his front lawn. Socially distanced of course, the band played “Cielito Lindo,” a song celebrating love and unity. Next to the musicians, take-out meals of beef brisket, ribs, mac and cheese, and greens were stacked on a fold-out table with red party cups and bottled water. He encouraged his 2,000 Instagram followers to “take a shot and drive off” and welcomed anyone hungry to come by and grab a meal. Now back to slinging meats for a profit after a brief birthday break, Keys offers everything from smoked chicken to hot links and ribs, with sides like Cajun potato salad and BBQ beans. All plates cost just $12 and orders are placed via DM.
Happily, Keys belongs to a new crop of young Black chefs and activists who are stepping up to feed their communities in a pandemic-stricken world that is disproportionately harming BIPOC. Not only are these rising culinary stars celebrating their cultures with a fresh take on classic soul food and other traditional dishes, but they pay homage to a long history of Black-led feeding initiatives, like the Black Panther’s Free Breakfast for School Children program, which began in Oakland in 1969 and helped inspire the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that continues to provide free meals to school children in need.
Much closer to home, Feed Black Futures is working towards a similar goal, and aims to support and feed Black women impacted by incarceration in LA.
“June came around, and it was the nexus of food insecurity as it related to COVID,” explained Founder Ali Anderson. To meet the increased need, Anderson started a fundraiser that quickly surpassed her original goal of $10,000 to raise a total of $90,000 in less than five weeks. This translated to 785 produce and grocery boxes provided to at-risk families.
The pandemic has hit Black-owned businesses and its workers especially hard. Black workers are twice as likely to have been furloughed or laid off than white workers according to a Fortune Magazine poll. Additionally, 41% of Black-owned businesses have been forced to close due to the pandemic, compared to 17% of white-owned businesses. Of the businesses that have shuttered, Black-owned bars and restaurants have been the most heavily impacted.
Tiffany Jefferson, who started the instagram account Black Owned Food LA back in June 2020, is working hard to get these businesses the attention they need in order to remain afloat.
“I woke up at 2 am with my head spinning and the news about George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement,” she said. “I thought to myself, Tiffany, you need to showcase all of these businesses because right now it’s not looking very promising for us.” Inspired by Anthony Bourdain, her account features the backstories of Black-owned restaurants, their craft, and how they make their food.
These efforts are making a difference, too. To support them further—and sample some of the best of LA’s under-the-radar food —put in an order at these Black-owned eateries:
Started in 2018, Mac & Yease was inspired when founder and food activist Ayindè Howell spoke on a panel for plant-based food and noticed no other Black experts weighing in on the topic. “This is significant because one reason that keeps Black people from eating vegan food is the lack of representation in that community,” he said.
According to Howell, giving back is baked into his business model. “I’m always looking to plug into underserved communities and get good food in places that might not have it,” he said. He has a personal mandate to give back at least 5% of his earnings to nonprofit organizations that benefit the advancement of civil liberties for Black people and POC. Some of these organizations include The Bail Project and SAAFON.
Prior to the pandemic, Howell supplied food for Whole Foods’ hot bar, which has since closed, allowing him to pivot to a web-based business with direct-to-consumer shipping. Available to order for delivery are his premade original Mac & Yease, a vegan mac so creamy that you can’t believe its milk-free; a Jalapeno & Cheddar version; and a BKLN Bolognese.
How to order: Order online at IEatGrass.com
Another pandemic success story is the Dominican takeout operation run by couple Issa Duran and Dee Cole, who grew their account organically. “When we started the Instagram account for Dominican Soul Food, we just saw Dominicans come out from everywhere,” Cole shared, “All of them are saying ‘It’s so great that we finally have a Dominican spot in LA.’ It makes a lot of people feel like they’re at home.” They now count Cardi B and Offset among their fervent customer base.
Dominican Soul Food offers a free plate to every 1000th customer and often donates pans of food to Sharing Love with Others to feed the homeless.
Dishes like the enormous and popular La Bandera plate fuses Dominican cuisine with American soul food, featuring a slow-cooked pollo guisado, habichuelas (bean stew), white rice, avocado and crunchy tostones (fried plantains).
How to order: Open 3 pm–1 am Wednesday through Sunday, order by DMing on Instagram to receive a current menu.
Family-owned Big Tee’s BBQ Plus is run by TJ Youman, his sister, and parents, featuring New Orleans Creole cuisine or, as Youman describes it—”Good ol comfort food made with a lot of love.”
Choose from proteins like pork ribs, juicy chicken, beef links, chicken links, sliced brisket, catfish, red snapper, and shrimp; and sides that include mac and cheese, potato salad, collard greens, baked beans, and spaghetti salad. BigTeesBBQ+ provides meals for the homeless whenever they cook and also sponsors food for families that are experiencing financial hardships, so you can support them knowing that you’re also supporting the community around them.
How to order: Open Friday 4-7PM and Saturdays 1-4PM, order can be submitted via Google form.
Stuff’dLA Owner Brandon Archer came up with the idea for stuffed pancakes in response to a job that allowed little time for a meal break. “I’m a courier and one time when I got home all the dishes were all dirty, so I grabbed one pan, started my pancakes, and put the sausage and eggs next to it.” explained Archer. “They all started touching, so for convenience, I just put it all on top of the pancake. After I tasted it and sent the photo to my brother and uncle they went crazy for it, and started suggesting all kinds of fillings. Two weeks later, I had a logo and Instagram page set up for the business.”
Although Archer still works full-time during the pandemic, he hosts pop ups in front of his house every other weekend, offering “stuff’d” pancakes, hash, hot rice, and omelettes for just $5, making it one of the most filling and affordable breakfasts you’ll find in the city. Plus, Archer crafts his special pancake mix and accompanying syrup from scratch, along with the turkey and chicken sausage that can be optionally stuffed inside.
How to order: Check the Instagram page for the next pop up. DM on Instagram the day before to pre-order.
Owner of Uniquely Sweet LA Maisha Hudson is a self-taught chef whose passion for food was inspired by cooking with her parents and her family’s tradition of “Second Sunday/Family Day,” when the entire family gathered to share delicious food, laughter, and wisdom. Though cooking has always been a favorite pastime, Hudson shifted her focus on desserts after a friend requested she cater their birthday party; her Uniquely Sweet catering business was launched shortly afterwards.
Hudson offers healthy meal-prep services, full-service home chef services, and baked goods that can be shipped nationwide. She’s recently begun offering free healthy cooking classes as a service to the community, including one she recently hosted in partnership with the Inglewood Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, a historic Black sorority.
Available on her website is a selection of freshly made baked goods that can be ordered and shipped to your home. Some popular picks include a light and fluffy lemon cake topped with lemon cream cheese icing and a luscious pull-apart salted caramel Crown Royal monkey bread.
How to order: Select specialty desserts can be shipped nationwide.