For some Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who live in Los Angeles’ food deserts — areas that may be abundant in fast-food chains but lack access to the fresh and affordable produce that grocery stores and food markets sell — the pandemic doesn’t just prevent them from having access to nutritious foods. There’s also a scarcity of the type of culturally relevant produce — a need that’s been particularly apparent amid California’s stay-at-home orders.
That’s where groups like API Forward Movement come in. Their work allows families to still be able to cook and consume their produce in culturally specific ways that are familiar to them, from tossing vegetables into soups and stews to pickling them for later.
“There are a lot of folks who can’t afford these items or are unable to drive out to an ethnic grocery store to buy them,” Kyle Tsukahira, program manager for API Forward Movement’s Food Roots program, told NBC Asian America.
These needs shed light on the economic diversity in Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in California, where AAPIs represent about 1 in 6 residents and are the fastest-growing racial groups in the state. While Asian Americans are often viewed as economically secure, according to the 2019 AAPI California Workers Survey, nearly 1 in 4 AAPIs in the state works but struggles with poverty.