Person stacking boxes of strawberries and other produce

Agency Spotlight: Malikah

This month we are spotlighting Malikah and their food distribution work led by Shannon Thomas. Shannon is a professional mediator and negotiator at Malikah, a collective of women committed to building safety and power for themselves and their communities. Her food distribution work is rooted in the healing justice practices of Malikah and sprung out of the mutual aid at Black Lives Matter protests. At the outset of the George Floyd uprisings, Shannon saw protesters come together to take care of each other. Handing out water turned into providing coffee and snacks, which eventually led to people pooling resources and sharing supplies with each other and the unhoused individuals near protest sites.

The snacks and meals provided by protesters every Wednesday became a reliable source of food for unhoused folks downtown. So, as protest attendance began to wane in the fall, Shannon worried about her unhoused neighbors being forgotten. She made a commitment to continue providing food on a regular basis to unhoused individuals and families downtown. Shannon connected with Food Forward through two staffers she met during a protest. After learning of each other’s work, they arranged for Shannon to pick up some Backyard Harvest produce to distribute. Shannon says “After I found out how easy it was to pick up from Food Forward, I thought, I could do this every week!”

Shannon (left) and LaNeisha Hodo, Agency Relations Coordinator, pose for a photo at The Sprout.

And she has! Every Tuesday, Shannon drives to The Sprout at Food Forward’s Pit Stop to pack her car with as much fresh, nutritious produce as she can. She delivers this produce to unhoused folks in Hollywood, Crenshaw, Watts, Santa Monica, and Venice. If another agency is unable to pick up at their scheduled time and Food Forward has extra produce, Shannon reliably comes to The Sprout to pick up the abundance and give it to unhoused folks in nearby neighborhoods. Distributing food gives her a moment to talk to these individuals and hear about their issues.

She says it’s important to “show up and be consistent in caring about these people’s well being” and she enjoys being able to combine “productive” mutual aid work with one on one connections and relationships. She emphasizes that mutual aid is truly mutual. The folks she shares produce with share with her as well, gifts like beautiful artwork or even just a chair to sit in while taking a break.

Artwork gifted to Shannon by someone she shares produce with.

For unhoused folks specifically, fresh food is hard to come by. Most of what they have access to is pre-made or packaged foods that don’t necessarily provide all the nutrients they need. The individuals Shannon works with really appreciate the fresh fruits and veggies she brings them. Mangoes, blueberries, hot peppers, tomatoes, and surprisingly, brussels sprouts, are popular. Consistently having access to this fresh produce makes a huge difference, and this regularity is something that motivates Shannon’s work. Her hope is that as our culture at large has become more compassionate, and that we will break the habit of seeing unhoused people as disposable and view them as true neighbors.

Shannon says “It’s not hard to create a pretty predictable pipeline of food to keep your neighbors fed. There’s support out there, you don’t have to do it alone. She encourages folks to look for mutual aid groups in their area, and reach out to nonprofits or small restaurants to share food and other resources. Even just sharing extra servings of the dinner you made with someone who is unhoused makes a difference. We hope you enjoyed learning about the food justice work of our partner Malikah!