THE CURIOUS CASE OF LA KITCHEN and 4 REASONS WHY IT FAILED
"Imagine my shock when a senior manager there compared me to chef and healthy school food advocate Jamie Oliver, suggesting, “You’re just like him, and he got run out of town.” Others were openly running interference in support of the long-term, corporate contractor, throwing ludicrous nutritional barriers up, spreading rumors of senior discontent with our meals (even after we proved a 90 percent approval from the 3,000+ meal rating cards we independently collected from senior diners), or extending contract deadlines in multiple three-month intervals, which made the competition stronger, while we bled money.
This is when I went to every leader I could meet with, including deputy mayors, the city administrator and city council members. All listened, but not one fought for us. Oh, they’d call the department, and be assured that LAK was getting a fair shot, yet even when we produced ample evidence of collusion and lack of any effort to comply with the GFPA, not one leader stepped up to fight for a nonprofit that had brought in $4 million from outside L.A., was creating good jobs for at-risk citizens and was demonstrating a deep commitment to the future of the city. I even wrote to Steve Lopez, the Los Angeles Times columnist who has been lambasting city leaders over the recent homeless count, to see if he’d investigate. I never heard back.
So, we sadly decided that we had to let go of our vision of securing senior meal contracts, and we pivoted in search of new income streams. Contracts to provide thousands of meals don’t just fall off of trees, but with full board engagement, we spend months looking for business opportunities and partnerships. We embraced small, yet impactful projects like producing organic baby food, or soul food sides for local entrepreneurs. Finally, we secured a good contract to provide sandwiches and snacks for LAX airport.
Making sandwiches wasn’t what I came to LA to do, but entrepreneurs don’t whine, they get to work. We developed a solid model we called “Seed to Sky.” We took the 50,000 lbs of organic food waste we produced annually processing fruits and produce, and paid nonprofit partners at L.A. Compost to turn it into soil. They’d then deliver it to a series of local farms and South Central food programs, which we contracted with to grow greens, cucumbers, tomatoes and the like, which we’d buy (along with other California-grown products) to put into our sandwiches and salads. We wanted to use LAX to send a glorious example of social enterprise home with travelers from around the world. And it was working. After months of trial runs, we were producing good volume for three outlets in the airport, with enthusiastic response for the products and excitement for our close-loop impact model, but we needed more time and money to get it up to speed and producing the volume we needed to profit. At every board meeting, we showed committed members that, If we could just secure enough philanthropic support to cover our bases in the interim, while more LAX outlets came online, we’d survive, thrive and create more impact."
Four Reasons Why LA Kitchen failed:
1.). THEY WOULD HAVE ENDED THE CRONYISM AND SWEETHEART DEALS WITH MAJOR CORPORATIONS SYSCO FOR ONE
2.). THEY WOULD HAVE MADE HEALTHIER A POPULATION LA DOESN’T WANT ASSOCIATED WITH IITS BRANDING
YOUNG AND RESTLESS
3.). PROFITS WOULD HAVE DECREASED AND OR EVAPORATED
4.) SENIORS WOULD BECOME DOMINANT POPULATION CORPS DEMAND FRESH MEAT
LA KITCHEN: BAD FOR LA GOVERNANCE STRUCTURE, REDUCES DEATHS WHEN GLOBAL OBJECTIVE IS 10 MILLION ( CURRENT TOTAL ON EARTH 700 MILLION)
PREFECTLY GOOD IDEA BY DESIGN, BUT LA SAID NIMBY FOR $$$$$$$ from existing assets.
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