A Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market is under construction at East Adams Boulevard and Central Avenue, and an independent grocery store is slated for Central Avenue and 20th Street, said L.A. Councilwoman Jan Perry, who has supported the students' work and who sponsored a moratorium that restricts new fast-food restaurants in parts of South L.A.
Market makeovers are being tried in cities across the country, said Mike Blockstein, the principal of Public Matters. There are challenges for store owners, such as suppliers vying for lucrative display spots. And not every small store has refrigerator capacity for produce and juices. There are challenges, too, for people trying to make ends meet and who can buy soda for a fraction of the cost of milk.
In addition, makeovers are just one part of a "recurring public discussion over the last decade" about obesity and health, including nutrition education, food access and the difficulty of changing habits, Perry said.
Selma, a senior, joined the project last year, trying to fulfill the Accelerated School's graduation requirement of 75 community service hours.
"I really didn't care before. I ate what I wanted. Doughnuts. I love doughnuts. Now, I can't even eat Hot Cheetos," she said.
She brought home what she was learning, with dramatic results. Her mom, Carmen Vasquez, 41, had had her gall bladder removed the previous year. She was obese, suffered from headaches and generally felt lousy much of the time.
"She thought, 'If my obesity caused this, I should do something.' But she didn't know how to go about it," Selma said.
As Selma became involved in Healthy Eating, Active Communities, she began to cook for her family, and she got her father to buy the gym equipment that sits at one end of the living room: a weight bench, a treadmill, a stationary bike. She and her mother worked out together, and her mom improved her eating habits, including a decision to cut out the 24 Cokes a week she had been drinking.
Today, she is 60 pounds lighter. And hugely proud of her daughter.
"There are no words to express what she has done," Vasquez said.
"It's a transformation," Selma said. "I feel like she came back to life."
The Public Matters website, www.marketmakovers.org, is scheduled to go live at the end of March.