BALDWIN HILLS — Community response was overwhelming as Everytable celebrated the grand opening of its newest grab-and-go storefront at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza March 4.
Everytable is a different kind of food outlet that falls somewhere between a restaurant and a grocery store. Menu items include hot bowls like the gluten-free Jamaican jerk chicken, which consists of smoked chicken, rice, beans, kale, carrot, yucca, plantain, and spicy Jerk barbecue sauce; red chili tamales with chicken and roasted vegetables; cold bowls, including the kale chicken caesar salad and the vegetarian spicy Mexi-Cali bowl; and kids’ meals items like the spaghetti squash and meatballs dish.
All items come pre-packaged, but microwave ovens are available for people who want to eat their food on site.
“We had a phenomenal day,” Sarah Harris, director of community outreach, said. “We gave away nearly a thousand free meals. The Jamaican jerk chicken seems to be a popular item at the Baldwin Hills location.”
Meals are prepared off-site at a central kitchen and delivered fresh to the storefronts.
Television talk show host Tavis Smiley, alongside other community dignitaries, including City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, attended the grand opening.Smiley joined the board of directors for the company after being approached by Sam Polk, a friend of his and co-founder and CEO of Everytable.
In 2013, Polk started a nonprofit called Groceryships to address some of the food-related issues he noticed in areas like South Los Angeles. According to Polk, the lack of easy access to wholesome food, among other factors, is why there is such a high number of people with diseases like diabetes and obesity in the area, and why people’s life expectancy is 10 years lower than those from wealthier communities.
Everytable changes the prices of its menu items according to the neighborhoods income using ZIP Code-level per capita income data.
In South L.A., “where the average income is $13,000 a year,” according to Polk, a dish is priced around $4. In more affluent areas like Santa Monica and downtown L.A. — which will soon see an Everytable of its own — the same bowl would cost twice as much.
The business model is an experimental attempt at eradicating “food desert” communities like South L.A, Polk said. Food deserts are mostly impoverished communities with little or no access to fresh fruit, vegetables and other healthy foods due to lack of grocery stores and other health food providers.
The first location opened in July in South L.A. at 1101 W. 23rd St. Additional storefronts are planned for TheBloc at 700 S. Flower St. downtown and Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica.
“When your kids are tugging on you to go to McDonald’s, now you have an alternative,” Harris said.