We’re honored to partner with nonprofits across the nation that are working to make our food system more equitable. One of these nonprofits, Skid Row Coffee, is on a mission to create community and facilitate job training in Skid Row, Los Angeles.
We sat down with Jess Nizar of Skid Row Coffee to learn a little bit more about their mission and impact and how you can get involved.
Imperfect Produce: What is Skid Row Coffee?
Jess Nizar: Skid Row Coffee is a nonprofit social enterprise cafe and job training program providing products and services that nourish the mind, body, and soul while uplifting the creative spirit. We believe that jobs [meaningful work with livable wages] are a building block of freedom—to make decisions based on choice and opportunities and not merely survival, to serve patrons and ourselves with respect, celebrate food grounded in food and culinary justice, uphold cleanliness, be a positive representation of our community, and have soul in all that we do.
IP: How did you get started?
JN: Skid Row Coffee was founded three years ago as a coffee pop up in the streets and parks of Skid Row, serving coffee and building community, while teaching service industry job skills to residents. Our desire was to create a community center disguised as a neighborhood coffee shop. With the introduction of our first brick and mortar location, which opened in November of 2018, we began to do just that. We served to support community building in a neighborhood where there is a need for community space, whole food options, and good jobs. Our cafe is located in downtown LA’s Central Library. We strive to make our food and services accessible to everyone regardless of their resources.
IP: What’s your mission?
JN: Our work is focused on three main areas of impact.
Job training: Create good jobs, teach important service industry skills to Skid Row residents in a positive and supportive work environment.
Access to resources: Offer fresh nourishing products and services at accessible prices.
Solidarity: Build solidarity between each other and with the important work being done in LA in achieving social and economic justice by dismantling unjust systems that keep people in a cycle of poverty and violence.
IP: How has Imperfect impacted your work?
JN: Donated produce from Imperfect allow us to prioritize fresh vegetables and fruit in our menu options. Imperfect donations make it possible to offer food made with organic produce at a lower cost. And we’re able to teach with a wide offering of varieties of vegetables and fruit, exposing our patrons, community, and staff to foods that are otherwise inaccessible.
IP: How can people support Skid Row Coffee?
JN: Our goal for 2019 is to expand our job training program and also offer our menu at half price to our customers who receive public assistance (Calfresh, Calworks, WIC, SSI). Helps us provide more jobs and low-cost nourishing foods for all people despite income level by donating here.
This sounds so nice on the outset…. but what does she mean? Specifics like what kinds of jobs they’re training people in and what sorts of "unjust systems" they’re trying to topple would be helpful to know. And what do they mean by "building solidarity"? That could be virtually anything, including values I’d possibly disagree with. As it stands, this is so vague that I wouldn’t want to donate to this group. It’s like the interviewer didn’t even know how to ask relevant questions about the most important facets of this group.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read about Skid Row Coffee. We appreciate your feedback. It is our hope, through these community highlights, to provide a broad overview of our partners so that our customers and friends become inspired to learn more & decide if it is an organization they want to support.
That being said, We’ll keep in mind asking more specific questions in the future and we’re happy to answer a few of yours below:
What kind of job training does Skid Row provide?
Culinary industry jobs such as kitchen and front-of-house
What unjust systems are they trying to address?
Systems of poverty and marginalization that prevent those that are homeless from providing for themselves. Skid Row Coffee is focused on giving those that are homeless knowledge, training, and tools that they can use to enter the workforce and become self-sufficient.
What do we mean by "Building Solidarity?"
Building solidarity between individuals and community groups that are working support the skid row community. For example, through organizing community committees and conversations with community decision-makers.
You can learn even more on their website and through these two articles: