TV host and philanthropist Tavis Smiley wants to make healthy, fresh food affordable in all communities – starting with Baldwin Hills. Smiley was on hand last weekend to support Everytable co-founder and CEO Sam Polk at the grand opening of the brand’s newest location in Baldwin Hills.
For people living in underserved communities, choosing to eat well is often a challenge; for those in more affluent neighborhoods, overpaying for healthy meals on-the-go is the norm. That’s where Everytable comes in, offering healthy and fresh, grab-and-go meals at accessible and affordable prices based on average incomes of each community. With this first-of-its-kind variable pricing model, Everytable co-founders Polk and David Foster are working to change the food system from one that works for a few to one that works for all. Last July, the team opened their first location at Hoover and 23rd Street in the University Park area of South L.A.
On Saturday, March 4, the Everytable team opened their second location at Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, offering meals as low as $4. At the grand opening event, community members sampled delicious dishes – including their new dish, Salmon Japchae Salad, or regular favorites: Spicy Mexi-Cali Bowl, Kale Chicken Caesar Salad, Jamaican Jerk Chicken, Yucatan Chili, Kids’ Cheese Pizza and Kids’ Spaghetti & Meatballs – and mingled with speakers Smiley, Polk, Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Everytable Head Chef Jessica Spear.
Smiley is excited to see Everytable grow and expand across Los Angeles (Downtown LA and Santa Monica locations will open this spring). So how did Smiley and Polk first connect and bond over food issues? They developed a mutual respect when Smiley met Polk during his guest appearance on Tavis Smiley, which airs nightly on PBS. “The arresting story of the lessons he learned on Wall Street, coupled with his work and witness on behalf of poor people, captured my attention,” said Smiley regarding what initially sparked his interest in Polk’s work.
As a friend and avid supporter of Everytable, Smiley said, “Poverty is threatening our very democracy, and it has so many tentacles. Food insecurity and nutrition education are just two of them. I’ve long believed that if you don’t have your health, you don’t have much, and I hate seeing poor people live beneath their privilege.” In seeing the big picture, Smiley said, “If we can make this vision work — affordable, healthy food for all — it will be a game changer in the lives of millions of fellow citizens who are presently fighting a losing battle. Not because they are weak or inept, but because the deck is stacked against them in communities of color.”
Smiley is on board with Everytable for the long-term. “I am abundantly clear about my role: to do anything and everything I can to support this vision of making healthy food a right and a reality for all peoples. I hope to lead our team in assists.”
The inspiration for Everytable stemmed from local nonprofit Groceryships, first founded by Polk in 2013 (Foster later joined the team) to help improve long-term health and wellness in low-income communities through a network of educational support groups and access to healthy, unprocessed foods. They kept hearing from moms in the program that between taking care of their kids and working multiple jobs, they simply didn’t have time to cook. Although they were grateful for the fresh produce Groceryships provided, they often had no choice but to buy meals on-the-go, which meant unhealthy and cheap fast food. Polk and Foster realized they could create a healthy and affordable option.
Everytable’s culinary team, helmed by Chef Jessica Spear (formerly of Patina Restaurant Group), brings high-quality talent and expertise to the kitchen. Spear crafts locally-inspired and seasonal dishes, building on Everytable’s existing menu originally created by Chef Craig Hopson. Each dish draws inspiration from local cuisines and communities to create food that is rooted in, and celebrates, the neighborhoods served.
Since the opening of its first South LA location, the Everytable team has been thrilled by the response from the community. Customers range from families, students and professionals who are hungry for healthier options, often stocking up for a full week of meals. Additionally, local businesses have enjoyed a new, fresh option for catering meetings and special events.
Everytable is proud to be a part of Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, especially as it celebrate 70 years of service in the community. Everytable looks forward to empowering local residents with greater access to healthy and delicious food at an affordable price.
Looking towards the future, Polk says, “Everytable is about food justice and food equality—making sure everyone, everywhere has access to healthy (and delicious) food. We want to make sure every single neighborhood in LA that needs access to healthy food has it. After we accomplish that in LA, we’ll move to other cities across the nation. We want Everytable to become a symbol of an inclusive business that does right by everyone.”
To view Everytable’s menu or learn more, visit www.everytable.com.