On Saturday, Jan. 28, Long Beach residents can pick up fresh groceries and enjoy family-friendly entertainment and educational activities in Admiral Kidd Park thanks to Food Finders and its partnership with Juice Plus+.

Food Finders, a food rescue organization, hosts monthly community marketplace events at its food hub location in Admiral Kidd Park, which has also provided weekly food distributions to partner organizations since the hub’s grand opening last April.

The hub plays a crucial role in providing access to perishable items including fresh fruit, vegetables and dairy to community partners, while the marketplace event offers grocery items directly to residents, according to Food Finders’ executive director, Diana Lara.

At Food Finders’ monthly community marketplaces, the events have “blown up from more than just a food distribution,” Lara said.

Food Finders’ weekly food hub and monthly community marketplace event are both located at Admiral Kidd Park in the Westside, which is considered a food desert. Photo courtesy of Food Finders.

Depending on who is hosting the event, community marketplaces have included taste testings, cooking demonstrations and connections to SNAP benefits, but the upcoming event is particularly exciting, Lara said.

This Saturday, the event will include a live cooking demonstration with chef and “Top Chef” judge Gail Simmons, a tasting stand where guests can try pairing fruits and vegetables with a variety of dips and a “let’s get scrappy” station that will show attendees how to utilize food scraps to regrow produce.

Children can also enjoy face painting and a balloon artist, a coloring station, a recipe-matching activity and fruit and vegetable painting.

Juice Plus+ will also be distributing smoothies to guests, and the team will be “taking it beyond the one day,” Lara said. For the week following the event, the organization will have a stand within the nearby Boys & Girls Club location, providing fruit and water to participating youth,  Lara said.

The location of the event in Admiral Kidd Park is key to reaching those most in need. Los Angeles County is home to the largest population of food insecure people in the nation, according to the Los Angeles Food Policy Council, and Long Beach’s Westside in particular is considered a food desert.

Many residents in the area do not have a car or easy access to a grocery store with fresh produce, Lara said.

“There definitely are limited resources in the community,” Lara said. “Not having a grocery store also hurts.”

While there have been efforts to expand fresh produce offerings in the corner and liquor stores that are more prevalent in these areas, cost and other factors have complicated the process, Lara said.

Particularly amid the recent rise in inflation, “it’s these low income families that take the biggest hit, because their dollar isn’t stretching as far,” Lara said.

Through the Saturday event, Lara hopes that other organizations will become interested in getting involved with Food Finders and in sponsoring a similar event, she said.

“These sponsorships, it really opens up everybody’s opportunities,” Lara said. “I’m so excited. I’m hoping that other organizations see the impacts and the commitment that Juice Plus+ made, and they’ll jump on board as well.”

Admiral Kidd Park is located at 2125 Santa Fe Ave. To support Food Finders, make a contribution online.  Get information about volunteering here.