Growing up, Saturday mornings consisted of going to about three different grocery stores with my parents to do the shopping for the week. I remember hating it and never understanding why my mom couldn’t just get everything at one grocery store. As an adult I get it. I have five main places where I shop depending what my menu for the week looks like. I learned from my mother that different grocery stores will be better, in quality and price, for different produce. I oscillate between bourgeois grocery stores, where if I had my older light skinned nephew with me they would think I’m the nanny and where Coldplay blasts loudly, and stores that make you feel like you’re in a whole other country, where Merengue blasts and older women discuss their ailments with whoever will or will not listen, and where you get a taste of East European and Middle Eastern specialties. I grew up going more to the latter stores and have picked up my moms skill of choosing produce and easily making meaningful conversation with whoever is in front or behind me in line. One thing that I’ve noticed is that you can have more meaningful conversation at smaller grocery stores than bigger ones. People are more willing to talk and the conversation can easily become exciting, steering away from small talk. I’d rather listen to a woman tell me how worried she is about her son than discuss the weather.
I have to admit that I am privileged for being able to choose where I want to shop. I can afford to shop where my parents were never able to and never even knew of. It saddens me that fresh healthy food seems to come with class. Being observant, because nosy is such a strong word, I notice what people buy everywhere I go and I can honestly say that there is an inequality that stems from education and distribution of food. It’s nothing new. You’ve all heard it and know this. The snacks people buy at Villalobos for their children are different than the snacks people buy at 365 for their children. Children shouldn’t be eating Hot Cheetos and drinking soda for breakfast. Healthy and clean food should be affordable and available to everyone. It shouldn’t be a privilege, but we live in a world that has divided us into the ones who know about healthy foods and can afford it and the ones who don’t and can’t.
We unfortunately seem to be unable to escape gentrification which means there is a merging of these worlds. It’s happening everywhere in Los Angeles. So there will be many of you, who chose to leave your comfort, living in the neighborhoods and shopping at the grocery store where the child will be drinking soda for breakfast. I ask for you not to judge but to understand that that child drinking soda is rooted in our societies choice on how to distribute education and food and in the hardships that this society has bestowed onto families. Yes it is easy to say that now a days learning about healthy choices is simple but when you don’t know that there are choices how do you learn? When you work 12 hours a day and need to feed your kids, when do you have time to research? When you see four bunches of cilantro for $1 and then you see one bunch of organic cilantro for $1.79, and you need to feed a family of five on one salary, which will you pick? Remember that if we have a choice and if we have knowledge we are privileged and instead of using that privilege to judge let’s use it to be understanding. By understanding we begin to expand rather than contract. It’s through expanding that we begin to build a community. We have to ask ourselves how can we make privilege the norm? We all deserve it.