Bike parade marks launch of Healthy Food Map for South LA, delivers vegetables to locals

A new map spotlighting healthy eating markets, community gardens, urban mini-farms and cafes in South Los Angeles will be released this Sunday, March 3 during a community bike ride organized by a coalition of community groups and researchers at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

The maps will be distributed by organizers as they bike through South LA, touring the map’s hot spots and delivering dozens of healthy food baskets to local families.

The map, available here, aims to demonstrate that healthy eating and living is possible in South LA. The public is invited to bring their bikes and join the fun, which includes visits to community gardens, market conversions and more.

The event begins at 10 a.m. on March 3 at Mercado La Paloma, 3655 S. Grand Ave. More details on the event are available at

The map was developed after a series of exploratory bicycle rides and walks. To gather text and photos for the map, organizers walked and biked with South LA teenagers and children through the community, as they discovered and documented healthy places to eat. They uploaded their photos directly from the cameras on their basic cellphones, using the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab platform called ParTour, developed by Professor François Bar and the ParTour researchers.

“The story here is there are a lot of places where we can get healthy food and safe ways to get there if you don’t have a car. The idea is to encourage people to look at options that are right there,” Bar said.

Organizers held a community workshop to sift through the pictures and stories and work with CicLAvia graphic designer Colleen Corcoran to turn the stream of pictures into a custom map.

"My hope is that this map will allow us to bring to light some of the many efforts to address food access in South Los Angeles," said Tafarai Bayne of T.R.U.S.T. South LA. "Both visitors and residents can use the map to find all kinds of local resources, some obvious and some not so. This map helps go beyond what's not working, to reveal positive stories about South Los Angeles."

A second partner organization, Community Services Unlimited (CSU), is primarily focused on food, health and sustainable communities. "This map is an amazing tool for accessing the innovative efforts that have emerged from within South LA to counteract the overwhelmingly bleak reality of our food environment,” said Neelam Sharma, CSU’s executive director.

The coalition designed the project around the core belief that knowledge about neighborhoods is most authentic and powerful when it comes from the community. That research approach seeks to identify community and communication assets, drawing on the Communication Infrastructure Theory of the USC Annenberg Metamorphosis project. High-tech features included iPads mounted to roving bikes to monitor incoming pictures, but the project also supports basic cell phones – anything that can take pictures, Bar said.

The partners behind the map point to a broad social agenda -- from city planning to bicycle and social change advocacy. They maintain that social change only happens if the maps are integrated into the community’s storytelling network. Integration with the community is a deep goal for the research, under the USC banner of “The Laboratory on the Social Frontier,” which connects theory and practice in Los Angeles.

Moving forward, the RideSouthLA team hopes to create additional maps, distribute them widely, and continue to engage the South LA community to deepen its storytelling networks. The maps will be available in print and online.

The creation of this map was made possible by the Annenberg Innovation Lab and a grant from the University of Southern California Neighborhood Outreach program.

Ride South LA is a coalition of organizations bringing bicycling, mobile mapping and social justice to South LA. Many of our partner organizations are listed below.

T.R.U.S.T. South LA , was established in 2005 as a permanent and democratic steward of land in South Los Angeles that works toward community- focused development. Recently they have partnered with CicLAvia and a number of community stakeholders to bring CicLAvia to South LA and now work towards the expansion of safe biking and pedestrian facilities.

Community Services Unlimited Inc. (CSU), is a 501c3 established in 1977 and headquartered in South Central Los Angeles. Since then it has created community programs and organizing campaigns like the early Safe Seniors to the more recent Free Medical Screening Program and the most recent From the Ground Up. CSU’s mission is to foster the creation of communities actively working to address the inequalities and systemic barriers that make sustainable communities and self-reliant life-styles unattainable.

The Laboratory on the Social Frontier (LOSF) advances scholarly participatory research and applies it in practical strategies that foster civic engagement and enable communities to represent themselves. LOSF brings together communication research and journalism and strengthens links between academics and practitioners. LOSF encourages interdisciplinary collaboration within the Annenberg School, across USC and with the vibrant communities that make up Los Angeles. LOSF is also a vehicle for providing USC students with rich opportunities to engage with those communities.

The Mobile Urban Mapping Project within the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism is a joint effort of two research groups, and is responsible for our ParTour methodology for crowd-sourced mapping and engagement. Our parent research groups include the Metamorphosis Project led by Prof. Sandra Ball-Rokeach, and the Mobile Lab led by Prof. François Bar. The ParTour project is supported in part by the Annenberg Innovation Lab. For more on the theory behind this work, see our description of situated engagement, or the recently-launched, which is a translation of Metamorphosis methods into everyday use for community organizations.