The founder of the Mid City food bank that’s open to everyone — even you, is grateful for his vendors, volunteers and seaweed snacks.
It’s been about a year since World Harvest became a local media darling when an innocent post on Reddit got picked up by various outlets, alerting those in L.A. about the funky little market on Venice Blvd. that is a special type of food bank.
Founder and CEO of World Harvest, Glen Curado, says it’s a neighborhood store open to anyone regardless of their income. For just $40, shoppers get a large grocery cart of fruits, vegetables, meats, bread and a wide variety of miscellaneous snacks. If that price is still too steep, one can volunteer at World Harvest at 3100 Venice Blvd in Mid City for four hours and receive the same shopping cart of food in exchange for their time.
Much of this fresh food and baked items are days away from going bad and some of the other delights are nearing their expiration date. So instead of trucking it to the L.A. Zoo, Curado would rather it go people who would appreciate it.
We caught Curado on an especially busy Friday afternoon where he was negotiating with vendors and tasting what they had to offer. As usual, his small parking lot was full, people were packing their carts and the phone was ringing.
Thanksgiving approaches. Tell us what you’re thankful for.
First you have to thank God. Whoever your god is, that’s the one you want to thank. I’m thankful for this opportunity.
Which one’s yours?
Mine? My dad’s Christian, he’s Catholic. My mom is Buddhist. I just think there’s a creator, and that’s Him. I can’t name names, cuz they’re all good.
You have all this food that comes to you, and all these people— tell us more about that.
I always tell people this is a God project. At 2:30 in the morning he spoke to me. He said, “you got to open a food bank.” I’ve been doing this for 12 years. I gave up my medical practice. Sold my clinics. This is my life.
How about your vendors. Are there any you’re particularly thankful for?
The biggest one is probably JFC. They provide us with all the Japanese, the Oriental, the Chinese, Korean stuff. The rice, the staples…
You do have a lot of it. The cookies, the candies, sushi-grade frozen fish. For those of us who don’t know anything about Asian culture, this is our first foray into a lot of it.
Yes. You’ll have these hardcore Mexican guys, tatted up, walk in here with their shorts and long white socks. “Hey, I need my seaweed, man.”
How did you get associated with JFC?
Well if I see a bag of seaweed or something I’ll look for the distributor. And it says JFC International, Inc.
So when you called them and told them about World Harvest were they into it right away?
No. They said, “don’t bother me.” Seriously. There was a guy. He said, “I have a lot of people I give to already.”
I said, “OK if somebody calls in sick. They can’t pick up. Here’s my phone number.” Click. It was like that…. it took me like six months for him to take my phone number.
Why did you keep at it?
This is my comfort food. I’m half-Asian. I thought this would be really really awesome. Everything you see Asian here comes from there.
Do Asian people know to come here for these items?
The thing about the Asian community, and I will speak about my people. I don’t have the vegetables that they want. They want the bok choy, they want a ton of kimchee stuff, Chinese spinach.
And you don’t have that connection yet?
I did at one point, but the stuff they were giving me was just not up to par.
Who are you thankful for in regards to this chicken? In everyone’s basket today you put a 10 lb bag of frozen chicken.
The chicken usually comes from truckers that are traveling across the United States. Because they want to get their job done they take a little short cut here and there and they hit the pallet jack against the boxes sometimes. Or drop a pallet. Then when they deliver it the person refuses the entire load. And I’ll pick it up.
How does the trucker know to come here and sell it to you?
Thanks to the Internet, someone sitting in Oklahoma will say to the trucker, “let me check out the area where you are and check out this food bank.” There’s no other food bank in Los Angeles, including L.A. Regional that’s able to take 20 pallets of chicken. I have all the freezers. So I end up with organic chicken drumsticks, Costco’s giant birds that are as big as turkeys.
So you’re thankful to Costco?
Yes. Thankful for Costco. We do get Costco products and we give them out to families. Very thankful for Costco. We also get all some of their returns.
Anyone else you are thankful for?
All of the neighborhood councils. SORO (South Robertson NC), P.I.C.O. Neighborhood Council, West Adams Neighborhood Council. All the neighborhood councils in Herb Wesson’s district.
Do you feel like you’re outgrowing this facility?
Would you get a second one?
No. Don’t wish that on me. One’s enough. But I welcome everyone to come in here and I will give you all the information on how to open a 501(c)(3) and open up a food bank. Not like one with the long lines, a soup kitchen. But one like this.