Food Justice Leaders Making Change in the Tenderloin
Stephen Tennis wanted more for his neighborhood. “Candy, chips, liquor, and cigarette butts were everywhere,” said Stephen, recalling his return to the Tenderloin after a 30 year absence. “I noticed there weren’t any markets or supermarkets around.”
He soon found himself joining the Tenderloin Healthy Corner Store Coalition (TLHCSC). A project started by the Vietnamese Youth Development Center (VYDC), the TLHCSC shared Stephen’s concerns about the Tenderloin’s limited food options preventing his neighbors, especially families and children, from developing healthy eating habits.
Since 2012, the TLHCSC and TNDC have partnered and converted six corner stores into healthier spaces, providing produce and items that Tenderloin residents crave to see in their local stores, such as beans, hummus, and cooking spices. As of December 2016, TNDC has taken full responsibility of the program, housing its dedicated staff of six Food Justice Leaders, including Stephen, alongside our Community Organizing team.
The Food Justice Leaders are at the heart of the Tenderloin’s conversation on food security. “We talk to people in the area and see if the stores are meeting their needs,” said Stephen, “and then provide suggestions to those stores.” In the last year, corner stores that have aligned themselves with TLHCSC have seen a 25% increase in total sales, according to Healthy Retail SF.
Regularly checking in with all 70 Tenderloin corner stores and gathering information for TLHCSC’s Healthy Shopping Guide, the Food Justice Leaders epitomize how food can be a vehicle for community building, leadership, and change.
“The conditions in the Tenderloin exist because residents are excluded from the decision-making process,” explained Ryan Thayer, co-coordinator of TLHCSC. “With [TLHCSC], residents are directly engaging in the decisions and making change.”
“The Food Justice Leaders are the work,” emphasized Lisa Juachon, fellow co-coordinator of TLHCSC. “Without them, there wouldn’t be a coalition.”