Recognized for being #FRESH!

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By Ailene Ignacio

One of the most difficult things about leading healthy food retail projects, especially corner store transformation projects, is the delayed gratification of the work done, completed, and/or sustained. This has been one of the struggles I’ve had to deal with especially as lead for the Fresh HiFi – corner store transformation – project that APIOPA has been running. I’d like to think that I’m not the type that needs to be rewarded instantly or frequently for the work I do. I sincerely do love the work that I do, so I’m pretty sure that why I still hang around. But I will not deny that there’s an inspirational and motivating beauty behind recognition, large scale appreciation efforts, and the ability to relish in and celebrate an accomplishment. And it’s this type of necessary beauty that I have rarely seen in the past 3 years.

But now, almost 1 year has passed since LA San Miguel’s #FRESH transformation, and the store owner, Cecilia, is still thriving in a food desert environment where many of her customers are local residents living below the federal poverty level. More importantly, she continues to stock and sell fresh produce.  Obviously, this inspiring woman deserves an award.

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And so she got one! On Thursday, June 18, 2015, LA San Miguel was the recipient of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s Healthy Food Retail Certificate of Excellence at their Champions for Change for Summit. Several other stores qualified and applied for this certificate, but LA San Miguel received this distinct honor solely for the Los Angeles region.

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Received in-person by Cecilia’s oldest daughter, Stephanie, the certificate serves to be so much more than just a simple piece of paper. The way I see it, this certificate is a solid reminder of the good work that has been done by many brave store owners (aka food justice champions) to bring fresh and healthy food to the families of the larger community they serve. The way I see it, it is a formal celebration of the hard work that we’ve been doing for years and years. The way I see it, this is proof that we can, we did, and we will continue to overcome our food desert circumstances and environment strongly and successfully! *Insert big cheesy smile here*

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