Does fast food have to be limited to greasy, processed, and fatty foods? LocoL, the brain child of Chef’s Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson, is revolutionizing the face of fast food by providing food that is both affordable and nutritious.
Usually when we think of fast food, we think of greasy burgers, sodium-saturated fries, and diabetes-inducing desserts. For many of us, having fast food is either a last resort option or a guilty pleasure, or both – serving us instant gratification for when we’re running late, if we’re desperately hungry, if we only have $5, or if we’re drunk at 3am. For others, however, there are simply no other options besides fast food in their communities. These communities are essentially “food deserts,” barren of the fresh options many of us may take for granted.
So what does LocoL have to do with “food deserts”? As defined by the USDA, food deserts are “parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas… largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers.” In other words, a food desert is an area where local quickie marts, liquor stores, and fast food restaurants far outnumber places where fresh produce are sold.
What’s shocking is that nearly 4 out of 10 Los Angeles families are food insecure, and over 80% of LAUSD (Los Angeles Unified School District) students come from food insecure homes. 47% of children in Los Angeles eat fast food at least once a week. As a county, LA has the highest food insecurity rate in the nation.
It comes as no surprise that LocoL’s first opening is in the Watts neighborhood of LA county, one of LA’s most prominent food deserts, and is conveniently located next to Florence Griffith Joyner Elementary School – ensuring that the surrounding community has access to fresh and nutritional food. However, the issue of food deserts is not simply limited to Los Angeles County – it’s a pervasive problem across the United States. Food deserts have significantly disadvantaged those living in impoverished communities and largely contributed to the nation’s obesity epidemic.
In California, Chef’s Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson are on a mission to solve this problem with LocoL. They believe that fast food can be delicious, affordable, and healthy. It’s a crazy and radical idea, and this is reflected in the restaurant’s name – a play on the Spanish word for “crazy” combined with an emphasis on feeding “local” communities. Through LocoL, the two celebrity chefs aim to empower these disadvantaged communities that our current food conglomerates underserve. Simply put, Choi and Patterson believe that corporate America has exploited these communities for far too long – that “chefs should feed America, and not suits.”
Through a carefully crafted menu, the chefs are able to offer items priced from $1-$6. LocoL’s spin on a cheeseburger, the “cheeseburg” ($4), is cut with grains and tofu, incorporating healthy filler ingredients without forfeiting the taste and texture of meat while still being affordable. Similarly, following the philosophy of providing both nutrition and taste, the restaurant does not have a soda fountain and offers aguas frescas and coffee as alternatives (both $1).
While it may seem overly ambitious for Choi and Patterson to tackle the multi-billion dollar fast food industry, the chefs are already off to a promising start. LocoL made a smashing debut during its opening just two weeks ago on Martin Luther King Jr. Day – lines stretched around the block as locals and celebrities alike waited to sample the food. There’s also already talk about an additional three LocoL restaurants to open up in East Oakland, Tenderloin, and Watts, respectively.
The future is looking bright for LocoL and the two chefs are prepared to take this project head on, no matter how loco it might seem. Here’s to hoping that the craziness spreads change from its roots in California to across the US.
As Choi says, “You can do anything in this world if you believe in it. We believe in it.”