Food Justice Field Trip Q&A with Lauren M. ’25

Food Justice Field Trip Q&A with Lauren M. ’25

Ms. Pamela Wright’s Food Justice class takes a field trip to the El Salvador Corridor to learn about and sample foods from street vendors.

Food Justice Field Trip Q&A with Lauren M. ’25

Pamela Wright, Dean of Social Justice and Community Partnerships, recently took her Food Justice class on an immersive trip to the El Salvador Corridor. Students had the opportunity to sample food from Salvadoran street vendors while engaging them in conversations about their experiences running their food stalls. This hands-on exploration, part of the course’s street vendor unit, gave students a glimpse into Salvadoran culture and provided them with a deeper appreciation of their food. 

The street vendor unit explores the history of street vendors, specifically in Los Angeles. Students are exposed to thought-provoking artwork, such as Ruben Ochoa’s fascinating, augmented-reality installation depicting fruit vendor carts. Classroom lessons also cover recent legislative advancements that formalize the role of street vendors in the city’s economy, reframing perspectives to recognize them as entrepreneurs. This semester, Rudy Espinoza, the Executive Director of Inclusive Action for the City, visited the class to speak about his experience running a nonprofit that provides economic opportunities for street vendors. This further emphasized the importance of viewing street vendors as small business owners—and appreciating all the triumphs and challenges they face. 

Lauren M. ’25, a student enrolled in the Food Justice course, reflected on her experience on this unique field trip.

What was your first impression of the El Salvador Corridor? What did you see and experience?
Lauren M. (LM): My first impression was feeling a very welcoming and passionate presence. All the vendors are very driven and determined to get consumers to buy their products. I also noticed the abundant amount of different types of food, starting from clams and seafood ranging to delicious, traditional pupusas. The overall experience was welcoming and vibrant.

How did the classroom lessons prepare you for this field trip?
LM: The lesson prepared me by giving me a glimpse of what to expect. We also had a speaker visit our class who taught us about the identity of street vendors. We discussed their profession and were reminded that the vendors we would meet are all entrepreneurs running their own small businesses. 

Why did you enroll in Food Justice?
LM: I chose to take Food Justice because of the many positive recommendations from students who have previously taken the class. My interest also sparked from having the opportunity to be educated on the history and background on how we receive the foods we consume, what the small business owners' perspectives are, and the importance of why street vendors and immigrants have such a big impact on the foods we are fortunate to eat everyday.

Did this field trip change your view on street vendors?
LM: The trip didn’t necessarily change my view on street vendors but rather opened my eyes and made me more appreciative of how driven they are. I think Food Justice helps with this perspective because it teaches us about the things most people aren’t typically aware of. Being able to taste, see, and smell the delicacies rather than just looking at them on a screen elevates that experience and appreciation.

The vendors are all extremely determined and dedicated. They arrive to set up and assemble their stands at 5:00 a.m., create the dishes they are selling all day, and then clean up late at night, just to come back and do it all over again the next day. I feel like after finding out about that it creates a deeper meaning behind the food I enjoyed and made me appreciate the experience even more.

Would you go back to the El Salvador Corridor? Or visit other street vendors?
LM: I would definitely go back to El Salvador Corridor to try other traditional delicacies. Street vendors have always been a big factor in my life, especially growing up in an ethnic enclave, so supporting small businesses like these is something I don’t hesitate to do. The vendors at the El Salvador Corridor give the Los Angeles community an experience of what their culture is like. It's important for it to be recognized and receive the same type of attention usually given to big name brand restaurants. Street vendors give communities with immigrants—and pretty much everyone—a taste of their country and a feel for home.

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In the image that accompanies this article, one of the street vendors and the Food Justice students sit at a table full of food and smile at the camera. Behind them hangs a banner displaying photographs of the food available.

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